Man City and Guardiola pass key test and show the stomach for the Premier League fight

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Gabriel Jesus Manchester City
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Runners-up started with an impressive 3-1 victory at Wolves as they look to get back to their best after last season's disappointments

Pep Guardiola has started a fifth season at the same club for the first time. There could be a chance of a sixth if his Manchester City side continue the way they have started.

With less than a year of his contract remaining, City would like him to continue and Guardiola would 'love to stay longer', but only if his players show that they still want him around.

Wolves away was an extremely early litmus test of the feelings around the first team and the result was pretty positive.

It was a vintage performance reminiscent of Guardiola's golden title-winning years rather than the blemish of last season.

This was the classic City that created, passed and harried their way to a deserved 2-0 lead at half-time, epitomised by a slick second crafted by Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling and finished by Phil Foden.

The second half wasn't quite as emphatic as Wolves fought their way back but City held on.

Guardiola wanted to play down the optimism and had the air of a man that had witnessed his side being thrashed in his post-match press conference rather than a team getting back on track.

"I'm delighted. I don't have a nice smile!" he said dryly. "I'm incredibly happy but at the same time I know the reality right now and we have to be calm."

One game in, City certainly can't afford to go overboard but they produced a performance that suggests they are up for a title scrap.

Last to start and already six points behind Liverpool, City were under some pressure before they had even kicked a ball.

A trip to Wolves, where Guardiola had never won before, was a significant examination.

They not only passed it, but did so without seven senior players - eight if you count the right-sided centre-back that they are desperate to add before the transfer window closes on October 5.

This season could all be about the survival of the fittest.

The shortest Premier League season ever, with an expectation of two matches a week for those in European competition, will stretch even the deepest of squads as Guardiola acknowledged.

"With this lack of preparation and seven players out and not coming back soon, we have to keep the players from today as safe as possible," he said.

Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo were among those missing and will be again for Sunday's clash with Leicester. Whether they can get a new centre-back in time remains uncertain.

Getting a deal over the line has proved difficult, particularly with negotiations with Napoli over top target Kalidou Koulibaly stalling.

Pep Guardiola Kyle Walker GFX Manchester City

More recently they have turned to Sevilla's Jules Kounde and would like to have a new signing in place before the visit of Brendan Rodgers' side.

By then, Aymeric Laporte will be available after his self-isolation following a positive Covid-19 test but the victory over Wolves should have eased some of Guardiola's concerns.

His defence was vastly improved on the soft, shambolic set-up carved open by Arsenal in the FA Cup and Lyon in the Champions League.

It appeared as though John Stones may have already had his last chance under the City boss but came in from the cold to deliver the sort of steady and composed performance that has been missing from him in recent seasons.

Alongside new boy Nathan Ake, who made a couple of key tackles in an impressive debut, City had a solid base to make the most of their attacking game.

They wobbled slightly in the second half as they tired but Guardiola was just as pleased to see his players dig deep and find a way to get over the line.

In similar circumstances last season, Wolves came back from 2-0 down to win with strikes in the last eight minutes, admittedly roared on by a loud and much-missed Molineux crowd.

"It was an incredibly tough one here last season when we played 80 minutes with 10 men and lost at the end," he said.

"That's why this was an incredible victory for us in the situation that we have. It's good but 111 points left. It's a good start though."

Whether it is just the beginning of the end of Guardiola's reign at City will become clearer in the next few months.

A few more performances like the win over Wolves and that might not be the case just yet.

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