Football: Pep Guardiola to crack the whip on City players to uphold lofty standards

Pep Guardiola celebrating his first Premier League title with Manchester City. The Catalan is promising to leave no stone unturned to lead his side to more silverware, starting with the Community Shield.
Pep Guardiola celebrating his first Premier League title with Manchester City. The Catalan is promising to leave no stone unturned to lead his side to more silverware, starting with the Community Shield.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola ready to exert greater pressure on champions in bid to repeat near-perfect campaign

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City's players he will be harder on them next season to ensure they become the first club in a decade to retain the English Premier League title.

No club have won back-to-back Premier League championships since Manchester United in 2008-09, and the reigning champions at the start of the past three seasons - Chelsea, Leicester City and Chelsea again - all failed to qualify for the Champions League the following year.

City finished runners-up in the seasons that followed their title victories of 2012 and 2014 but, in Guardiola, they have a manager accustomed to consistent success.

He won three consecutive LaLiga titles with Barcelona between 2009 and 2011 and a hat-trick of Bundesliga championships at Bayern Munich from 2014 to 2016.

Guardiola believes greater competition in England's top flight has contributed to the regular turnover of title winners and last season's record haul of 100 points will be impossible to repeat.

But he insisted, ahead of today's Community Shield against Chelsea, keeping the squad motivated for silverware was paramount.

"I don't know the hunger we have, but I'll try to repeat what we did at Barca and Bayern and be harder with my players," he said. "After winning you can be, 'OK, we're really good', and that's the moment you start to go down.

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    The last four league champions have lost the Community Shield.

"To be clear with them, the guys who are good, we'll say they are good and if they are bad, we are going to say they are bad. I try to be fair with what I see on the pitch, and off the pitch, try to choose the right line-up and try to win games."

The Spaniard confirmed Riyad Mahrez, his record £60 million (S$107 million) signing, is in contention to start against the Blues.

He stressed the club are only interested in "special" talent and added: "If at the end we decide to bring another one, it is because he's a special player, can be a special player for the future, not to have one more player for the number."

He also revealed how much he was looking forward to locking horns with opposite number Maurizio Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte last month. Guardiola, who dined with Sarri in Italy this summer at the request of Arrigo Sacchi, said: "I will learn a lot to see his team every weekend. I saw three games - he gets it, the team in a short time plays like he wants.

"I think it will be a good game, Chelsea is a big rival. Antonio was, Maurizio will be. The style of play will be perfect for English football."

With a host of first-team players yet to return after the World Cup, Sarri is likely to field a similar team to the one that featured in pre-season, meaning Callum Hudson-Odoi, 17, could play at Wembley.

The 59-year-old Italian, who has not won a trophy in his career, said: "The match for us is very difficult for one reason - they have worked all together for two years. We started 21/2 weeks ago.

"I want to win, because it's very important to have immediately a trophy. But in this moment it's very important, the performance."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline 'I'll be even tougher on city players: PEP'. Print Edition | Subscribe