EPL made me a better coach: PEP

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is on fire, leading the EPL scoring charts with eight goals in 12 appearances. He said his fine form was down to knee surgery in April, which has enabled him to lead his team's high-pressing game on a more consis
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is on fire, leading the EPL scoring charts with eight goals in 12 appearances. He said his fine form was down to knee surgery in April, which has enabled him to lead his team's high-pressing game on a more consistent basis.PHOTO: REUTERS

City boss says it's his toughest job to date, hints at international career in the future

LONDON • Pep Guardiola faces Manuel Pellegrini, his predecessor as Manchester City boss, with his Premier League champions on course to smash even more records today.

While City, with 32 points, travel to West Ham with only a two-point lead at the top of the table, Guardiola's men are looking even more impressive than they were last season.

The statistics support that analysis, with City averaging exactly three goals per game and on course to better last term's league records of 100 points and 106 goals for the whole campaign.

In that context, perhaps the fact that Guardiola earlier this week claimed he is a "better manager" now than at any stage of his career with previous clubs Barcelona and Bayern Munich should not have come as a surprise.

"I learnt to handle this incredible league in many circumstances," said the Spaniard, while addressing Liverpool University students.

"It is the toughest one, for the amount of games, for the weather, and the referees saying, 'Play (on)' and the competitors. It is the only country that five or six (teams) can win."

Pellegrini, who spent three years in charge of City from 2013-16, and won a league title and two League Cups in that period, will undoubtedly agree with Guardiola's assessment about the difficulty of succeeding in the English top flight.

The Chilean's meeting with Guardiola may also be slightly awkward, given recent allegations made by whistle-blowing website Football Leaks.

German daily Der Spiegel reported that Guardiola had actually signed a contract with City in October 2015, even though the club did not announce his appointment until February 2016.

Since taking over ahead of the 2016-17 season, Guardiola has led City to new heights and he signed an extended deal in May worth a reported £20 million (S$35.3 million) a year that will keep him at the Etihad until 2021.

The 47-year-old also confirmed his desire to try his hand at international football before he retires, opening up the possibility of an appearance at the 2022 World Cup.

"Sooner or later, it will happen because every three days I would like to be involved, but (be) a little bit more calm, play more golf," he said. "If I have a chance and some international team wants to come, 'Knock, knock', we will see."

Guardiola has more pressing concerns, with Benjamin Mendy being ruled out for up to 12 weeks after undergoing knee surgery. Fabian Delph will likely stand in.

Of greater concern is midfielder Bernardo Silva, who missed Portugal's Nations League dead rubber in midweek with Poland after pulling out with an injury.

NOTHING LIKE THE EPL

It is the toughest one, for the amount of games, for the weather... and the competitors. It is the only country that five or six (teams) can win.

PEP GUARDIOLA , Manchester City manager, on the EPL being his toughest challenge.

Silva's absence, which Guardiola confirmed yesterday, could prove problematic, although Ilkay Gundogan is a more than capable deputy.

And, with Sergio Aguero on fire - the Argentina striker tops the league scoring charts with eight goals in 12 appearances - City are favourites to extend their unbeaten run at the London Stadium.

He told Sky Sports that his fine form was down to knee surgery in April, which has enabled him to be the "first one who starts the pressing" on a more consistent basis.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

WEST HAM V MAN CITY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'EPL made me a better coach: PEP'. Print Edition | Subscribe