City seek pep-fection

Guardiola says runaway leaders still need to improve as he hails 'master tactician' Conte

LONDON • Sixteen points clear at the top of the Premier League after 28 rounds, a first trophy in England and two consecutive 3-0 victories over Arsenal in London and Pep Guardiola is still not happy.

"We need to improve," the Manchester City manager said.

"When we get back to training we are going to show the players what happened in the last 10 minutes of the first half against Arsenal and the first 20 minutes of the second half. We lost too much control, we did not know what we should do.

"If that happened in the Champions League, we would be out. We cannot think we are perfect."

Most people left the Emirates on Thursday thinking Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was the manager with problems but Guardiola is keen to keep his players on their toes before today's home game against Chelsea.

It is a meeting between defending champions and prospective ones, even if a 22-point gap in the table makes Chelsea's success last year seem a distant memory.

"Antonio Conte has already given a lot to English football and, if he leaves, he will be missed," Guardiola said of the Chelsea manager.

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"Maybe people don't realise what he did last season. He introduced another way to attack with five at the back. A lot of teams, even Arsenal, had to do a lot of imitating to do that. Tactically Conte is a master."

Yet City will be looking to widen the 37-point swing on Chelsea since the end of last season.

City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne can strengthen his case for PFA Player of the Year honours by punishing his former club.

The Belgian leads the league in assists (14), assists from open play (13), and chances created (86).

City have been ominous against fellow top-six sides, with the exception of a 3-4 loss to Liverpool. They have won their other six games against their closest rivals, scoring 21 goals and conceding seven.

Chelsea have just nine points from seven games against top-six opposition. Only Arsenal have a worse return from such fixtures - six points from nine games.

Conte, in a warning to the Chelsea hierarchy and the rest of the Premier League, suggested that City will continue to strengthen and develop.

"They will be better, for sure, because they have the possibility to spend money and improve the quality of the starting XI and the squad," the Italian said.

"Pep has shown himself to be a great coach. Now it will be very difficult for other teams to fight Manchester City.

"The situation is going to improve, not stop, for them."

THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'City seek pep-fection'. Print Edition | Subscribe