Sunday 21 October 2018

City history-makers can still improve – Guardiola

The Spaniard thinks City have more to offer.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

By Ed Elliot, Press Association Sport

Pep Guardiola thinks runaway champions Manchester City can improve their performances but not their points tally next season following a breathtaking climax to a record-breaking campaign.

City became the first club to accumulate 100 Premier League points in a single season thanks to a dramatic last-gasp lob from substitute Gabriel Jesus in Sunday’s 1-0 win at Southampton.

Victory on the south coast meant Guardiola’s men ended a remarkable 2017-18 campaign on yet another high ahead of Monday’s title parade through the streets of Manchester.

And the Spaniard believes it is possible for his players to come back even stronger after the summer break.

“A team is individual players and always you can improve individual players, so with that it makes sense to go to the training sessions and do it,” said manager Guardiola.

“When you analyse the numbers, I would say we can’t improve the numbers, no. We cannot be better in terms of numbers.

“In terms of playing football, yes. Because the players can do better, the manager as well, in a group, in a team we can do better.”

City’s bid for history appeared destined to be thwarted by their battling hosts, with the game set to end in stalemate until substitute Jesus coolly lobbed the ball over Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy with virtually the last kick following a superb pass from Kevin De Bruyne.

The goal – scored six years to the day since Sergio Aguero’s memorable title-winning strike against QPR – sparked mayhem among visiting players and supporters at St Mary’s.

As well as their landmark points haul, formidable City also finished the campaign with a record 106 goals scored and 32 victories.

Guardiola struggled to comprehend the feat while describing the late drama as a fitting finale to an extraordinary campaign.

“100 points, still I cannot believe it,” he said. “100 points is a massive achievement.

“During the game we were focused and at the end an excellent pass from Kevin and amazing finish from Gabriel made the difference and achieved that record.

“100 points is a lot; 50 points at home, 50 points away so it means how stable, how good we were all the season.

“A lot of goals, concede few, a lot of points, wins at home, wins away; everything was perfect this season and finished the way we deserved to finish.”

Instrumental to City’s miserly goals-against tally – they finished with a goal difference of +79 – was goalkeeper Ederson, and the Brazilian signed a new contract extension on Sunday evening to commit himself to the club until 2025.

Hosts Southampton avoided an improbable relegation despite the narrow defeat.

Only a 10-goal swing in goal difference could have sent them down and a loss for rivals Swansea meant there was never any danger of that happening.

Saints manager Mark Hughes, who was brought in with eight games remaining to mastermind a great escape, heaped praise on his players.

“We ended up losing a game that I thought we possibly should have won but the bigger picture clearly was to make sure we got the job done,” said the Welshman.

“People may say that I’ve done what I needed to do and well done Mark Hughes, but the credit all lies with the players.”

Press Association

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