LONDON • Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is delighted with his players' ability to eke out victories even when many are not fully match fit, just as they did in getting their Premier League title defence off to a winning start with a routine 2-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday.
Goals by Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva sufficed in a match where Guardiola was able to call on the likes of Belgian star Kevin de Bruyne and German international wing Leroy Sane from the bench.
And Guardiola, who maintained his unbeaten record against Arsenal's new manager Unai Emery with seven wins and four draws, issued an ominous warning to the rest of the league by saying that his all-conquering side will get "even better".
"We have a lot of players with a lack of condition, but we are more than two seasons together and know what to do," said the 47-year-old Spaniard. "We made a good performance in general and, day by day, we will get better and better.
"I am privileged to be manager of Manchester City - they have given me a fantastic squad and I cannot complain for one minute."
Guardiola also saluted his stars for shaking off their World Cup fatigue as City picked up where they left off last term with a confident display that easily put Arsenal to the sword. Several players, including England stars Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones, cut short their holidays to get back into training with City.
Sterling opened the scoring with a cool finish early in the first half before Silva lashed in City's second after the interval, leaving Guardiola to sing the champions' praises.
NOTHING MORE TO ASK FOR
First game of the season, away at Arsenal with a new manager after 20 years? No one can deny it is complicated, so to win the way we won is more than pleasing.
PEP GUARDIOLA, Manchester City manager, on his charges grinding out a win over Arsenal despite not being in peak condition.
"We played a high level considering the lack of physical condition for many of the players who arrived back late after the World Cup," he said. "Many players did a sacrifice, Stones, Walker, we trained for only one week but the spirit is there.
"In general to be at this moment of the season, with the desire to run and run, it was the same last season.
"First game of the season, away at Arsenal with a new manager after 20 years? No one can deny it is complicated, so to win the way we won is more than pleasing."
Guardiola also wants 23-year-old Sterling to commit his long-term future to the club. British media reported that Sterling's agents are seeking a new contract in the region of £300,000 (S$526,000) a week, which would make him one of the club's highest-paid players.
"We are delighted with him and would like Raheem to stay," said Guardiola. "We'll do our effort to make him feel we count on him. And we do count on him."
Emery said the Gunners would need more time to adapt to his tactical approach but saw some positive signs in the loss to City.
"We were improving during the 90 minutes like I think we need for next week and the next match," said Emery, who took over from long-serving Arsene Wenger in May.
"Manchester City was demanding our best performance, and today we (can see) we have to continue working, but I am happy with the players because they run, they fight.
"And also, we need to continue to work tactically with defensive options and to shorten the difference today between Manchester City and us."
Arsenal's energetic pressing in the midfield area had City on the back foot in the second half, but lapses in concentration in defence proved the hosts are very much a work in progress.
"This 90 minutes is how I want to do the process of improving our team," Emery added. "We finished it with the spirit I want. The team ran, they tried, they pushed."
Arsenal next visit London rivals Chelsea on Saturday while City take on Huddersfield on Sunday.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE