Pep Guardiola has accepted the blame for Manchester City’s early-season struggles and has admitted his side ‘were running too much’ in the opening months of the campaign.
City began the season in indifferent form but have gained momentum in recent weeks, compiling a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions and winning their past six fixtures in succession.
Guardiola’s are seven points adrift of league leaders Manchester United, though have two games-in-hand on their cross-city rivals and have also secured their place in a fourth consecutive Carabao Cup final.
The Spaniard has discussed his side’s greater consistency ahead of tonight’s clash with Brighton, and says their improvement has come from running ‘less’ when in possession and reverting back to their principles, accepting responsibility for not having a clear ‘message’ to his team in the early stages of the season.
“The only difference now is that we run less [with the ball], we were playing running too much [with the ball],” the City manager said at his pre-match press conference. “When you play football you have to walk – or run much, much less. Without the ball, you have to run. But with the ball you stay more in the position and let the ball run, not you. And we improved in these games, in these terms.
IT'S MATCHDAY!! 💙
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 13, 2021
“We lost it a bit this season, that was my fault – the message was not clear but we came back a little bit [to] the principles, but the reason why, especially, was because the players needed time to get the best condition after no pre-season, and it’s normal that after good results and performances they visualise again that we can do it again in the way we did it in the past. And that is the way we have to continue.
“We dropped points to West Brom and West Ham away and the public opinion said we do not deserve to be contenders. We tried to say to the players, ‘Be calm’ because this is a strange situation. The most intelligent thing I can say is, ‘Brighton – Brighton, Brighton’, and after that, I can see what happens.”
Tonight’s opponents sit just one place above the Premier League‘s relegation places and will travel to the Etihad without a number of first-team players, with midfielder Yves Bissouma missing through suspension and the likes of Danny Welbeck, Adam Lallana, Adam Connolly and Tariq Lamptey all absent.
Guardiola has praised the Seagulls despite their lowly position, admitting he is a ‘big fan’ of opposite number Graham Potter and his player’s ‘courage to play everywhere’.
“They are a joy to watch,” said Guardiola. “A joy to analyse.
“At the same time, when you see them you are concerned about the quality. I said to the players today, we have to be at a high standard to beat them.
“Forget the results we had in the past. They are better in all departments. They create more than they concede. The only issue is in the final third.
“I am a big fan of Graham Potter. Everybody knows what they have to do. They have the courage to play everywhere.”