Man City silence Pep Guardiola critics three times in 45 minutes with ruthless Bournemouth response – Joe Bray

City were back to their ruthless best at Bournemouth and were able to keep the pressure on Arsenal, scoring four times to improve the mood around the club after a week of frustrations. Many criticisms have been levelled at City after the last two games, from their use of Erling Haaland to how many substitutions Pep Guardiola makes.

It seemed like City were on a mission to prove Guardiola right on various points one-by-one, ticking off a number of supposed weaknesses as though they were side-quests to the main objective of returning to winning ways and getting three points. It was well and truly accomplished at the Vitality Stadium.

After three long away trips, a journey to Bournemouth was hardly ideal, and Guardiola had referenced the schedule as a possible reason for the two draws that preceded this game, with City supposedly playing poorly – even if Guardiola was more than happy with performances.

The City boss made three changes to his side, with Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and Rico Lewis back in the side, and all three justified their recalls within 15 minutes, all contributing towards giving the Blues the lead after a relatively even opening. Lewis had been targeted on the right, but his sliding tackle was perfect to win possession and set City on the way.

Ilkay Gundogan floated a lovely ball into the path of Foden, who cut back for Haaland and the striker&aposs goal-bound shot was deflected onto the bar. Alvarez, following up, was in the right place to smash the rebound into the roof of the net and score the kind of poacher&aposs goal that will give his chances of staying in the team no harm at all.

Rodri had fired a shot over beforehand, and Ruben Dias flashed a diving header wide after Haaland saw an effort blocked for a corner. Haaland wasn&apost to be denied for a third time, though, as he set (another) impressive record and ended his two-game goal drought from four yards just before the half-hour mark.

Gundogan was again involved as he raced down the left, crossing for Foden. Whether it was a cross or shot that fell into Haaland&aposs path is irrelevant, but Haaland didn&apost stop to wonder as he calmly converted to double the lead and become the player with the most Premier League goals in a single season for City.

Haaland&aposs 27th in 24 league appearances beats Sergio Aguero&aposs record of 26 in 2014/15, and should put to bed the idea that City are weaker with their number nine for another week at least.

Moments earlier, Haaland had given some instructions to Gundogan, presumably for better service, and within seconds Gundogan saw a threaded ball to the striker cut out. Gundogan was guilty of ignoring Haaland in the same situations at RB Leipzig in the week, but Pep Guardiola defended the more cautious approach by calling such balls &aposrisk-passes&apos.

Gundogan was at the heart of both opening goals and was clearly given more licence to be risky – and City reaped the rewards. Without Kevin De Bruyne, Gundogan and Foden deserve credit for making those runs to support Haaland – just as Guardiola has challenged them to in recent weeks when Haaland&aposs lack of service has been questioned.

There was no such combination play for City&aposs third on the stroke of half-time, just some good old-fashioned high pressing – although the source of the press came from an unlikely left-winger. Ruben Dias.

Finding himself next to Haaland and Jack Grealish pressing the Bournemouth back line, Dias forced Philip Billing into a blind pass across his own defence, with Foden capitalising and finishing past Neto for City&aposs third and his first goal since the World Cup.

After facing various questions this week, Guardiola saw three major criticisms emphatically silenced in the space of 45 minutes. City picked their moments to involve Haaland and Foden showed why he is the manager&aposs &aposdiamond&apos, with his recent omissions nothing to do with how City feel about his talent or performances.

And by dispatching Bournemouth so clinically in the first half, City rubbished the idea that their four away trips in 11 days was taking a toll on their fatigue. Come Tuesday, when the Blues are at Bristol City in the FA Cup, they will have travelled around 3000 miles in a fortnight, but they were rampant on the South Coast and needed no time at all to end the creeping debates about their inability to finish their chances.

Alvarez sent another reminder to his manager of the benefits of his presence in the box with City&aposs fourth, cutting out a clearance and firing an effort that was heading wide, until it was deflected in off Chris Mepham. Guardiola likes to pick Alvarez in place of Kevin De Bruyne to add more bodies in the box, and his very positioning resulted in two goals at ideal times for City. After two games that saw 35 shots but just two goals, Alvarez was a simple solution to those apparent scoring woes.

After all, Guardiola has always said if the chances are being made, there&aposs no major issue to worry about. As fans and pundits panicked this week, Guardiola kept calm and carried on to provide simple and effective solutions to the last two frustrating draws. He&aposs asked Gundogan and Foden to make more runs to support Haaland, and pointed to Alvarez as a solution to adding more of a presence in the opposition box. Simple as that.

Aided by his &aposdiamond&apos, this was a performance that emphasised how difficult Guardiola&aposs selection choices can be. Foden played a part in all four goals, Grealish was quiet but has been brilliant lately, and Riyad Mahrez showed in the week he won&apost give up his spot willingly anytime soon.

Bournemouth rallied with a few attacks, countered by substitute midfielder Sergio Gomez firing narrowly over. Jefferson Lerma pounced on a poor Dias clearance to score a consolation that ruined Ederson&aposs clean sheet, although it did seem to send the Bournemouth fans happy enough despite the 4-1 scoreline.

By full-time City&aposs midfield was made up of Kalvin Phillips, Gomez and debutant Maximo Perrone – supported by teenager Rico Lewis. Guardiola defended his right not to make substitutions on Wednesday, before making all five to field possibly his most inexperienced central combination in his time at the club. What a difference a few days make.

This was a night where Guardiola backed up his spiky and passionate interviews of late with a clinical display of how everything should work when it comes together. City are back on the heels of Arsenal, and maybe more importantly, they silenced critics on a number of fronts at the Vitality Stadium.