"They didn't even have a touch."
This brag and similar variations are often exclaimed by football fans lauding it over beaten opponents as a way to underline total domination. Rarely has it ever proved to be remotely true.
Step forward Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola's in-form side made a particularly confident start to the EFL Cup tie at West Brom on Wednesday, stroking the ball about stylishly before Leroy Sane scored a third-minute opener.
From kick-off to Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster thwarting Ilkay Gundogan's initial shot – fellow Germany international Sane slammed home the rebound – City strung together a remarkable 52 unbroken passes.
West Brom didn't even have a touch. Well, none of their outfield players did until Hal Robson-Kanu restarted the game after three minutes and 16 seconds.
Pass master Mangala
Guardiola is famed for the intensive passing style he honed at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and, following a return of 13 points from five Premier League matches and a 4-0 Champions League thrashing of Feyenoord, the opening moments at the Hawthorns offered the latest early-season indication that his methods are starting to bear fruit in Manchester.
Every single City player touched the ball more than once in the move leading to Sane's opener – the winger admittedly taking a far more direct route for his counter-attacking winner 13 minutes from time.
Building from the back is one of Guardiola's fundamentals and the sometimes-derided 'sweeper keeper' Claudio Bravo completed two passes in the build-up – the same amount as centre-forward Gabriel Jesus.
City's centre-backs were instrumental in monopolising possession, with John Stones' eight passes only bettered by Eliaquim Mangala. The France international has found himself on the margins at City, with his ball-playing skills regarded by many as not up to scratch for Guardiola's style. Perhaps it is time for a re-think?
Indeed, it was Mangala's raking cross-field pass that allowed Raheem Sterling to cross to Gundogan with his third contribution – the same number made by Bernardo Silva, a playmaker by trade in a team apparently packed with them all of a sudden.
Sane earned his goal with four successful passes, equal to Gundogan and Yaya Toure pulling the strings in midfield, while full-backs Danilo (seven) and Fabian Delph (six) were also key.
Double the trouble of Cambiasso
Claudio Yacob equalised for West Brom during a much-improved showing after half-time from the hosts. City completed 479 passes over the course of the entire game, meaning the move for Sane's opener amounted to 11 per cent of their successful passes in the match.
Since Opta began collecting such passing data for the Premier League at the start of the 2010-11 season, no goal has boasted more passes in the build-up than Sane's.
The best on record is the 48 passes leading to Nacer Chadli scoring for Tottenham against QPR in August 2014.
Esteban Cambiasso's majestic goal for Argentina against Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup – stylistically, surely, a Guardiola favourite – featured less than half of City's total with 24.
City host Premier League basement boys Crystal Palace on Saturday, where they are expected to see plenty more of the ball. But will they be able to hog it more effectively than they did during the opening exchanges in midweek?
|Marsh century leaves family with full hearts and fuller bladders|
|Icardi to Real Madrid? Nara will not say yes or no|
|The Ashes Round-up: Smith and Marsh torment England|
|Smith and Marsh gorge themselves as England put to the sword|
|Ronaldo proud to compete with Messi|
|Wenger struggling to solve Arsenal goal drought|
|Smith brings up double hundred as England toil|
|Marsh posts maiden Test century as Australia take lead|
|Pique wants to face Guardiola, City in Champions League final|
|Westbrook´s triple-double powers Thunder past 76ers|
|Smith shines as Australia pass 300 in Perth|
|Tevez nearing Boca Juniors return|
|Rangers acquire Moore from Giants|
|Ronaldo? I was better, says Gremio coach Renato|
|Pique: I understood why Neymar left Barca for PSG|
|Celtics´ Hayward open to returning this season|
|Klopp: We´re all fighting for second place|
|Every player has a price – Mourinho hints at January exits|
|Good question! Guardiola ducks Sanchez link and lauds Walker|
|Six-try Ulster see off Harlequins|
|Guardiola addresses Mourinho´s tactical foul claims|
|Call the doctor! Conte protests no malice in David Luiz absence|
|Joy for Newcastle on a historic night for referee Neville|
|Sheffield Wednesday 0 Wolves 1: Brilliant Neves fires leaders seven clear|
|Premier League title City´s to lose, but Sterling wary of United charge|
|Barcelona´s Deulofeu a Clasico doubt after training injury|
|Bills QB Taylor to start v Dolphins|
|O´Mahony and Furlong sign new IRFU contracts|
|Salah ´is a player I rate a lot´, says Zidane|
|Allardyce lauds ´invaluable´ Rooney|
|Ramos fit for Club World Cup final|
|Lille sack Bielsa to end failed experiment|
|Manchester United job like Real Madrid, says Mourinho|
|Fernandinho is much better than I was, Guardiola claims|
|That Harry Kane team? – I´m over Guardiola dig, says Pochettino|
|Tuilagi and Toomua return to Leicester line-up|
|Mourinho open to January moves as Griezmann rumours swirl|
|Berizzo set for Sevilla return after cancer surgery|
|Malinga left out of Sri Lanka´s T20 squad|
|Manchester City will not go unbeaten in Premier League - Guardiola|
|Man City are the best – Pochettino braced for Spurs´ toughest test|
|Kristaps Porzingis injury update: Knicks big man says knee ´shouldn´t´ be bad|
|Conte hopeful over David Luiz´s ´serious´ knee injury|
|Neymar not an injury risk after Brazil trip - Emery|
|Bailly to miss three months due to ankle surgery|
|Klopp defends Liverpool rotation policy|
|Arsenal fan Prince Harry´s wedding day to clash with FA Cup final|
|He´s one of the best – Simeone showers Oblak with praise|
|Juventus won´t sell in-demand Pjaca, agent claims|
|Bolasie in line for Everton return after long-term injury|
|Bedene to switch back from Britain to Slovenia|
|Maradona told Real Madrid to sign Mbappe|
|Samuels out of NZ tour, Narine to miss T20s|
|Sydney FC 3 Melbourne City 1: Champions come from behind to go eight points clear|
|Red-hot Salah wins Player of the Month|
|Heynckes unaware of reported Sanches loan termination|
|Maradona: I´d have won more Ballons d´Or than Ronaldo and Messi|
|Khawaja pleased to restore parity in Perth|
|Bairstow enjoys playful celebration of crucial century|
|The Ashes Round-up: Smith leading by example again|
|Wenger confirms Wilshere contract talks imminent|
|Sensational Smith leads Australia fightback|
|We´ve never been approached by Man United – Wenger rejects Ozil reports|
|Joshua ´absolutely´ capable of unification, says Klitschko|
|Mathews fit for India-Sri Lanka series decider|
|Lewandowski demands focus ahead of Christmas|
|Fury not rushing back to take on Joshua|
|Klopp right to rotate at Liverpool – Neville|
|Overton strikes twice for England in Perth|
|LeBron´s 59th triple-double leads Cavaliers past Lakers|