Eight games into the new season and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are yet to taste defeat. In fact, in preseason, league and cup, they are yet to taste a draw, never mind defeat. With two trips to Swansea in four days (EFL Cup and league) next on the menu, the psychological forcefield being put up around these players is beginning to grow into something quite formidable.
Guardiola's five-game winning start to the Premier League season will -- if it continues at the weekend -- equal Carlo Ancelotti's record six-straight wins in charge of Chelsea in 2009-10. In Spain last weekend, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane equalled Guardiola's record of 16 consecutive victories in La Liga -- stretching over the end of last season and the beginning of this one -- a high watermark, which his Barcelona side managed in 2010-11. It will be some time before statisticians are warming up for that one in the Premier League, however.
It is patently clear what the Catalan has done to galvanise this City side. City's pleasant-on-the-eye pass and move has so far been far too much for the likes of Stoke, Sunderland, West Ham, Manchester United and Bournemouth to handle. The swiftness of the passing, the way the players back each other up and the infamous high pressing have all come under broad focus. Knowing a side will play like this is insufficient to be able to stop them running riot, however, as United and Bournemouth have found in the last two games.
In the Champions League, Steaua Bucharest (in the playoffs) and Borussia Monchengladbach (in the first game of the group stage) have been left equally bamboozled by City's movement, to an aggregate score of 10-0 over three matches.
However, for all the confidence flooding through the side, for all the sumptuous passing that has been showcased so far, another element has been added to the mix, which is of the utmost importance: energy.
Manuel Pellegrini's third and last season in charge highlighted a sluggish, quasi-reluctant style, as City seemed to drag themselves over the finishing line with Leicester's celebration a distant reminder of how far behind they had fallen. It was as unconvincing a system to watch as it must have been to play in. Players, who had previously been light of step and full of vigour, suddenly looked leaden-footed, disinterested and exhausted.
Perhaps this is all part of the footballer's mentality. City's chief operating officer Ferran Soriano has spoken of three-to-five year cycles for coaches, to avoid staleness creeping in.
If ever this approach was vindicated, it came in witnessing last season's distinctly stale offering at the close of the Pellegrini era. Even before Guardiola was announced in early February, the Chilean's time was clearly up. The players knew it. The manager knew it. His staff knew it. The supporters knew it. The result was a slow-moving descent towards the rough anti-climax of fourth place and a League Cup trophy as scant consolation.
As difficult as it is to imagine the same being allowed to happen under someone as rigorous as Guardiola, the first season in charge is without question the time for a new coach to strike. Players are motivated by new systems and new shape, even more so when it is delivered by one of the best coaches in the world and is seen rapidly to work wonders.
By proving the worth of his system, Guardiola can also ask his players to put more effort in to make it function as well as possible without the worry they might feel it is asking too much. The Catalan has persuaded senior pros to jump through hoops for him. To see re-energised defender Aleksandar Kolarov now strolling through midfield like Franz Beckenbauer is truly to witness a modern miracle in action.
In this respect, City -- as well as Liverpool and Tottenham -- sit prettily at the top of the Premier League kilometers-run charts.
It is a fascinating and crucial detail that the three sides covering the most ground in the Premier League so far are three who have put down a marker for possession-based football. The transformation at the Etihad is nothing short of eye-watering. From 16th in distance covered in the first five league games last season, City now sit second.
The match at Stoke alone shows an additional 10kms on last season's game at the bet365 Stadium. You do not need to be a Nobel prize-winning mathematician to see the difference between a desperate 2-0 defeat last year and this season's thrusting 4-1 victory in the same place.
Eight games do not a season make, but the signs are that this City team will be the one to chase. With consecutive away games at Swansea, twice, Celtic in the Champions League and Tottenham, there are plenty of intriguing tests ahead. If City emerge from that run with Guardiola's perfect start still intact, many will need a lot of convincing that this is not to be City's year.