Fulham 0 Manchester City 4 – Guardiola’s team after two matches for the fourth title in a row

Manchester City, bidding for a fourth successive Premier League title, visited Craven Cottage at lunchtime on Saturday, with Pep Guardiola’s side knowing a win would put them above Arsenal in the table.

Fulham started brightly but could only hold on until the 13th minute when Jusko Gvardiol converted one of 19 passes – another important goal via the Croatian’s weaker right foot.

It was a similar story in the second half: some early pressure from the home side… then 13 minutes later it was 2-0, and Phil Foden, the FWA Player of the Year, scored with his weaker foot this time. With 20 minutes to go, Gvardiol (right-footed – yes) made it 3-0 with a powerful shot at the far post, before a late penalty from Julián Alvarez cut Arsenal’s goal difference to just two goals.

Here, Sam Lee answers some of the key questions in the game.

How did Yusko Gvardiol turn into a goal machine?

“There was a very uncertain period,” Guardiola said of Gvardiol last weekend. “It wasn’t really good.

Guardiola then explained how this is normal for a new player in the league, and we have seen this a lot at City. “But we talked, we watched a lot of his shows, and he got it.”

For most of the season, there have been questions about Gvardiol’s suitability for the left-back role, but it increasingly looks like he will be wasted at centre-back. No doubt in the future he will push forward through the midfield like John Stones does – once he picks up some of the extra complexities in Guardiola’s scheme – but while he learns it, the left-back is a good one.

He’s asked to be high and wide, but there are only a few tackles and crosses – he’s basically another midfielder, just a holding midfielder, who gets the ball and gives it away, and keeps things going; A bit like the way Jack Grealish was used, without the quirks.

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But Gvardiol’s shot isn’t bad either, and that showed in his first goal against Fulham. Once he reached the penalty area, he showed his composure and touched the ball again before kicking the ball.

(Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

This kind of direction on the pitch – and the ability to use his right foot – sets him apart from many players, especially defenders.

He had some problems at first; Guardiola spoke about how Guardiola always tried to be very creative in possession, giving the ball away, and defensively he was also thwarted. But these problems have been minimized in the last few months and he looked like the ideal choice for Guardiola’s muscular and technical back line.

Add some goals, just as with the goals here or the glaring ones against Real Madrid and Luton Town, and you have a very special player – albeit one who turned down the chance to become the first defender in Premier League history to score a hat-trick. After City got a penalty kick in extra time.

De Bruyne’s knack for providing assists continued almost under the radar, as he played his part past Gvardiol by exchanging the ball with the rampaging full-back.

In the same way that Erling Haaland scored a first-half hat-trick almost invisibly, De Bruyne continues to make decisive contributions even when he’s not splitting up defenses with through balls or bending crosses to the back post.

(Adrian Denis/AFP via Getty Images)

It is this ability to combine the most outrageous efforts with simpler passes that has boosted him up the Premier League assist rankings during his nine years at City. Now only Ryan Giggs has more in league history – and from a much longer career (almost 27,000 more minutes).

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De Bruyne also has the same amount of assists as Cesc Fabregas – but with 7,000 fewer minutes.

De Bruyne has provided nine assists in the Premier League this season, the same number as any other City player, and only played half of them.

In this match, he was very much like Haaland again, in the sense that he was there inside, moving around and waiting for the right time to get on the ball and make a significant contribution, with the bulk of the work in possession being done by those positioned deeper and wider. .

He could have provided more assists when the game opened up just before half-time – especially after Manuel Akanji missed an unmarked shot at the far post, while Haaland missed a good chance over the bar. It was the third time De Bruyne had created three Opta-defined ‘big chances’ in a Premier League match this season, two more than any other player in the division.

He was taken off with 15 minutes remaining, knowing he had done too much.

If the sight of the ball leaping over the goal line to give City a 3-0 lead wasn’t enough, the celebrations left little doubt that Guardiola’s side were cruising and looking far from fazed by the pressures of another title race.

It was Bernardo Silva who sent the cross to the far post for Gvardiol and Yazan to turn in and choose the perfect option from De Bruyne’s short corner kick.

And Kyle Walker wanted to make sure Bernardo got credit for that. As City’s players gathered in front of the cheering fans (including Noel Gallagher), Walker picked up the Portuguese in what was essentially a fireman’s carry, moving him 20 yards away from the rest of them.

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Bernardo is as beloved in the dressing room as anyone at City, but everyone is preparing for another summer of desires – given a release clause in his contract, inserted last year after he agreed to stay – back, but with an eye on the possibility of finally exiting in 2024.

He’s been thinking about one since 2021 – not that you’d know given how he put it all to the back of his mind once the season started and continues to be one of the key cogs of Guardiola’s machine.

It’s almost time to say goodbye and it can be emotional as the players go their separate ways for their holidays. Before that, they have three games remaining and if they win them all, they will have won the Premier League and FA Cup double.

Business as usual for Bernardo and the band then. And they seem more than happy about it.

(Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

What did Pep Guardiola say?

“We have a lot of pressure,” Guardiola told beIN Sports after the match. “We know that if we draw or lose a game, it’s over. We know in every game what we have to do.

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to be in this position this season after winning the treble last season.

“I thought they were going to back down but the consistency was just the opposite.”

What’s next for the city?

Tuesday 14 May: Tottenham (away), Premier League, 8pm GMT, 3pm ET

City’s final away game of the season at a stadium they are finding difficult to win. Will Tottenham fancy helping Arsenal compete for the title?

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(Top image: Getty Images)

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