Guardiola Exorcises Champions League Demons To Lead Man City To First Final

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks on from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on July 5, 2020.
Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

 

After a decade of disappointment, Pep Guardiola is back in a Champions League final and just one game away from delivering on his task to make Manchester City champions of Europe for the first time.

In the battle between two clubs with seemingly endless resources but no Champions League titles to their name, City kept their cool to beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate as the French champions paid for losing their heads in both legs of the semi-final tie.

Riyad Mahrez, born and raised in Paris, scored twice to secure a 2-0 win for City in Tuesday’s second leg before Angel di Maria’s red card for lashing out at Fernandinho rounded off another miserable European exit for the French champions.

A first Champions League final for City, against Real Madrid or Chelsea in Istanbul, is the culmination of the club’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed their fortunes.

In the coming days, they will seal a fifth Premier League title in the past 10 years.

Once dubbed the “noisy neighbours” by legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, City are now not just the dominant force in Manchester but also in English football.

By the end of the month, the mix of Emirati wealth and Guardiola’s coaching may have also conquered Europe.

“Of course we invest a lot of money since Sheikh Mansour took over, but it is not just this,” said Guardiola. “It is a lot of incredible things behind the scenes.

“Reaching the final of the Champions League, helps us realise in the bigger picture what we have done in the last four years. What we have done these four years is incredible.”

– ‘Remarkable’ consistency –
Since a difficult first year in England, Guardiola has led City to four League Cups, an FA Cup and the brink of a third Premier League title in four seasons.

However, until now, that domestic success always came with the caveat of Champions League collapses.

Guardiola has won the competition twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona, but not since 2011.

City did not even progress beyond the last eight in his first four seasons in charge.

It was a similar story for the Catalan in his three years at Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016 as three Bundesliga titles were overshadowed by three semi-final exits to Spanish opposition.

“People believe because it happened in the past I have to arrive every year in the final of the Champions League,” added Guardiola.

“This is a little bit unfair because the consistency these guys have shown in every competition these last four or five years is remarkable.”

City exorcised many of their Champions League demons against PSG.

Missed chances, controversial refereeing decisions and sloppy defending frequently combined to cost them in recent seasons.

This time an early penalty awarded against Oleksandr Zinchenko was overturned after a VAR review, Mahrez was deadly with his two chances and City’s much-improved defence withstood a first-half barrage.

“The first-half they were so good but we defended so well. We defend all together, helped each other,” said Guardiola after a 31st clean sheet of the season.

“To reach the final in this competition is so difficult. It is the toughest one for the quality of the opponents, the composure you have to have and to suffer the toughest moments. We did it.”

Win one more game on May 29 and Guardiola will be among a select band of just three other managers — Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane — to win the European Cup three times.

With already 25 major trophies to his name in just 12 seasons in charge of Barca, Bayern and City, the 50-year-old can silence any lasting doubters and cement his status as one of the greatest coaches of all-time with victory in Istanbul.

Man City Cruise Into Champions League Quarter-Finals

Manchester City’s Spanish coach Josep Guardiola (2R) watches his players (LtoR) Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva, Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho and Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez, during the UEFA Champions League, last 16, second-leg football match between Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on March 16, 2021. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

 

Pep Guardiola told his Manchester City players to forget their previous Champions League failures after cruising into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Tuesday that sealed a 4-0 aggregate victory.

The Champions League is the one trophy that has remained elusive to Guardiola during his five years in Manchester with City failing to ever get beyond the last eight under the Catalan.

But the runaway Premier League leaders will get the chance to break that barrier next month as they showed why they are the bookies’ favourites for the competition with another classy performance in Budapest, which hosted both legs of the tie due to coronavirus restrictions on travel between England and Germany.

Early goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan killed off any hope of a fightback from the Germans as City recorded a 24th win in their last 25 games in all competitions.

“What happened in the past is the past,” said Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as coach of Barcelona but has been unable to replicate that success with Bayern Munich or City.

“In the quarter-finals one bad game, (a few) bad minutes can punish you.

“Now it is the best teams in Europe. The quality every time is higher and hopefully we can maintain this mood.”

De Bruyne and Gundogan were two of a host of first-team regulars left out by Guardiola for Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham and City looked refreshed in a fast start.

De Bruyne blasted in the opener from outside the box off the underside of the bar on 12 minutes.

Six minutes later a flowing move from back to front saw Phil Foden release Gundogan in behind the Gladbach defence to score his 15th goal of the season.

“The start obviously helps a lot,” said De Bruyne. “We were patient in the beginning and then scoring the two goals gives us a bit of a cover knowing they need to come out a little bit more. I think we controlled the game.”

Gladbach have now lost all seven games since manager Marco Rose announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the season to join Borussia Dortmund.

– Rock solid City –
Defensive frailties have been the cause of City’s previous Champions League exits under Guardiola.

They conceded six goals to Monaco over two legs in 2017, five to Liverpool a year later, four to Tottenham in 2019, and suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Lyon last season in a one-off tie in Lisbon.

However, the signing of Ruben Dias has transformed Guardiola’s men into the complete team this season as they remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

City have now kept seven consecutive Champions League clean sheets.

“We cannot deny Ruben and John (Stones) make an incredible step forward for the team,” added Guardiola.

“But we need everyone. Everyone runs a lot, the important thing is to understand we defend with the ball.”

With no key players missing through injury, the wealth of options Guardiola has to choose from is another reason this could finally be City’s year for a major breakthrough in Europe.

Fernandinho, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling were all introduced off the bench in the second half to give Dias, Joao Cancelo, Gundogan, Rodrigo and Bernardo Silva an early night ahead of Saturday’s trip to Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

By then, City will know their next Champions League opponents. On this form, they are the side to avoid in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Man City ‘On Fire’ In Training After Derby Defeat, Says Guardiola

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021.
Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

 

Pep Guardiola says his Manchester City squad are “on fire” in training as they look to get back to winning ways against Southampton on Wednesday.

The Premier League leaders’ record 21-game winning streak in all competitions was ended by Manchester United in Sunday’s derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked on Tuesday about the mood in the camp since the weekend, the City manager said his players were determined to return to winning ways.

“A mix of disappointment and sadness but, at the same time, the second day a bit better and today completely on fire to try to do a good game tomorrow,” he said.

“It’s a normal process when you lose the games. The reaction is common.”

City, seeking to win their third Premier League title in four seasons, are 11 points clear of United with 10 games to go but Guardiola said there was still work to do.

“When the option is open everything can happen in football,” he said. “Nobody thought we could win 21 in a row. Anything can happen. United can do it.

“We have 10 games left and we have to win six or seven games to be champions mathematically. We’re going to try to win the first one tomorrow.”

Guardiola routinely makes changes and Phil Foden and Sergio Aguero could be in contention for starting roles at the Etihad on Wednesday.

He said: “Maybe, I will decide tomorrow. I have an idea in general of the guys who will play but I have a few doubts.”

Asked if these were injury doubts, Guardiola said: “No, everybody is OK.”

Aguero ‘A Few Weeks’ From Man City Return Says Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said earlier this week that Sergio Aguero was ‘the best striker in our history’ and that the team needed him back in action. (AFP)

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Sergio Aguero is “a few weeks” from being ready to play as the Argentina striker recovers from coronavirus.

Aguero, already hampered by injury problems this season, has been self-isolating after falling ill with the virus.

City’s record scorer has made just three starts in all competitions this term and hasn’t played since January 3.

After testing negative for the virus, Aguero can now come out of quarantine.

But the 32-year-old has not yet restarted full training as he slowly works his way back to fitness.

“He is still not training on the field. He started to move a little yesterday but he will need a few weeks to come back,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.

“He is negative, this is the most important thing. He is healthy again and now he will come back again. As the top scorer it is important for us to have him back.”

City will travel to Burnley on Wednesday in fine form after a club record 12 successive wins.

Eight of those victories have come in the Premier League, lifting Guardiola’s side to the top of the table, three points clear of second-placed Manchester United.

That represents a considerable turnaround after an indifferent start to the campaign in which City dropped points in five of their opening eight games.

After a trip to Turf Moor, City face title rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

But Guardiola refused to read too much into City’s blistering streak and is focusing only on keeping the good run going against Burnley.

“Six weeks ago we were not contenders for anything, six weeks later we are contenders. Everything can change so quickly,” Guardiola said.

“We can drop five points in two games in three days. It has happened to other teams so it can happen to you.”

Change Of Tactics Propelled Man City To Top Of Premier League, Says Guardiola

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola says a return to a tried-and-tested formula has helped propel Manchester City back to the Premier League summit.

City, who lead city rivals Manchester United by a point with a game in hand, are strong favourites to win a third English top-flight title in four years.

Guardiola’s men, who host Sheffield United on Saturday, will hope to avoid the fate of their Manchester rivals, who lost 2-1 at home to the bottom side in midweek.

The City boss, speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, said he had switched tactics after a patchy start to the season.

His side are now on an 11-match winning run in the Premier League and have won their past seven games.

“I didn’t like the way we were playing,” said Guardiola. “In previous seasons, the wingers were wider and higher, so we came back to our principles.

“For many reasons, we had to adapt to the quality we had and the players we had in that moment. That is the reason I tried to find the way.

“In the end, I felt having the wingers wide and high helped us to be more stable and the quality of the players do the rest. When we have the ball, we run less.”

Guardiola denied that the lack of early-season consistency was due to a lack of fight or spirit.

“The reason we didn’t play well was because when we had the ball we ran too much,” he said.

“When we have the ball we need to walk. When we don’t have the ball you have to run with your life. Now I think we are calmer.”

Guardiola, whose side beat struggling West Brom 5-0 on Tuesday, said playing Sheffield United was “always uncomfortable”.

“That system — the 5-3-2 — is difficult to attack,” he said. “I am a little bit concerned about the game tomorrow.”

Guardiola will once again be without record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who is still self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.

AFP

Guardiola Warns Brighton Could Darken Man City’s Buoyant Mood

File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola has warned that momentum can disappear in “one instant” as he prepares his Manchester City side to face Brighton after six successive wins in all competitions.

City go into Wednesday’s home match four points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool but with two games in hand and boosted by the return of England forward Raheem Sterling.

Their 13-game unbeaten run has come with minimal input from record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who will be missing again as he self-isolates as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Eric Garcia is also self-isolating due to a positive test while defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are injured.

READ ALSO: UN Seeks $35 Million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

“The momentum (can) arrive and disappear in one instant,” Guardiola said on Tuesday.

“We cannot forget the teams we beat recently, especially in the Premier League and the League Cup against two strong teams away (Chelsea and Manchester United).

“But the momentum can disappear tomorrow so we have to do it again.”

City have three home league games over the next week as they attempt to make further progress following a slow start to the season.

But Guardiola said he was not entertaining thoughts of dethroning champions Liverpool.

“All I am concerned about is Brighton,” he said. “The rest, not even second in my thoughts.”

Brighton are fourth from bottom but Guardiola said he was a big fan of Graham Potter’s team.

“They are a joy to watch and analyse,” he said. “When you see them, you are concerned about the quality. I said to the players we will have to be at a high standard to compete against them.”

Man City Into Top Four As Fans Return To Premier League

Manchester City’s Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson (L) and Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias (C) gesture at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Fulham at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England, on December 5, 2020. (Photo by Alex Livesey / POOL / AFP)

 

Manchester City climbed into the Premier League’s top four on Saturday, easing past Fulham 2-0 as fans prepared to return to the English top-flight for the first time in nine months.

Pep Guardiola’s team have had a patchy start to the season but are now just three points behind leaders Tottenham after a dominant display at the Etihad.

Earlier, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 11th Premier League goal of the season to rescue a point for Everton in a 1-1 draw against struggling Burnley.

There were no fans at either match but West Ham were preparing to welcome 2,000 supporters to the London Stadium for the visit of Manchester United, with the same number due at Chelsea’s match against Leeds.

City, who had won just four of their opening nine matches, are showing ominous signs they are returning to their best form after building on their 5-0 mauling of Burnley last week.

They made a superb start at the Etihad, with Raheem Sterling putting them ahead inside five minutes to end his recent goal drought.

The England forward, who had already had one shot saved by Alphonse Areola, raced through on goal from a measured Kevin De Bruyne pass and calmly side-footed into the far corner.

De Bruyne, in Guardiola’s 700th game as a manager, doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Sterling was brought down by Joachim Andersen.

The Belgian rattled the bar early in the second half as City continued to dominate possession but they could not add to their lead.

The result lifts City to fourth in the table on 18 points, ahead of Leicester on goal difference, while Fulham remain fourth from bottom.

Earlier, Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton trailed at Turf Moor after a fine strike by midfielder Robbie Brady before England forward Calvert-Lewin levelled on the stroke of half-time.

But neither side could find a winner in a contest in which goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope — rivals for the England number one shirt — caught the eye.

“We are not satisfied with the result but the performance was quite good,” Ancelotti told the BBC. “The start was terrible and Burnley are able to defend. We created some good chances.”

“(England manager) Gareth Southgate has to be pleased, both goalkeepers did really well,” he added.

– Singing warning –
Premier League chiefs on Saturday issued advice to supporters on coronavirus safety measures, including a warning for fans not to get carried away when their team scores a goal.

“Fans can celebrate but should remain socially distanced from people outside their social bubble,” said the advice.

“Hugging of other fans and high-fives should be avoided and fans are asked to be respectful to those around them, including avoiding excessive shouting or singing.”

London and Liverpool are among the areas to have been placed into the Tier-2 category based on Covid-19 rates, meaning up to 2,000 fans will be able to attend matches.

But clubs based in Tier-3 areas, such as Manchester and Birmingham, are still not allowed to open their gates.

Manchester United will be keen to bounce back from their disappointing 3-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain this week, which left their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance.

United, who have won eight consecutive league games away from home, face a tough task against in-form West Ham, who have beaten United at home for the past two seasons.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard goes toe to toe with Marcelo Bielsa in the late Saturday kick-off in the first league meeting between the bitter rivals for 16 years.

Leaders Tottenham and Liverpool, who are both on 21 points, are in action on Sunday.

Aguero Won’t Be Rushed Back, Says Guardiola

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero warms up during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on November 21, 2020. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he will not rush Sergio Aguero back into action despite his side’s lack of goals in the Premier League.

City’s record goalscorer was an unused substitute in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Tottenham as he nears a return from his latest injury problem.

The 32-year-old Argentine missed the end of last season and the start of the current campaign after undergoing knee surgery in June. He has since had another lay-off after suffering a hamstring injury last month.

City have scored just 10 goals in eight top-flight matches this season, though their strike record in Europe is more impressive, with nine goals in their three games.

“We want him to come back to training again so he can recover a good feeling in his knee, this is the most important thing,” Guardiola said on Tuesday.

“We wait for him and take it one step at a time. We have many, many games to play this season and we’ll need him. What we want is him to recover in his best condition.”

City travel to Greece on Tuesday ahead of their Champions League Group C match at Olympiakos on Wednesday.

After winning their opening three matches, victory would secure their place in the last 16, leaving them free to focus on improving their Premier League form.

City have dropped points in five of their eight games so far and are languishing in the bottom half of the table, eight points behind leaders Tottenham.

“One step at a time,” said Guardiola, who last week extended his contract until 2023.

“We’ll try to get through (Wednesday) to qualify and at the same time, recover, come back with good feelings that we can create chances and score goals.”

Captain Fernandinho has recovered from gastroenteritis and could feature while left-back Benjamin Mendy is also back in contention after injury.

AFP

Tottenham Show Title Credentials Against Toothless Man City

Tottenham Hotspur’s Argentinian midfielder Giovani Lo Celso (R) reacts with Tottenham Hotspur’s French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (C) after the final whistle of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on November 21, 2020. (Photo by NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP) 

 

Pep Guardiola admitted Manchester City played perfectly into Tottenham’s hands as Spurs shot to the top of the table with a 2-0 win thanks to goals on the counter-attack from Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso.

Spurs have not won an English top-flight title in 60 years, but showed their title credentials with a defensive resilience to frustrate City’s domination of possession and ruthlessly take their chances as they scored with their only two shots on target.

Defeat leaves City already eight points off the leaders, albeit with a game in hand, down in 10th with just three wins from their opening eight games.

The writing was on the wall for the visitors after just five minutes when one simple ball over the top from Tanguy Ndombele caught Joao Cancelo sleeping and Son had the pace and precise finish under Ederson to register his sixth goal in 11 games against City.

“The stats speak for themselves, we were better in many departments but we conceded a goal we cannot concede,” said Guardiola.

“It was the perfect scenario for them. We knew (Harry) Kane drops and Son runs in behind. We have to defend better.”

Victory ensured Tottenham will finish the day on top of the table for the first time in six years. Jose Mourinho’s men move two points ahead of Chelsea, who they face next weekend at Stamford Bridge.

“I prefer to be top but it is not an obsession,” said Mourinho. I don’t care about the table, the opponent, the competition. I want to go to the next game believing we can win the game.

“This team is a process. There are good signs of evolution at every level, we are happy with that, but I dont care too much about the table right now.”

Guardiola ended speculation over his future by committing to a new contract as City boss until 2023 this week.

The Catalan has won eight league titles at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, but Guardiola now faces a challenge he has never had before in rebuilding a second title-winning side at the same club.

For the sixth consecutive league game City failed to score more than once with little sign of Guardiola’s men rediscovering the cutting edge of the free-scoring sides that won back-to-back titles in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

“We are struggling to score goals this season, that can happen,” added Guardiola. “They shot two times (on target), two goals and we cannot score with 22 shots.”

Tottenham’s title challenge will be fully tested with Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester also to come before Christmas, but they could not have made a better start to that daunting run.

“You can see it is open with the way the table stands,” said Kane after Spurs’ fourth straight league win. “Whoever can put a good spell together has a chance of winning it.”

After the early opener, the game then settled into the familiar pattern of now 24 clashes between Mourinho and Guardiola as Mourinho’s men defended their lead deep and waited for the chance to counter again.

The visitors had 66 percent of possession but struggled to break down the mass ranks of Spurs defence.

Gabriel Jesus inadvertently deflected Kevin De Bruyne’s low shot wide before Jesus did tee up Aymeric Laporte to slot home, but the goal was ruled out for handball by the Brazilian after a VAR review.

Instead, it was Tottenham who landed the knockout blow 25 minutes from time with another simple counter-attack.

Kane was afforded plenty of time and space to collect a loose ball in midfield and drive forward before feeding Lo Celso, who had barely been on the field a minute and with his first two touches, controlled and then slotted the ball low beyond the advancing Ederson.

Guardiola Signs New Contract To Stay At Manchester City Until 2023

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks on from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on July 5, 2020.
Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola has ended speculation over his Manchester City future after signing a new two-year contract extension on Thursday.

Guardiola was due to be out of contract at the end of this season and it had been suggested the Spaniard might be ready to leave City.

But the 49-year-old has now agreed to stay at the Etihad Stadium until at least 2023.

“Manchester City are pleased to announce that Pep Guardiola has signed a new two-year deal with the club,” a statement on City’s website said.

‘It’s Over’, Guardiola Rules Out Return As Barca Boss

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks on from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on July 5, 2020.
Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola ruled out ever taking charge of Barcelona for a second spell as the Manchester City boss insisted he retains the “desire” to succeed in England.

Guardiola is the most decorated coach in Barca’s glorious history after winning 14 trophies in four years in charge between 2008 and 2012.

Josep Maria Bartomeu finally bowed to pressure to resign as president of the Catalan giants this week, with one of the leading candidates to take over, Victor Font, saying he wants to bring legends like Guardiola and his former players Xavi and Carles Puyol back to work for the club.

“I said many times, my period as a manager in Barcelona is over. I think in life there is once you have to do things,” Guardiola said after City’s 1-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday.

“There are incredible people who can be in charge, now for example (Barcelona coach) Ronald Koeman is an excellent manager. It is over.”

A boyhood Barca fan, Guardiola also enjoyed an illustrious playing career at the Camp Nou and still holds season tickets as a supporter.

“I will come back to my seats to see my club to watch a game. I am incredibly happy here, still I have the desire to do well and this is the most important thing.

“Now there will be elections in Barcelona. Hopefully they can choose the right board to maintain this incredible club Barcelona in the highest level.”

Guardiola is already into the longest managerial spell of his career with this his fifth season at City.

His side still look a long way off the heights they reached in winning back-to-back Premier League titles between 2017 and 2019, but they are slowly getting up to speed after a start to the campaign disrupted by injuries, coronavirus cases and just a two-week long pre-season.

Kyle Walker’s long-range effort against his former club was enough to secure City’s fourth win in five games in all competitions as they move up to seventh in the Premier League, just two points off the top.

Without a natural striker due to injuries to Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, City struggled to turn their dominance into goals at Bramall Lane.

“We played really well,” added Guardiola. “We struggled to score goals for the chances we created, 16 shots, eight on target, is a lot against this team.”

Aaron Ramsdale was busy in the Blades’ goal as he twice denied Ferran Torres from close range, while he unconvincingly parried Rodrigo’s long-range effort behind.

Walker finally broke the deadlock from similar range on 28 minutes as his shot arrowed low past Ramsdale’s right-hand, but there was a muted celebration from the England international against his boyhood club.

“My mum and dad live here, so if I’d celebrated I’d have got a lot of stick,” said Walker. “I’m a Sheffield United fan, so I couldn’t celebrate.”

Kevin De Bruyne flashed a shot wide following another attacking burst from Walker early in the second-half before Ramsdale produced his best save of the game from Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick.

However, City’s failure to kill off the game gave Chris Wilder’s men chances to snatch an unlikely point.

John Lundstram had the best chance for the hosts when he side-footed Sander Berge’s low cross over.

But Sheffield United have still scored just three goals in seven games to start the season and remain the second bottom on just one point.

Guardiola Pleads For Time As Man City Recover From Slow Start

Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (L) and Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola watch during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on October 17, 2020. (Photo by Alex Livesey / POOL / AFP)

 

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City need time to hit top form after they ground out a 1-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday to move three points off the top of the Premier League table.

City dropped points in their two previous league games before the international break and were again far from their free-flowing best without the injured Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte.

But after a short pre-season and a host of positive coronavirus tests and injuries, Guardiola is content just to be back in the pack near the top of the table.

“We are not unfortunately able to sustain for 90 minutes the way we want to play, but these games help us achieve it,” said Guardiola.

“We need time to grow as a team. I think this game is going to help us to make a step forward.”

On another high-scoring Saturday elsewhere in the English top-flight, the mutual respect between Guardiola and his former assistant Mikel Arteta led to a far more cautious encounter.

Arteta got the better of his old boss when the sides last met in the FA Cup semi-finals in July and Guardiola responded with a change to a 3-5-2 system to match up with Arsenal.

That pushed Raheem Sterling up front alongside Sergio Aguero, who was making his first appearance since June.

And Sterling was on hand to grab the only goal after Bernd Leno could only parry Phil Foden’s initial effort.

“Right now he is our best striker in sensing more chances to score a goal,” added Guardiola.

– ‘Come a long way’ -Arsenal remain without an away league win against one of the ‘big six’ in 29 games dating back to January 2015.

And despite a spirited performance, the fact they have lost again at Liverpool and the Etihad in the first five games of the campaign shows the strides Arteta still has to make to restore the Gunners to title contenders.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Arteta.  “I am upset because I think we deserve more from the game.

“I am extremely happy about the performance, the attitude, the courage to play they way we did today. I cannot demand much more from the players apart from the three big chances we have, you have to score.”

Arsenal were left to rue two huge opportunities late in the first-half as they were denied by City goalkeeper Ederson.

Bukayo Saka was the visitors’ biggest threat and the 19-year-old was denied by a brilliant Ederson save after a neat one-two with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Aubameyang was next to fire too close to the Brazilian stopper when he was one-on-one and onside despite the linesman’s flag being raised.

Arsenal also saw strong penalty appeals fall on deaf ears with the final action of the first-half when Kyle Walker’s high foot was not punished as he challenged Gabriel Magalhaes inside the area.

The presence of De Bruyne was missed as City again failed to control of the game once in front.

Leicester came from behind to win 5-2 at the Etihad and Leeds also took a deserved point after a blistering opening from City before the international break.

Far from the attacking force of the past three seasons, City were happy to sit on their lead after the break.

But in a second period short on goalmouth action, Nicolas Pepe’s weak header that was easily claimed by Ederson was the closest Arsenal came to an equaliser.

 

 

-AFP