They may not have been at their very best but Premier League leaders Manchester City still had enough to beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and extend their win streak to 15 games.
They opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table before second-placed Manchester United’s game against Chelsea.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger clearly felt his best hope of halting City’s run of wins in all competitions was to keep men behind the ball and try to eliminate space for City’s prolific attack.
Fielding a five-man defence, with the full backs staying deep and midfielder Francis Coquelin in the middle of the back-line, Arsenal’s intentions were clear but frustrating City at the moment is far easier said than done.
City grabbed the lead in the 19th minute through a low drive from Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, after his initial shot had been parried out by Petr Cech.
The home side’s trademark fast counter-attack should have brought a second in the 35th break when De Bruyne fed Raheem Sterling but the winger over-hit his pass to Leroy Sane with the German in a great position.
Arsenal were just about managing to stay in the game and on the stroke of halftime City keeper Ederson needed to be at his most alert to get down and keep out a well- struck effort from Aaron Ramsey.
City doubled their advantage five minutes after the interval when club record scorer Sergio Aguero slotted home a penalty after Raheem Sterling was barged over by Nacho Monreal.
Guardiola’s side’s normally slick passing a little off at times and they showed signs of fatigue from their midweek exertions at Napoli in the Champions League.
Having not gained much joy from Alexis Sanchez on his own in attack with Mesut Ozil behind him, Arsenal threw on 52 million-pound ($68 million) striker Alexandre Lacazette in the 56th minutes and the Frenchman fired them back into the game with a clinical diagonal finish after being set up by Ramsey.
But City restored their two-goal lead when David Silva, in what replays suggested was an offside position, collected a pass from Fernandinho and slipped the ball to substitute Gabriel Jesus for a simple tap-in.
City have set high standards this season and this win will not be among their most memorable.
But the relative ease with which they dealt with the fifth-placed team in the league is an ominous sign for their pursuers.