In spite of Manchester City’s impressive performance at Old Trafford this past weekend, Pep Guardiola has warned that his side, ‘can’t compete in Europe on current form’.
The remark is likely an attempt to keep his players’ feet firmly on the ground. It is debatable, however, that Guardiola really believes it in the wake of his team’s blistering start to the season.
While City were the bookies’ favourite for the Premier League going into the season, many people felt that it may take some time for the ex-Barcelona boss to adjust to the hustle and bustle of English football. It is a case of so far, so good for the Spaniard though, as after Chelsea slipped up yesterday City are now the only team with an unblemished record in the league.
Showcasing some of his trademark intensity, however, Guardiola has already made it clear to his team that his goal is not only to build the best side in England, but also Europe with his latest comments:
“Until now in the Premier League it has been okay, but to compete against the best clubs in Europe, in this moment with the way we are playing, we are not able to,” the 45-year-old told Sky Sports.
“We have played, not all of the games, but part of most of the games at a high level, and of course we have to continue. If you ask me whether we are ready to compete in Europe, we are not ready.”
He went on to detail some of the facets of their play which need to be corrected:
“We create, but in front we need more. But it is just two months together, so we have time to get better. We have had a little bit of a problem in the last few games with the last pass – we make the movements, but the last pass… especially in the second half when Manchester United pushed a lot. There was the chance to make counter attacks, and we had many.
“But, except for one or two from Kevin De Bruyne, we didn’t finish. It happened similarly against Stoke and West Ham – when the game is open, which is typical here in England, if you don’t finish those actions you are going to suffer until the end. We were lucky – maybe one day we will not be lucky.”
It is a bit of a scary proposition to think that Man City have not maximised their offensive potential considering that they have scored eleven goals in their opening four league matches, especially when one considers that sandwiched in between those fixtures, Steau Bucharest were subject to a 6-0 shellacking over two legs in the Champions League qualifiers.
But it is a calling card of Guardiola to be continually striving for more goals, possession and all round perfection even when his side is comfortably ahead. Cases as extreme as him once labelling his Bayern’s side 66% ball possession as not good enough are testament to this aspect of his intense personality. Guardiola is not afraid to make statements which some may regard as silly such as: ‘What I want, my desire, is to have 100 percent possession’, not because he truly believes that this is possible but more so as a reminder to his players of the attitude he seeks from them at all times.
In the short-term it seems destined to bring great success to City as he has achieved with his previous spells in management but in the long-term it does raise the question as to whether either Pep or more likely, his players, will grow weary of this insatiable quest for non-stop growth.
While burning out is often an accusation levelled at his nemesis José Mourinho, it will be fascinating to see if a time comes when Pep must ease up on his intensity in order to preserve his longevity after relatively short spells at both Barcelona and Bayern.
These were, after all, bookmarked by him leaving football and Europe for a year seemingly because of the huge stress with which he puts himself under.
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena