Pep Guardiola was full of praise for protege Mikel Arteta as his Manchester City side recorded an 18th win in a row with a narrow victory at Arsenal.
The City boss insisted after Raheem Sterling’s second-minute header secured a 1-0 win that he is just as happy to win in such circumstances than when his team run roughshod over the opposition.
Sterling headed home Riyad Mahrez’s cross to open the scoring but they were unable to add to their tally, although the visitors seemed in complete control of the contest as Arsenal had just one shot on target in the 90 minutes.
City extended their record-breaking run but Guardiola felt they were pushed hard by the Gunners under his former assistant Arteta.
A professional performance! 🤝
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 21, 2021
“It was a really tough game,” he said.
“We didn’t have the players that we used to play and create our game because Mikel is so clever and they make man to man in the build up.
“It was really difficult to find the right players to attack better but we were consistent again. We started incredibly well again and for 15-20 minutes was so brilliant.
“After they were better than us, we could not press, we could not have the ball and they didn’t create much but there were crosses.
“We made a brilliant second half, it was so good. We are delighted for the three points because it is the Emirates, Arsenal away, and I know Mikel, how good he is and how well his team plays.”
The win at the Emirates Stadium may not grab as many headlines as some of City’s recent run but it only strengthened their lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Guardiola admits he knows he will inevitably see his side lose at some point and is more than happy to pick up 1-0 victories along the way.
“The record is going to be broken one day, we are going to lose one day so thinking about the next game is the only secret,” he added.
“I’m surprised and impressed and so when everyone is suffering in this world, all the teams in the league are dropping points we were consistent over the past two months and I did not expect.
“We cannot forget we won at Anfield, we won against Tottenham, at Goodison Park and here, three incredibly tough away games in this period, which is why I’m more than pleased to win just 1-0.
“People talk and talk about the record and the victories but to do this you have to win these types of games many, many times. It is not always about winning by three or four because that is not possible.
“I would say we didn’t do more today because of the quality of the opponent, not because we weren’t good.”
Arteta will need to pick his players up for the second leg of Arsenal’s Europa League round-of-32 tie against Benfica on Thursday.
Despite being the “home” leg, the game will take place in Athens due to current coronavirus travel restrictions.
Arteta feels the match, finely-poised following a 1-1 draw last week, has the feel of a final with success in the Europa League increasingly looking like the best way to qualify for continental football next season.
“When we conceded the first goal it put us in a difficult situation,” he told Sky Sports.
“It was tough. With the formation and the players they use they are really comfortable.
“We got something wrong. We didn’t do it in the first 10 minutes. It’s a cross and Raheem Sterling cannot head a ball there.
“We have a final on Thursday because we want to continue in the competition (Europa League). We have to sleep, eat and we won’t have time to train then we fly to Greece.”