But somehow a game that they absolutely dominated against an adventure-less Newcastle United — with 78% possession and 21 shots — somehow turned into one of their toughest tests of the season.
Raheem Sterling’s 31st minute goal was the difference but they wasted a hatful of chances in one of the most one-sided games of the season.
It was only the second time City have won 1-0 under Guardiola. “We created enough chances but in the last 10-15 minutes they could have scored but we were much better,” said Guardiola.
“As a manager I have to adapt. In these 18 games (unbeaten), we have played teams who high press, low press, attack us. Any manager and team can play how they want. And you have to find a way to beat them.”
The big downside for Guardiola was seeing skipper Vincent Kompany forced off injured after just 10 minutes.
“Unfortunately he is injured again and we are going to see.”
Newcastle were spineless for 10 minutes, barely venturing inside City’s half. Gary Neville described it as the “most negative” style of football he has ever seen in the opening 30 minutes.
Jamie Carragher was more understanding but says the Premier League is in danger of becoming a “joke” if this was the best way to stop City.
Yet somehow Newcastle could have stolen an unlikely with Rafa Benitez finally daring to attack in the final 10 minutes. Substitute Dwight Gayle went down after colliding with Nicolast Otamendi but referee Andre Marriner was only moved to book the striker.
And in the dying minutes Gayle had a diving header that was inches away with Ederson sprawling across his line.
How the game was still a contest at that point was what was so incredible — and in some ways justified Benitez’s ultra-defensive tactics.
City had hit the woodwork three times and wasted chance after chance with Rob Elliot Newcastle’s best performer.
Jonjo Shelvey hit a shot straight from the kick-off and it was the closest Newcastle got to the City goal in a spineless opening half hour.
Rafa Benitez sat so deep that a player rarely crossed the halfway line and they didn’t touch the ball in the final third of the field.
Defensively they were pulled apart by the intricate work of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan as they picked at the back-10 trying to find an opening.
Newcastle’s negative game lan was so obvious that when Kompany indicated to the City bench that he was suffering from a calf strain, Guardiola chose Brazilian striker Gabrile Jesus to replace him when the change was eventually made on 10 minutes.
It could also be a message from Guardiola to City’s hierarchy that he needs another centre back if they are to chase their Champions League dream, with Eliaquim Mangala not good enough and Kompany not reliable enough.
Not that it disrupted City’s rhythm. Aguero had hit the post after just seven minutes with a low strike. Next Elliot made a brilliant save from a header from close range.
The Argentinian tried again from long distance and this time his effort drifted inches wide of the goal.
The breakthrough finally came in the 31st minute and Kevin de Bruyne was the architect. His delightful ball cut out the Newcastle defence for Sterling to slide home.
The second half agains aw chances coming and going. De Bruyne hit a brilliant 25-yard strike and the luckless Aguero was offside as he converted the rebound. It would have been one of the big injustices if the Magpies stole a point from Gayle’s late chances.
Elliott 8; Yedlin 5, Mbemba 6 (Merino 77, 6), Lascelles 6, Dummett 5, Manquilo 6; Aarons 6 (Atsu 70, 7) Diame 6, Shelvey 6, Murphy 6; Joselu 5.5 (Gayle 61, 5)
Clark, Ritchie, Perez, Darlow.
Ederson 6; Walker 6, Kompany 5 (Jesus 10, 6), Otamendi 7, Danilo 6; Fernandinho 7; B Silva 7(Sane 85), De Bruyne 7, Gundogan 7, Sterling 8; Aguero 7 (Mangala 76, 6)
Bravo, Adarabioyo, Toure, Diaz. Ref: A Marriner.