Pep Guardiola's decision to pick a three-man defense and plug the midfield for last season's Champions League elimination to Lyon was jarring.
It was at odds with Manchester City's usual attacking style. It seemed to confuse the players. The Spaniard was overcomplicating matters rather than trusting what had made his team so successful.
Guardiola was, to reel out the hackneyed term, overthinking.
But City are different this season. As they showed in Wednesday's Champions League progression at Borussia Dortmund's expense, they can move between playing on the front foot and exercising caution in a way that previously eluded them. They regroup and adapt instead of cowering when things don't go to plan.
"I know we have great players and a great team and should have been to the semis earlier. We were lacking something. We made little mistakes which led to goals," midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said during Tuesday's prematch press conference.
He added: "I feel like we are much more stable at the moment. We are defending well."
There was still a defensive mistake, of course. This is City, after all. John Stones, reborn this season when he seemed destined for the exit, was so far behind the thought process that led to Dortmund's goal that the keys to his Ford Ranchero were jangling in the pockets of his disco flares. The ball went over the daydreaming center-back's head and, via Erling Haaland and Mahmoud Dahoud, eventually broke to Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old's smash swung the tie in Dortmund's favor.