Ruthless Pep Guardiola is determined to keep Man City’s foot on the pedal in an ominous sign for the rest of the Premier League… as he orders his side to take nothing for granted against Chelsea
- City qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League on Tuesday night
- Guardiola urged his team to celebrate in case they don’t always enjoy success
- Why we should get excited about Cole Palmer – Listen here to It’s All Coming Up
Pep Guardiola walked into the dressing room at just gone 10pm on Tuesday and thought the atmosphere felt too flat for his liking.
Manchester City had qualified for the Champions League knockout stages again and his players wore a collective shrug. Young Boys had been despatched comfortably, making it four wins from four. Routine.
‘Please, celebrate,’ Guardiola told the squad. ‘Because one day, maybe we are not there if we stop doing what we have to do.’
Although this year’s group has been easier to motivate than in previous seasons, Guardiola’s speech is more evidence, if it were required, that he refuses to take anything for granted. An achievement is still an achievement.
To have qualified for the Champions League knockout stages in each of his campaigns in charge is certainly worthy of celebration. City only have to gaze across town at Manchester United for a reminder that this should not be taken for granted.
Pep Guardiola urged his Manchester City side to take nothing for granted going forward despite their recent successes
City reached the knockout stage of the Champions League on Tuesday after beating Young Boys 3-0
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It can happen to any elite club, as Sunday’s opponents Chelsea know all too well, with Guardiola’s genius exacting the sort of standards that never see City the butt of jokes. It is partly what makes their continued presence near the top so ominous for the rest of this season — and probably a few more to come, too.
After the sands shifted last weekend — with Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool all dropping points — there is already a premature rush to anoint them Premier League champions again, as they chase a record fourth consecutive title.
It is not actually that common for City to sit top at this stage — ‘unexpected,’ said Guardiola — and the manager is surprised at the general level of performance so far, a defeat at Wolves aside.
The Catalan was ‘curious’ to see how his squad would react to winning the Treble, but need not have worried. What he will not do is take credit for that, even if he should. Chelsea’s demise in recent years serves as a warning, although the idea of that happening on the east side of Manchester feels unlikely with the current set-up.
‘Absolutely, absolutely (a warning),’ Guardiola said. ‘I’m not there, but always we remind ourselves. You can go down and the down never ends. You can go down more and more and more. That’s why we keep perspective. Be calm, relax.
‘Just because we’re named Manchester City and the last years have been good doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen in the future. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be good in 10 years.’
It offers a window into City’s consistency and what Chelsea are striving towards. In the recruitment department, it cannot be a coincidence that Chelsea have hired Joe Shields and scout Stewart Thompson, both of whom had a significant impact on City’s transfer business with younger players.
Way back when, City looked at Barcelona and took some of the good bits from them. It is just smart business.
Man City have carried on their fine form last term that won them a Treble and sit top of the table
They take on Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea on Sunday, who are striving towards the standards that City have set
Then they chose the manager to spearhead it and have seen unfathomably good returns on that investment. Chelsea believe Mauricio Pochettino is their version and the tendency to target younger players — Cole Palmer and Romeo Lavia, both City graduates, are prime examples — suits their new boss.
The policy is not too dissimilar to that of Guardiola, who is now on his third incarnation of squad at the Etihad Stadium.
‘We try to bring young players to make their careers in world football here,’ the City manager said. ‘It’s really important because it is also a financial issue.
‘We would love to still have all the legends that we have had here, but time passes for everyone. With Josko (Gvardiol, 21) and Jeremy (Doku, 21), Oscar (Bobb, 20) and Rico Lewis (18), it is really important. At the end, we feel they can be here and that has incredible value to us.’
Guardiola forgot to mention the 23-year-olds: Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden. Haaland took over from Sergio Aguero and Foden is the heir to Kevin De Bruyne, whose return from hamstring surgery will not be rushed. It is all seamless.
The key difference between the two clubs is that, although the strategies are similar, Chelsea’s has been accelerated so fast that the feet could lose track of where the brake is.
The game will see former City man Cole Palmer (right) take on his former side for the first time
‘City are showing they dominate English football,’ Pochettino said. ‘They deserve it. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. It’s the reality.’
In the niceties that usually precede a clash like this, Guardiola — who has beaten Pochettino 13 times in 22 meetings — can see signs of Chelsea’s re-emergence.
‘One of the strongest teams, there is no doubt about that,’ he said. ‘I see that in the last games, they are alive, they are aggressive, they have spirit, good patterns, so the quality is there. Sooner or later, Chelsea will be there fighting for the title.’
When that day eventually arrives, City will be waiting at the top of the hill.
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