| 6.8°C Dublin

Guardiola: I demand everything from my players... but human beings have limits


Pep Guardiola endured another frustrating afternoon against West Ham

Pep Guardiola endured another frustrating afternoon against West Ham

Pool via REUTERS

Pep Guardiola endured another frustrating afternoon against West Ham

It may be a figment of our imagination, a distortion of reality created by injuries, exhaustion and the strange artificial conditions in which matches are being played inside empty stadiums, but something does not seem right with Manchester City.

Like the moving shadow at the end of the dimly-lit corridor late at night or the flicker of fear that flashes across the face of the cabin crew when a plane shudders during heavy turbulence, it is hard not to worry that something bad is going to happen.

Of course, the logical part of the brain tells us differently. That this is Manchester City and this is Pep Guardiola. They still have one of the best squads in Europe and arguably the best manager leading them. That all that has gone wrong is Sergio Aguero is not fully fit and his replacement, Gabriel Jesus, is currently injured.

It does not matter who you are, every team at any level will suffer without their two main strikers.

Take Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane out of the Liverpool team at the same time and they would not offer as much of a goal threat either. If Jurgen Klopp could only bring Roberto Firmino off the bench, as Guardiola was forced to do with Kevin De Bruyne, you would see the same problems. Except, there is something going on at City. Guardiola is in the final year of his contract. When City's manager talked about his players being exhausted, it was worth noting that he looks it, too. He looks tired, irritable and a little distracted.

He certainly is not enjoying things at the moment, the draw against West Ham making it two wins from their first five league games.

Management is tough, relentless and stressful. Guardiola's intensity has caused him to suffer burnout before so we are always likely to wonder if it will happen again. And with no new contract signed, some have questioned if this is the beginning of the end for his City reign. And once the thought is there, it is difficult to shift. A nagging sense of apprehension accompanies every performance.

City could have beaten West Ham when you look at the chances they created, but they did not and are five points adrift of Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand.

"It's too much, we demand something from the players, and they cannot afford [cope with] it," an exasperated Guardiola said. "We stopped last season late, two weeks later we came back after a holiday.

"I tried to demand everything from my players but there's a limit for human beings. To compete for one competition or two, it is OK, not a problem. But playing every three days . . . the international players went away and played two games.

"So, they travel, come back and play in the Champions League, Premier League, Carabao Cup. Every season is a challenge, this one especially. This is different, but the world is different right now. Not just for us, for everyone.

"We played an incredibly tough game against Porto and we came back here and competed. We struggled in our performance together. In the second half we showed an incredible desire to score, we created chances and we couldn't score. That's the analysis, now we recover the people for next Tuesday [against Marseille away in the Champions League].

"The lack of preparation, there is less time to recover. Sometimes they are tired," he added. "We have to keep going, be patient and sooner or later we will get back to our best."

West Ham are coping rather better with the new normal. David Moyes's side had a freshness that helped them hold on after Phil Foden had cancelled out Michail Antonio's acrobatic effort. Whisper it, perhaps, but West Ham are improving.

They deserve respect, whether City were tired or not.