Pep Guardiola turned the heat on his players and fans despite a dramatic 4-2 comeback victory over Spurs. The Manchester City boss believes his team have gone soft after winning four of the last five titles and said he needs his home support back as well.
The reigning champions got their title bid back on track following a 4-2 comeback victory against Tottenham Hotspurs, mainly thanks to a 12-minute blitz after the break. But City were staring down the barrel at a fourth defeat in 10 Premier League games at half-time.
That’s because Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal struck at the end of the opening period to put Spurs 2-0 ahead. And City were booed off. But whatever Guardiola said in the dressing room worked as his side turned the game around instantly thanks to goals from Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez.
The Algeria star then made the points safe late on after a deft chip over Hugo Lloris.
Asked what his team were lacking Guardiola said, “Guts, passion, fire and desire to win from minute one. The same with our fans, they are silent for 45 minutes. We are far away from the team that we were. Not in terms of play, we played good in the first half, but here are many things in terms of competitiveness and what we have to do that we are far away.
“We have to do it but everyone is relaxed. In the Premier League, no way. We have an opponent in Arsenal who have the fire. Two decades without winning the Premier League and every player knows they will be in history, like we felt when we won the first Premier League and broke all the records and went two times back-to-back.
“We have to have the fire inside. I am explaining the reality, everything is so comfortable, but opponents don’t wait. I don’t recognise my team, they (previously) had the passion and desire to run.”
City cut the gap at the top to Arsenal to five points with the win. But Guardiola said, “We are far away from the team we had in previous seasons. Do you think this comeback will happen every time? It won’t. Do you think we are going to chase the gap to Arsenal the way we are playing? No way.
“I want a reaction from the players and staff. I do not want to be a ‘happy flowers team’. I want to beat Arsenal but if we play that way Arsenal will beat us.”
The Manchester City boss watched his team go two behind right on half-time through Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal and were booed off at half-time.
Guardiola said, “They booed because we were losing but not because we played bad – we played well. Maybe it’s like our team. Maybe they are so comfortable winning four Premier Leagues in five years. And after we scored they react, but that is not the point.
“I want my fans back. My fans in here. Not my away fans, my away fans are the best. My fans here to support every corner, every action because we cannot expect. Tottenham is one of the toughest opponents I’ve ever faced. So we could not expect to be 3-0 up after 30 minutes.”
City roared back through Julian Alvarez on 51 minutes, Erling Haaland two minutes later and then a brace from Riyah Mahrez in the 63rd and 90th minutes.
The result increased the pressure on Spurs boss Antonio Conte who has now seen his side lose three of their last four Premier League games. Conte said:
“We played a good game with personality, we put a lot of pressure on them. At the same time, I’m disappointed because this is the first time in my career that my team conceded four goals in one half.
“When I tell you that we have to try to reduce the gap, the process has just started and it means that you have to improve tactically, technically the experience of this team. We conceded a goal in the second half then another after two minutes.
“Usually when this happens, you have to be calm and to find solutions to pass 10 minutes and breathe and then play. We conceded the second goal quickly.
“We were unlucky because after 2-2 we had a massive chance to score to go up. Instead, we conceded another two goals.
“We need patience and we need time to create something important. On one side I’m really disappointed because we concede four goals. We are conceding many more goals than last season. On the other side, with more attention and focus we are good because we played with personality and we created problems for Manchester City.
“These games are important to understand the difference between us and other top clubs. In this moment, we have a lot of difference but we are ready to continue to work and fight.”
- The Sun report