MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Feb 2 – Pep Guardiola is convinced that Manchester City have enough leaders to chase down a significant points deficit in the league, something he has never previously achieved as a manager.
Guardiola’s side go into Sunday’s Premier League home match against Arsenal in third place, five points behind leaders Liverpool with 14 games to play.
City suffered their fourth defeat in nine league matches as they were beaten 2-1 at Newcastle on Tuesday in a lethargic display.
They were without the leadership skills of club captain Vincent Kompany, who has made only six league starts this season because of injuries.
Guardiola, though, has rejected the idea that he does not have the players willing to take responsibility in the absence of the Belgian.
“Of course, there are guys with a huge personality to talk, to communicate, but that is only worth so much,” he said.
“I am not going to call out a guy who is shy, who expresses himself with a lot of character on the pitch, but off the pitch is more quiet and doesn’t talk too much with his mates.”
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added: “I met incredible players who didn’t speak one word. And I saw a lot of players who speak a lot in the locker room, ‘I want to do that’, and afterwards, when they go out on the pitch and they are under pressure, say ‘I don’t want the ball and I don’t want to defend’. There are so many of these kinds.
“It is one thing to say that players don’t have the personality to do that. I think we can do more, of course, me above anyone, but I think we have it.”
– Serial winner –
Guardiola has won the domestic league title in seven of his nine seasons as a senior coach, but on six of those occasions his team led the table from autumn onwards.
The one exception was in 2009-10, when his Barcelona side swapped places with Real Madrid for several weeks before finally pulling away in early April with a 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu Stadium in El Clasico.
Even that season, Barcelona were always either leading or within one victory of the top. Guardiola has never before, at this stage of a campaign, succeeded in clawing back the size of deficit he now faces and admits it is a new challenge.
“Pressure comes day by day,” he said. “That is why I like the Premier League. I like the competition. You have to play as well as possible to win games in the way you want to play. That is the pleasure I have and we feel as a team and as a manager. The titles are a consequence of that.”
“But if the other team are top at the end, then when we are done, we will shake the hands of the champions and we will try again next season,” he added.
During last season’s filming of “All or Nothing”, the Amazon documentary about the club, Guardiola told his players they were the best team in the Premier League, and possibly Europe.
He said he still feels that way. “Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Because I believe. I love them, I like them, I trust them. I said many times. So of course I believe it.”