Pep Guardiola is a legend at Manchester. The Spaniard has enjoyed a period of incomparable success at Manchester City since he left Germany to arrive on English shores in early 2016. The club has never slipped past the top-three positions in the League since he took over the reins.
The Cityzens won the Premier League title in 2018 and became the only Premier League side ever to secure 100 points in a single season. The side then went on to defend its title in 2019, the first time that happened in a decade, and also completed a clean sweep of all the English domestic trophies to become the first English men’s team to bag the domestic treble.
After oh-so-narrowly missing out on the title in 2019 — Liverpool finished on top — Guardiola’s men returned to the fore to bag their third Premier League title in four seasons in the last campaign.
Now into his sixth season as Manchester City manager, Guardiola talks about how this could also be a 90-points plus season and how his team has helped raise the bar in the Premier League.
Quite a few of your players were there in the Euros and the Copa America in the build-up to the Premier League season. Did you face any extra challenges with respect to getting players ready for the season?
Since we have arrived here all the players have started the season, incredibly focused. During the season some guys think they deserve to play but they don’t play much. Then they are upset and grumpy and that’s normal in all the clubs. We just need to adapt and understand it and, like I said many times, we want your happiness. If you are not happy here then you have to find a new place to move on and live your career. A footballer’s career is short and you need to be in the place that you feel happy. Otherwise there is no point in doing this job.
It’s not difficult to be at Manchester City as you are the reigning Premier League champion. Does that give everyone an extra sense of motivation going into a new season?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. But the players are happy when they play, and after they win. But if they win something where they don’t play then they are not happy and you have to understand this. They are here to do their jobs. And when they don’t play they cannot do it. And that’s why some players adapt to these positions for a short time, and some don’t. In that situation, they have to move to another experience, but at the same time, every time we start a new season there is excitement. We’re going to see what we are capable of.
It’s the start of your sixth season in the Premier League with Manchester City. Do you still have the same level of enthusiasm you’ve always had?
It’s different. (This one’s different?) Yes, of course. The first season always is different from the other ones. But every season is different, especially the beginnings, but they have different, extra situations that make it interesting. To win the Premier League thrice in the last four years and to think of doing something new, to help the players to play better and more... you know in a level, this is the challenge.
You’ve made some strong reinforcements to your team, but so have your title rivals. How do you see this season playing out?
It will be difficult for teams like Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Leicester City as well, so not just for us. They want to be better and we want to be better, too. We celebrated the title, it’s written in the books, and now we have to write another chapter in our careers as football players and as a club itself, and we are willing to fight.
Does that make it even more exciting... when other teams are trying to raise the bar, to give you that challenge to retain the title?
Liverpool and Manchester City have helped raise the bar. Earlier, you could win the title with 78-80 points. Now, you have to go above 90 to be the champion. Liverpool and Manchester City were able to do it two times. We raised the standards to try to take it (the title) and we’re going to try to do it again, of course, so we are thinking of getting better than last season.
Can we expect another 90-plus points season for the title?
Absolutely! That’s good for fans, for the people watching. I don’t know, because with 90 points it means there are one or two teams always winning, winning, winning. The Premier League was completely different earlier, everyone could beat everyone. It doesn’t matter where you go, you could still lose. But you reach almost 100 points, because you won a lot of games.
Only Manchester City has ever managed to retain the Premier League since 2009. Would you say that the level of competition has gone up and defending the title is getting more and more difficult?
That’s why we’ve (only) done it once. We are fortunate to have done it since 2009 and that speaks for itself as to how difficult it is. That’s why we’re so proud in that moment (it’s tough) enough to win one. I like to win the Premier League but normally after back to back titles, you drop a little bit because another team was exceptional like Liverpool and they won the title. In that situation, we could have dropped positions but we came back again and won the title. That shows how good our strength was in terms of mentality. Last season was very difficult for everyone. From the middle of December until March, it was the toughest period in England and we won all the games, not just the Premier League, but across competitions. That shows how strong we were and that’s why we deserved to win the Premier League. We have to do something similar to retain the title, we know it.
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