Fulham 0 Manchester City 4 – Guardiola's team two games away from a fourth consecutive title

Manchester City's bid for a fourth consecutive Premier League title arrived at Craven Cottage on Saturday lunchtime, with Pep Guardiola's side knowing a win would take them above Arsenal in the table.

Fulham started brightly but could only hold on until the 13th minute when a 19-yard pass was converted by Josko Guardiol – another crucial goal through the Croatian's weaker right foot.

The second half was a similar story: some early pressure from the home side… and then after 13 minutes it was 2–0, with FWA Player of the Year Phil Foden scoring this time with his weaker foot. With 20 minutes remaining, Guardiol (yes – with his right foot) made it 3–0 with a superb finish at the far post, before Julian Alvarez's late penalty restored Arsenal's once-powerful goal difference. Reduced the advantage to just two.

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

How did Josko Guardiol turn into a goal machine?

“There was a period that was very uncertain,” Guardiola said of Guardiola last weekend. “It was really, really not good.

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

For most of the season, there have been questions about Guardiol's suitability for the left-back role, but it appears his time at centre-back will be wasted. There's no doubt that in the future he'll move up the middle like John Stones – once he's understood some of the more intricacies of the Guardiola blueprint – but until he learns it, the left-back is fine.

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He is asked to be high and wide, but has only a few overlaps and crosses – he is essentially another midfielder, only one wide out, receiving the ball and passing it on, keeping things moving; Something like what Jack Grealish is used to, without the dribble.

But Guardiol's footwork isn't bad either, and it was on display during his first goal at Fulham. Once he reached the box, he showed patience to take another short touch before firing his shot.

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(Justin Satterfield/Getty Images)

Such flair on the pitch – and ability to use his right foot – sets him apart from many players, especially defenders.

At first he had some problems; Guardiola has talked about how Guardiola always tried to be very creative in gaining possession of the ball, and defensively he was also caught out. But those problems have been mitigated over the past few months and he looks like the ideal choice for Guardiola's muscular-but-technical back line.

Add a few goals, like the two here or the screamers 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 to score a hat-trick in Premier League history. After this City were given an extra time penalty.

De Bruyne's habit of picking up assists almost under the radar continued, playing his part in Guardiola's goal by completing a one-two with a powerful full-back.

In the same way that Erling Haaland has often scored a hat-trick almost stealthily in the first half, De Bruyne continues to come up with decisive contributions, even when he is not splitting the defense with through balls or heading crosses to the back post. Are not bending.

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(Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

It is this ability to combine more offensive efforts with simple passes that has boosted him up the Premier League assist rankings in his nine years at City. Only Ryan Giggs now has more than him in league history – and over a much longer career (almost 27,000 additional minutes).

De Bruyne has had the same number of assists as Cesc Fabregas – but in 7,000 fewer minutes.

De Bruyne has nine assists in the Premier League this season, as many as any other City player, and he has only played half of those.

In this game, he was once again like Haaland, he was inside, moving around, waiting for the moment to come on the ball and make a notable contribution, as most of the possession work was deep and wide. Done by people situated at the level.

He might have had even more assists as the game began to open up just before half-time – notably when Manuel Akanji missed an unmarked volley 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 game this season, two more than any other player in the division.

He was discharged with 15 minutes remaining, knowing he had overworked himself.

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If seeing the ball cross the line to give City an unassailable 3-0 lead wasn't enough, the celebrations left no doubt that Guardiola's side were on the move and undeterred by the pressure of another title race. It seemed far from happening.

It was Bernardo Silva who delivered a cross to the far post for Guardiol to convert, weighing in and taking the right option from De Bruyne's short corner.

And Kyle Walker wanted to make sure Bernardo got the credit. As City's players gathered in front of the cheering support (including Noel Gallagher), Walker lifted the Portuguese in what was essentially a fireman's carry, carrying him 20 yards from the rest.

Bernardo is as beloved in the dressing room as anyone at City, but everyone is willing-he-won't he for another summer – given that there is a buy-out clause in his contract, which It was inserted last year after he agreed. Wait – once again, but there's a look at whether an eventual exit in 2024 is possible.

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He's been mulling it over for 2021 – not that you'd know it considering he's had it all in his mind since the season started and remains one of the key components of the Guardiola machine.

Now the time of goodbyes is coming and it can be emotional as players go their separate ways for their holidays. Before then, they have three games left, and if they win them all, they will claim the Premier League and FA Cup double.

Again, business as usual for Bernardo and the band. And they seem quite happy with it.

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(Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

What did Pep Guardiola say?

We'll bring it to you after he speaks in the post-match press conference.

What next for the city?

Tuesday, May 14: Tottenham (A), Premier League, 8pm BST, 3pm ET

City's final game of the season is in the stadium where it is most difficult for them to win. However, would Spurs want to help Arsenal's title bid?

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(Top photo: Getty Images)

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