Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City not to lose ground in the Premier League title race before the World Cup kicks off… as Bournemouth boss Scott Parker calls the reigning champions ‘the best side he’s ever seen’
- Man City manager Pep Guardiola wants his team to start the term sharply
- Cityzens boss is wary of the unique demands of the World Cup season in Qatar
- Guardiola saw his team beat the Bournemouth visitors 4-0 in the Premier League
- Scorer Kevin De Bruyne was surprised by the speed of attacker Erling Haaland
- Click here for all the latest 2022 World Cup news and updates
Sometimes Manchester City’s opponents are best placed to give a real picture of where they stand, and a few days after last week’s win over West Ham, Mikhail Antonio was still talking about them.
“Their system is fluid,” he said. ‘It is incomprehensible. They run everywhere. It was a master class.’ High praise. And the thing is, City is usually not that strong during the opening weeks.
A defeat here, loss of points there and general lethargy due to extended summer vacations planned by Pep Guardiola.
Pep Guardiola (left) begged Erling Haaland for a quick start to the season
But last month in the US, the squad looked a little different. Sharper than usual, even though the preseason was short.
There were times in the Community Shield where Guardiola will think they should have put even more pressure on Liverpool when the real business started,
City have laid their mark. West Ham were, for obvious reasons, a more impressive result than Saturday against Bournemouth, although the level of control and performance remained the same.
City conceded just two shots on target in 180 minutes, scored six goals, made a debut to 17-year-old Rico Lewis and barely broke a sweat – even in this heatwave.
“A million percent is the best team (I’ve ever seen), all about them,” said Bournemouth manager Scott Parker. “They are the best coached team, functionally, technically, everything about their game model is very difficult to play against.
Kevin De Bruyne scored Manchester City’s second goal when they beat Bournemouth 4-0 at home
“Positively you often see that they always have it locked.”
Guardiola seems to think the World Cup will affect the title race and stressed the importance of a quick start. Qatar will stop the rhythm of teams and come at a time when City normally goes through the gears, posting long streaks of successive wins to make up for the lost points around this time.
“We can’t forget three seasons ago when Liverpool won the Premier League that we lost five points in the first five games,” said Guardiola. “And last season we also lost five points in the first five games.
“In these periods we lose points and this season when we are strong in October, November, December it’s the World Cup, so they won’t let us play, so we have to be consistent (now).
Guardiola has pointed out a number of times this week that three injuries – to Aymeric Laporte, Kalvin Phillips and Cole Palmer – have left City to 15 senior outfield players and that their small squad could become a factor as no one is really sure of the world The impact of the cup.
A major boost for City is that Erling Haaland will not be in Qatar and can rest for a few weeks after Norway fail to qualify.
Because of this, he may play more often than new players usually do during the early months, with a mid-term vacation ahead.
It fits the need for this quick start – City have Newcastle, bogey team Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest next – and while there is work to be done to integrate Haaland, early signs are strong.
He hit the ball just eight times on Saturday, but one of those was a clever assist on new captain Ilkay Gundogan’s opener.
He doesn’t have to touch the ball that often; City are attacking through midfielders and that will never change. Instead, Haaland occupied two defenders the entire time.
That played into the hands of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, who both scored before half time, for an own goal by Jefferson Lerma.