“At the clubs I worked at before I am not here, but here we have a second chance and we will try to do it better than this season.” Pep Guardiola shifted a little uncomfortably in his seat at his pre-match press conference for the Tuesday’s game with West Brom. Having been asked if he was feeling the pressure at Manchester City, compared to how he was scrutinised at Barcelona or Bayern Munich, the manager denied that he was.
Instead, he claimed the situation was rather simple. If he isn’t doing a good enough job, then he’ll be sacked and the club will bring someone else in: “If what happens next season is not going well, I’ll have one more year of [my] contract and and if it’s not going well they are going to change manager.
“What is the pressure? Last season, this season, next season, all the managers in the first five or six clubs they have the pressure. I put it on myself, to come here, to prove myself, that I am able with a fantastic club and players to do it.
“In this moment it’s in our hands to finish third but we are there. The gap is big in terms of points but when we played against them [Chelsea, Tottenham] it’s not too big and we are going to shorten it next season.
“If you want to put pressure on me and say next season we have to win or if not… I knew that before I arrived here.”
Nevertheless, City have underperformed this season compared to the expectations that were placed on the club back in August. Many might have seen the new manager as a ‘magic bullet’ solution to all of the team’s problems from the previous two campaigns, but in reality anybody expecting Guardiola to be able to fix everything at once was only ever going to be disappointed.
Guardiola points out that it’s because of what he’s achieved at his previous clubs. However, it still stands that those with more realistic expectations have also been left disappointed – and the manager knows that this campaign hasn’t been good enough.
“I came here to try to win this year, it was not possible,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s game. “I will try with the club, with the players, with the staff, with the chairman, with the sporting director, to do it. And after that and the results are not [good], if we are judged just for the results we will be sacked and another one is coming here, and you will be here again with the new manager, and you will make the same questions, so that is what it is.
“I am not staying here because I am Pep or what I have done a long time ago, I know what the problem is. I am not going to be [wondering] all summer, ‘Oh what will happen next season if I don’t win some titles’.
“Pressure I have when I arrived in Barcelona, when I had nothing to defend [myself with]. At that club if in six months you don’t win you are really out, like Barcelona or Bayern Munich, there you have to win by far. If not, they don’t give you a second chance. Here they gave me a second chance and we will try to do it.
“In my situation at a big club: I’m sacked. I’m out. Sure. Definitely.”
City have clearly been frustrated this season. At times, the squad hasn’t been able to do what Guardiola has wanted them to and it’s hampered the progress he’s been able to make on the pitch – but, equally, it’s the coach’s job to get the most out of the players he has to hand. There have been matches in the Catalan’s first year in Manchester where he’s done that and City have put in a sensational performance, showcasing wonderful passing, attacking football.
The reverse match at West Brom, a 4-0 victory in October, was a prime example. City attacked with vigour, they were solid defensively and they took their chances.
But, at other times – too many other times – they’ve been wasteful. They’ve allowed their opponents to get off the hook far too easily, conceding soft goals and not finishing off chances. Sure, there’s been some bad luck with refereeing decisions, but a lot of what’s gone wrong that’s been out of City’s control could have been combatted with fewer errors from their own players.
Draws, especially at home, against the likes of Middlesbrough, Everton and Southampton are fine as a one-off, but they’ve been far too frequent this season. Most tell the same story, too: territorial dominance, plenty of chances created, but few goals scored. And a simple chance converted at the other end.
Guardiola thinks the squad hasn’t achieved its potential this season: “I think the standard of players is good. It’s good. We make a good performance and we played quite well, most of the times in the games, or part of the games, but we were not clinical, we were not as solid as we expect, as maybe you need to be here.
“The last game we arrived two or three times to the byline and we did not finish, we have to be more clinical, because you see the opponents don’t create 10 or 15 chances per game. In that situation I think I was not able, during the season, I think we knew the problem but I could not solve it, during the season.”
Written by David Mooney
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