Guardiola hails “good performance” by under-cooked champion

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said that his players know how to eke out victories even when many are not fully match fit.

Guardiola (above) maintained his unbeaten record against Arsenal's new manager Unai Emery with seven wins and four draws.   -  Getty Images

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said that his players know how to eke out victories even when many are not fully match fit just as they did in getting their title defence off to a winning start with a routine 2-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday.

Goals by Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva sufficed in a match where Guardiola was able to call on the likes of Belgian star Kevin de Bruyne and German international wing Leroy Sane from the substitutes bench.

Guardiola, who maintained his unbeaten record against Arsenal's new manager Unai Emery with seven wins and four draws, said that with most of the squad being together for two years, it knew what it took to come out on top even if it isn't in peak physical condition.

“We have a lot of players with a lack of condition, but we are more than two seasons together and know what to do. We made a good performance in general and day by day, we will get better and better,” Guardiola told the BBC.

Guardiola, who opened the domestic season with a 2-0 victory over Chelsea in last Sunday's Community Shield, said that he was pleased to have emerged victorious in what on paper was a tough first encounter against one of the so-called 'Big Six'.

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“Every season is a major season and this game was complicated but we played at a high level. We created a lot of chances and our performance was good. We keep going,” he told Sky Sports.

“We are satisfied for many, many reasons. At 1-0, we found a goal, maybe, we didn't deserve, but in the first half, we deserved to score two or three more.”

Guardiola, also, saluted Manchester City's stars for shaking off their World Cup fatigue as the champions made a flying start to the Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win against Arsenal.

Guardiola's side featured a host of players who told the City boss that they were ready to play at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday despite their draining World Cup duty in Russia.

Several, including England stars Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones, cut short their holidays to get back into training with City.

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And, despite just a week of sessions on the practice pitch, City picked up where it left off the last term with a confident display that easily put Arsenal to the sword.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a cool finish early in the first half before Bernardo Silva lashed in City's second after the interval, leaving Guardiola to sing the champions' praises.

“We played a high level considering the lack of physical condition for many of the players who arrived back late after the World Cup,” he said.

“Many players did a sacrifice, Stones, Walker, we trained for only one week but the spirit is there. In general to be at this moment of the season, with the desire to run and run, it was the same last season."

“First game of the season, away at Arsenal with a new manager after 20 years? No-one can deny it is complicated, so to win the way we won is more than pleasing.”

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City looks as hungry as ever despite its record-breaking success last season when it won the title with a record 100 points and also lifted the League Cup.

Installed as heavy favourite to finish top again — which would make them the first team to defend the title since Manchester United in 2008-09 — City's ruthless performance was ominous for its rival. And, Guardiola twisted the knife by insisting that City is still some way from its peak.

Asked how much motivation his players have, Guardiola said: “It is not a question that needs an answer. I can say to the players 'are you hungry?' and they say yes boss, but I don't know. They show me on the green stuff (the pitch)."

“We are not going to judge what is going to happen after a game, but we try to respond, we try to be ourselves. The way we won is so important for us, for our confidence, now we move forward. Of course, our average level is high, but I have a feeling still we can improve."

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“The winter time is coming. Lots of things happen. The best way to defend it is to be calm. We spoke about this before the game. They know they can do it. We are a strong team, after that, we will see.”

One difference for City this season is the presence of Benjamin Mendy at left-back. The France international missed most of last season with an injury and Guardiola admitted his return is still a work in progress.

“Mendy is Mendy. Sometimes you want to kill him and sometimes you say 'wow what a player we have'. He has a lot of things to improve. Hopefully, we can convince him to be calm and forget the social media!,” he said.