Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City's success has propelled Liverpool to new heights

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City's success has propelled Liverpool to new heights
Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City's success has propelled Liverpool to new heights

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - THE BIG MATCH

Arsenal v Manchester City,

Sunday, Emirates Stadium, 6.30pm

THE BIG MATCH

Arsenal v Manchester City,

Sunday, Emirates Stadium, 6.30pm

There is a problem with excellence. Over two seasons, Manchester City raised the bar to historic levels. If they are falling short now, it is in comparison with their immediate predecessors and with a side spurred on to greater heights by competition.

The defending champions are, Pep Guardiola thinks, victims of their own success. In a perverse way, they are architects of their own probable downfall.

“When we arrived here the standard was 85 points to win [the Premier League],” Guardiola said. He was almost exactly right: the champions in the previous six seasons took an average of 85.33. “Now you have to reach almost 100 points.”

City got exactly 100 in 2018, 98 the following year. But Liverpool claimed 97, the joint third-best tally ever, even adjusting earlier totals to award a third point per victory, last season. They are setting a record-breaking pace now.

“We helped Liverpool to make this step, with incredible top players and now it is the level you have to reach,” Guardiola reflected and, perhaps, regretted.

“To stay at that level for three, four or five years is so difficult. I didn’t want to think it too much in the beginning of the season but I thought we will be able to do it again.”

Instead, City head to Arsenal having already dropped as many points, 16, as they did in the whole of last season. And yet their current average of two points per game would have put them in title contention at this stage of most previous seasons.

“All the teams that are behind Liverpool, we know we have to make 100 points,” he said. "Before it didn’t happen and we were the reason why.

“They have maintained last season's standards for this season. This is their second season at this level. It helps they didn't win [the league] since a long time ago. You smell it. I felt it in the first season when we took 78 points. There were just two or three players in the locker room who had won the Premier League. The rest hadn't won it. We wanted to feel this experience and lift the trophy.”

But, as Guardiola explained, City’s current mixed form is the norm for the majority, even among the most distinguished.

“We are struggling a little bit,” he said. “In the last years we were incredibly consistent home and away but this season we have dropped points. Sometimes in a process, in NBA teams, with incredible tennis players, there are problems or periods in the season when you struggle a little bit.

“I would say that is [more] normal than the people can expect. The situation we are in is going to help us in the future.”

Their immediate future entails a trip to Arsenal, with John Stones added to the injury list and David Silva facing a late fitness test. He faces a side without a manager, with Freddie Ljungberg in interim charge after Unai Emery was sacked. Emery’s English was mocked but Guardiola does not believe that was the root of his failure.

“The lack of communication with Unai is because he didn’t win,” he said. “Today there are a lot of weapons to communicate to the players, not just through the words. There are the hands, the body, the emotions, the images, your assistants: many things. It happened because he didn’t win games. [If he wins], people say it is perfect how he communicates.”

Updated: December 14, 2019 02:28 PM

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