Pep Guardiola quipped he has “never been relaxed” as his Manchester City side attempt to chase down Premier League leaders Arsenal.
City lost 2-1 in the Manchester derby on Saturday, paving the way for Arsenal to take an eight-point lead at the summit of the table following the Gunners’ win over Tottenham.
Spurs are next up for City, who will be in third by the time Thursday’s match at the Etihad Stadium takes place, should Manchester United beat Crystal Palace.
Asked if being the chaser, rather than the leader, meant City could be more relaxed, Guardiola, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Wednesday, scoffed at the suggestion.
“Relaxed? I have never been relaxed, even if eight points in front,” he said. “Before and during a game, I’ve never been relaxed.”
Indeed, Guardiola explained he would rather be the team looking to preserve an advantage in the table than the one having to close ground.
“It’s better, you can drop points and still be [ahead]. When you are behind you cannot drop points,” City’s manager added.
“The pressure is the next game. We’re not able to think about big expectations, just win the next game. At the end the competition will dictate. If [Arsenal] are in front, they deserve it.
“Many games to play, it’s how we come back. The next game is the only important thing. Win the next game, after we will see what happens.
“We have been in this position many times in the past, many times. It’s not the first time we are there.”
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— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 18, 2023
Guardiola said after the derby defeat that City must find a way to get Erling Haaland, who has netted 21 times in the league this season, more involved in their all-round play.
He refuted the idea that City are struggling to fully adapt to Haaland, however.
“We have played really good with him, so it’s not about that,” he said. “To create more chances, we have to provide more to him and the other strikers.
“Our fluidity has not been as good as usual. You have to be better to create chances, to open up the defensive lines. We’ve struggled in the last two games.”
City have lost four of their last five Premier League games against Tottenham (W1), as many as they had in their previous 19 against them (W12 D3), while they have also failed to win either of their last two top-flight matches at home, losing to Brentford and drawing against struggling Everton.
Guardiola has been boosted by the return of John Stones and Ruben Dias, with the defenders available for selection.
City were on the end of a contentious decision in Saturday’s loss at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser allowed to stand despite Marcus Rashford having been in an offside position and seemingly interfering with play.
Guardiola has already put it behind him, however, saying: “It’s always in the past, it’s not going to change anything now.
“The focus is on Tottenham, that was my message to the team two minutes after [the United game].
“We have to improve our game, control what we can control. This is what big teams have to do. It’s [in] the past.”
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