Pep Guardiola revealed the secrets behind Manchester City’s dramatic shift in fortunes and the changes that prompted a record-breaking 15 consecutive victories.
Guardiola also roped in sporting director Txiki Begiristain to thrash out exactly why the team were floundering following a tepid 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on December 15. What has followed is an unprecedented run of wins, with City now firmly in charge of the Premier League title race, five points clear of second-placed Manchester United with a game in hand.
Pep Guardiola has revealed the secrets that have made Man City title contenders this season
‘To be specific, it was after the game against West Brom,’ Guardiola said. ‘We could’ve won with two incredible chances at the end but after that game, I felt this is not the team I recognise. I didn’t like what I saw.
‘We talked with my coaches, Juanma (Lillo) and Rodo (Borrell) with Manel (Estiarte), with Txiki. We said, “OK, we have to come back to our first principle,” and we had to reconstruct the team from that point.
‘We had to return to our game —move the ball quicker, do more passes, stay in position, run less with the ball, do it together. The qualities of the players did the rest.’
City lead the Premier League table and are hurtling towards another title this campagin
However, Guardiola’s side languished as low as 12th after a poor start to the season
A gritty one-goal win at Southampton kicked off the run, with City then beating the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool away from home.
The 2-0 reverse at Tottenham in November was their last defeat and Guardiola suggested Fernandinho dished out some harsh truths in the aftermath of that result, with City languishing in the bottom half.
‘We were 12th in the table, and the captain said, “Guys we have to talk, this is not good”. He said we have to go through it, forget any excuses about the tactics or the manager, about the club or whatever. We have to do more. And they did.’
City stopped the rot in the following games but had still not clicked — evident when West Brom left the North West with a point three weeks later.
Ilkay Gundogan was then moved further forward, leading to a glut of goals that saw him named Premier League player of the month on Friday.
The Spaniard said the influence of Fernandinho and a tactical tweak caused the turnaround
Joao Cancelo’s emergence at right back and ability to flit between positions in possession has opened up their attack.
That is in stark contrast to Mourinho’s Spurs, who have lost three of their last four league games, with public disagreements between the manager and Gareth Bale surfacing over the past few days.
‘The reason why we have done what we have done so far is exclusively the personality and the talent of the players,’ Guardiola said. ‘We have a few intelligent players here. When things are going bad, they step forward.’
Guardiola believes he has been afforded unrivalled patience by the City board. ‘Last season after the Champions League, I would have been out at another club. In the first season we did not win and the club supported me a lot. In another situation maybe I will be out. They convinced me to extend the contract because I felt they wanted it.
‘You cannot do big things without big players and big players cost money so that’s why when people say Manchester City or Pep win it’s because they have spent lots of money, I am willing to say something — this is true. Absolutely true.’
City star Ilkay Gundogan won Player of the Month for January after a sensational run of form