Back-to-back bid feels better than ever for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola

·4-min read

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City are in a better place to win a third straight Premier League than the previous time they won back-to-back titles.

The Etihad Stadium side have been the dominant side in English football since the Catalan took over, with a third-placed finish in his first season followed by four league crowns in five seasons.

Liverpool are the only side to have won the title during that time, with Jurgen Klopp’s men finishing 18 points ahead of second-placed City in 2019-20.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola is a four-time Premier League winner with Manchester City (Zac Goodwin/PA)

There was a stark early drop-off after winning the league in 2017-18 and 2018-19, with Guardiola confident they are in a better headspace to go for three in a row now.

“I think we were quite consistent in these five games,” the City boss said having won four and drawn the other in their start to the campaign.

“Even in America, in pre-season against Bayern Munich, we were quite consistent. We don’t change our patterns much.

“When we talk, it is (do) the same, the same. It gives confidence to the team and helps. It feels good. It is just five Premier League games though.

“After back-to-back Premier League titles I said I wanted to take a look at how the people come back in pre-season, how they start the games, because the third season after back-to-back was really bad, how we started. Liverpool flew and we could not catch them.

“I was curious this year, about the smell in training sessions and in pre-season. Since day one, I like what I’ve seen.

“We have to try to continue because if you relax a little bit in this league then I know what is going to happen.

“The big mistake for tomorrow is to think, ‘ah Aston Villa’ and then not start well. Huge mistake for us.”

Guardiola has been impressed by what he has seen in terms of the group’s mentality on and off the pitch.

That feeling was reinforced by the second half fightback in the 4-2 win against Crystal Palace last weekend, so too the 6-0 shellacking of promoted Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.

“This is what we have to continue,” Guardiola said. “Our duty is to go for 11 months.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it’s about doing our job. That is why we’ve had success in the past.

“We said after Forest that we have made our people happy, the 55,000 who came here. They went home and said the 90 minutes was nice.

“Talking about titles is ridiculous, it’s about Forest. We had fun, the fans had fun. We felt it. People have forgotten about Villa last season, we have to do our job.”

Steven Gerrard’s side face the unenviable task of trying to stop City on Saturday evening, with Erling Haaland surely licking his lips at the prospect of facing a side on a run of three straight losses.

The 22-year-old summer signing has surpassed expectations since arriving, scoring hat-tricks against Palace and Forest to take his tally to nine goals in five league appearances.

Asked if people have unrealistic expectations of Haaland now, Guardiola said: “Yeah. People can expect it, it’s nice, it’s good. I’d prefer that, I want him to expect it too.

Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has made a flying start to his City career (Nick Potts/PA)

“I like that he wants to score three goals every game but this is not going to happen.

“I know it’s not going to happen, everyone in the world of football knows it’s not going to happen. If it doesn’t happen, OK it doesn’t happen. What’s next? We try to do it better next time.

“But the expectation is there because the numbers are incredible for this guy in his career. He’s scored nine goals in five games and it’s really good.

“But what’s important is not the perfect start. The perfect start is Arsenal’s but we are there, close, and the feeling is that we are playing good and we are going to continue to do that.”