Manchester City’s well-oiled winning machine shows no sign of exhaustion

<span>Pep Guardiola (centre) has complained about his team’s workload in recent weeks.</span><span>Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA</span>
Pep Guardiola (centre) has complained about his team’s workload in recent weeks.Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

It had been tempting to wonder if some kind of elaborate gag was taking place when the Brighton fan and noted stamina enthusiast “The Hardest Geezer” was paraded on the pitch before kick-off at the Amex Stadium. What was that, Pep? Your team’s a bit tired? Why not tell it to the guy who’s just become the first person in history to run the length of Africa? He must be dying to hear about Bernardo Silva’s hamstrings.

Nobody is really buying it. The thing about City is that they are built to go the distance. Not only do they have the best technicians in the league, they also have a team packed with physical power.

Related: Manchester City fire title warning with Phil Foden on song against Brighton

Brighton, who doomed themselves with their determination to stick to their principles of playing out from the back, were squashed by the 34th minute. Not once did this feel like a tricky away game at the business end of a three-way title race. A night on from Liverpool’s challenge melting away at Goodison Park, this was pure domination as a 4-0 win moved City one point off Arsenal, with a game in hand on Mikel Arteta’s side, even though Guardiola has been making out that what his players really need is to rebalance themselves at a restorative yoga retreat.

That can wait. Seventeen minutes in, Kyle Walker, whose lactic-acid fuelled performance during the FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea had drawn criticism from Guardiola, summoned enough energy to gambol forward from right-back after cute play from Phil Foden. Walker’s cross, struck on the run, completely caught Brighton out. Hit the big man. Get it launched. Or alternatively, in City’s case, guide the ball into the middle in a way that feels more like a precise, lofted, defence-duping cutback than the traditional hopeful cross, and wait for your chief playmaker to ease you into an unassailable 1-0 lead.

It was, of course, a striking goal. Some of City’s games might be mind-numbingly uncompetitive, but there’s no doubting the quality of the football. Kevin De Bruyne, another player who cannot stop yawning, was rightly pleased with himself after making it 1-0 with a looping header made possible by a diving thrust that looked a little like Robin van Persie’s goal against Spain at the 2014 World Cup.

The athleticism was breathtaking. De Bruyne, hardly renowned for scoring brilliant headers, jogged to the touchline. City’s players amused themselves by patting the Belgian’s fancy, bouncy haircut.

That was pretty much that. Early on, Brighton’s most interesting player was their goalkeeper, Jason Steele, who kept finding himself with the ball at his feet. It was a questionable ploy. City had De Bruyne to play their passes. Brighton were looking to Steele to spray the ball around. Lewis Dunk was way too involved. Valentín Barco, who had a torrid time against Walker, was a bag of nerves.

It was, if nothing else, ridiculously brave from Brighton. They invited the press, took risks, kept making their fans sweat. Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton’s manager, is not one to compromise. There were even times when the pretty triangles earned polite applause from the crowd. The only problem was that they all took place inside Brighton’s final third.

There was rarely a way out of Guardiola’s trap. At one point, with City already 1-0 up, Carlos Baleba did manage to burst through midfield, Rodri and Mateo Kovacic letting the Brighton youngster through. But when Baleba looked up, all he could see were City players looming over him. He tried a dinked pass to the left and lifted the ball into Manuel Akanji’s chest.

City are imposing, Josko Gvardiol a centre-back at left-back, the supposedly exhausted Rodri a skyscraper in midfield. Even worse for their opponents, they run like demons. After 34 minutes, Brighton tried more clever passing. City, though, had five players in the box. Silva, another who has complained about the workload, made the interception and Foden swept in his second of the night.

These are the standards it takes to keep winning. Moments later Guardiola was crouched on his knees in his technical area, apparently pained by Brighton winning a corner on the left. The score was Brighton 0 City 3. Relax, Pep. The points are probably in the bag.

But there is never any letup. After 62 minutes City came again, Walker motoring down the right, punishing more feeble Brighton defending. Julián Álvarez, deputising for the injured Erling Haaland, made it 4-0.

Game over, Guardiola was finally able to put De Bruyne, Foden and Rodri in cold storage. Job done, City could save their legs for Sunday’s trip to Nottingham Forest, who must be hoping that the VAR is an Arsenal fan. Another title is in reach. For Arsenal, who remain top of the league, the prospect of City slowing down looks slim.