Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola: We will be much better after international break

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Man City as they were left to rely on a rasping drive from Kyle Walker for the victory over Newcastle.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Man City as they were left to rely on a rasping drive from Kyle Walker to secure victory over Newcastle.
Ten years on from Sheikh Mansour’s purchase of Manchester City, the FC crew reflect on their rise from a “topsy-turvy” club to contenders in Europe.

MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City have matched their start from last season’s title-winning campaign but manager Pep Guardiola insisted they will get better.

Guardiola is happy with his team’s start — particularly on the back of a shortened preseason following the World Cup, when 16 of his players were in Russia.

City are behind Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford in the Premier League table, and Guardiola expects a tougher challenge for the title, but is delighted to take 10 points from a possible 12 — the same total as last year.

“We beat Chelsea in the Community Shield and in general, in the four games, we were better than the four teams,” Guardiola said at a news conference after the 2-1 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday. “That’s what we are looking for, to be better.

“Sometimes we win, sometimes not. To be better is to control, create more chances and concede fewer. In the four — even the Community Shield — that is what happened.

“We will improve. It’s impossible after the World Cup mentally for the players to be in the best condition, the best approach. We need more time, and after the international break, the season starts properly in terms of having games every three days. I’m delighted with the points and the way we played.”

The win on Saturday was hard-fought, with Newcastle still in the game at the final whistle although they had only a single weak effort on goal in the second half.

City scored a record 106 goals last season and, with just 10 goals in four matches, Guardiola is not concerned about a smaller return this season as long as his side are playing well.

“If we score more goals it’s a consequence of the way we played,” Guardiola said. “Last season, we never went anywhere saying how many we had to score. Just to be better. That’s the target.

“This period — these five official games — it’s happened. We would like to score more goals but we created the chances. The last passes [were] not good or not clever, but we didn’t concede in the second half. They didn’t have a shot on target.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, tried to set up his side not to lose. Some analysts have been critical of his style, with Newcastle having just 22 percent of possession at the Etihad following the 18 percent they had losing at home to Chelsea the previous weekend.

Guardiola, however, has sympathy for his compatriot.

“He is so clever, so intelligent,” he said. “I don’t judge the teams. He knows his players, the best way to do it.

“Their start was really tough. It’s not the best draw to start the season. We had to control them. He made good results last season and he did it. I respect him a lot.

“He was one of the first managers to leave Spain, Catalonia, and the people have courage to follow him. Defensively, he made an excellent performance again.”