MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Nov 26 – Pep Guardiola is confident Manchester City are better equipped to cope with the gruelling winter schedule this season than they were 12 months ago.
The Premier League leaders face a hectic December in which they must play nine games in the Premier League, League Cup and Champions League.
That draining programme is two more games than Guardiola was required to play in December 2016 when City won three and lost three in the league, seriously damaging their chances of competing for last season’s title.
But despite the burden of an additional two games, and the pressure of leading the league table, City boss Guardiola has no worries of history repeating itself.
“When you compare to last season, our problem was actually before December,” he said.
“After the second international break we had four Premier League games, three at home, and we weren’t able to win once – Southampton, Middlesbrough, Everton – we weren’t able to win.
“This season (at the same time) we had three games at home and were able to win them all.
“What happened last season, in November and December, was a consequence of what had happened earlier.
“I’m not thinking about it but I know our schedule is full, like all the teams, there are a lot of games for everybody.”
City’s impressive strength in depth is another reason that Guardiola can approach mid-winter with far more optimism than last season when, for the first time in his managerial career, he went through a campaign without winning a trophy.
And his experience of coaching teams competing for honours on multiple fronts could be another key factor.
– Past is the past –
“The best advice I can say to the players from my experience is just to think about the next game,” he said.
“Then we will see how the players have recovered, who is injured, not injured and take decisions game by game.
“If we don’t win, now I want to see how we react and keep going.
“If you think ‘nine games is a lot’, it’s better not to think about it or compare what happened last season.
“Last season is last season and sport is always in the present, the next one. The past is the past.”
Guardiola did concede, however, that his team has improved considerably compared to 12 months ago.
Ederson has proved an impressive addition in goal and Kyle Walker has added much-needed speed in the right-back position.
But the City manager also believes the experience of veteran players has proved crucial.
“We have played most of the time with just two new players – Ederson and Kyle,” he said.
“Most of the players were here last season all together but it’s a question of time.
“There is more energy, more energy from Kyle, but it takes time and now we know each other better.
“We have many here – Vincent (Kompany), David (Silva), Sergio (Aguero), Fernandinho – they won one or two Premier Leagues.
“Maybe they can help us understand how important it is to win the Premier League for the other guys, how they need to improve to win the Premier League, the desire to win it.
“We are closer but we are still far away, we are just in November, and the desire to win counts a lot to achieve something.”