Football: For city, the real strength is mental

Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after scoring the opening goal in the 3-1 victory against Arsenal last Sunday.
Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne celebrates after scoring the opening goal in the 3-1 victory against Arsenal last Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite wins against Arsenal and Napoli, the task for Guardiola is to banish complacency

MANCHESTER • The usual zip was missing and the tell-tale signs of fatigue were evident after their midweek trip to Naples but Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said his team had shown the mental strength on Sunday to keep winning.

City's 15 straight victories in all competitions, a club record, with nine wins in a row in the Premier League after a 3-1 home success over Arsenal, have put them on 31 points at the top of the table.

It is the best start to a season any team has made in the Premier League era after 11 games.

For Guardiola, whose task is to ensure no complacency slips into his dressing room, the main source of pride was the way his team coped with the tiredness at the end of a week which saw a 4-2 Champions League Group F win at Napoli on Wednesday.

"Considering after the Champions League game we were so, so tired at moments but we were mentally strong enough. We won it, we deserve it, three more points," said Guardiola.

"Last season, we were only able to win twice against the big teams. This season in November, we already won three times.

"If you want to win the Premier League, you have to win, especially at home, against Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea. It is so hard to win away.

WELL-DESERVED VICTORY

Considering after the Champions League game we were so, so tired at moments but we were mentally strong enough. We won it, we deserve it, three more points.''

PEP GUARDIOLA, expressing pride in his team's 3-1 triumph against Arsenal.

"All I know is everybody can beat us. That is a principle in all sports. It doesn't matter what happens in the past. You can win the Champions League and lose the day after. It is so important if you want to fight more to win the title."

The Spaniard won 14 titles in four seasons at Barcelona and seven in three years at Bayern Munich but his debut season in England did not yield a trophy as City finished third in the league last campaign and lost in the FA Cup semi-final.

"But in the past Barcelona, Bayern Munich, they won titles, we didn't win once. So until we are able to lift something, we cannot talk about that."

After the international break, City can extend their 15-match winning run across all competitions when they visit Leicester City in the league on Nov 18.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger accepted that City would be "hard to stop" in their quest for the Premier League title.

On prompting speculation they could emulate Arsenal's 2003-04 "Invincibles", he said: "Look, can anyone stop them?

"It will be difficult this season with the way they have started, the way they are on a run, they quality they have.

"They will be difficult to stop but you never say never."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'For city, the real strength is mental'. Print Edition | Subscribe