Pep Guardiola admitted some of the joy was missing after Manchester City thrashed Burnley 5-0 at an empty Etihad Stadium.
Riyad Mahrez scored a hat-trick as City took advantage of a visit from one their favourite whipping boys to rediscover their goalscoring touch in the Premier League.
It was City’s fourth successive 5-0 victory over the Clarets at home.
Yet with little respite in the schedule in a condensed season, and with supporters unable to attend, City boss Guardiola felt something was lacking.
“The problem today in games is the players lose the joy of playing football,” the Spaniard told the BBC.
“Before it was nice playing football, once or twice a week with spectators. Now it is like… in three days there is another one.”
Guardiola, however, allayed fears that record goalscorer Sergio Aguero might have suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury.
The Argentinian underwent surgery in the summer and his return to action has already been complicated by a hamstring injury.
Guardiola said in his post-match press conference: “Sometimes it is just a reaction on the knee. With Sergio, it is how he wakes up. He makes good training sessions, but then has niggles in his knee.
“We know the injury he had is not easy for the recovery – we have to handle it as well as possible. When he is ready, he will play. Hopefully tomorrow he can come back to training.”
Guardiola was pleased to get back to winning ways in the Premier League after last week’s loss at Tottenham. City had won just three of their opening eight games and scored only 10 goals in a mixed start to the campaign.
He said: “It was important to come back with a victory in the Premier League. We play a lot of games so to play 90 minutes and maintain a good level is not easy, but there are always things to improve on.
“Of course, it helps us. It’s important for us to score goals and keep going.”
Guardiola said: “It is important for guys up front to score goals. They should score more goals. Then they will have more chances to keep playing.
“The most important thing now is we have almost 21 players fit. We have players who are tired who will need rest but the guys who defend well and the guys who score will play.”
Burnley, by contrast, were weakened by injuries and were comprehensively outplayed. The game proved a particularly chastening experience for goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell on his Premier League debut.
“But we have made mistakes and they have capitalised on it. Immediately the game plan is thrown out of the window. Here, it is really tough then. They use the ball so well.
“I am not going to start complaining about injuries but we all know the disparity in the division. They have got a huge resource base and they use it well.
“There is no lack of effort or intention. We just made the wrong choices and we played a top side. When those top sides turn up they really punish you.”