Tuesday 17 September 2019

Guardiola urges City to be like a 'machine' in push for quadruple

On the mark: Sergio Aguero. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
On the mark: Sergio Aguero. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Jim White

According to Pep Guardiola, if Manchester City are to win the quadruple this season, they need to play the rest of their matches like a machine.

Forget the potentially historic consequences, put aside emotion, eschew fear, just do what is required. In short: don't over-think.

Pep Guardiola: That is the best way in my experience – don’t think too much. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Pep Guardiola: That is the best way in my experience – don’t think too much. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

"We are trying to achieve something that is very difficult to achieve," said Guardiola after another three points had been safely banked with a 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

"At the beginning of April, we have won two titles this season (Community Shield and League Cup) and we are fighting for the other three (Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup).

"The way we start to play (today) they (the players) show me they want to try. It is so difficult but they want to try.

"What's next is Cardiff. Go like a machine to win. I think they are ready. That is the best way in my experience with other clubs when we fight for many titles: don't think too much."

Returning from an international break for the fourth time this season with a league victory (and a clean sheet), City's players demonstrated they are following their manager's instruction: they do not look a bunch likely to be distracted by the enormity of the task.

Business end

More to the point, as the season reaches its business end, Guardiola is blessed by having an almost entirely fit squad at his disposal.

Against Fulham, his bench - featuring John Stones, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez - was almost comically strong.

And thanks to the most accommodating of hosts, Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne were able to ease themselves back into contention after lengthy absences without hint of physical interference.

No wonder Guardiola is relishing the rapid-fire nature of his forthcoming fixture list and the manner in which its intensity is keeping his players on their toes.

"When you have 10 points in front, you can be a little more selective," he said. "Now there is not another option. We don't have a choice. Every game in every week we have to win. It's nice."

But if competition is something he welcomes, there was precious little of it at Fulham on Saturday.

City faced a team who failed to score, win a corner or have a shot on target; it is hard to recall whether any of their players managed to make a successful tackle.

The visitors started at full pelt, but once Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero had put them in an unassailable lead after 27 minutes, they eased up to the point of practically taking the rest of the afternoon off.

Poor Scott Parker, the Fulham caretaker manager who is surely destined now to take his team into the Championship, could only watch with admiration as his side were toyed with.

"Yes. I think they could," he said when asked if City were good enough to win the lot. "They have got the ability to make you feel powerless."

Frankly, for much of this game Fulham looked as if they would have been powerless against their local park team.

Nervy, unthreatening, apparently keen to yield possession as quickly as possible, it was hard to work out what they were trying to achieve.

That the biggest cheer from the home fans came when City's Nicolas Otamendi managed the unlikely feat of putting the ball over the roof of the Putney End stand when shooting from 20 yards was indicative.

Fulham appear to be going down not so much with a fight as an embarrassed shrug of the shoulders.

City, on the other hand, are mainlining confidence. So much so that their players are now avoiding false modesty and openly talking about the possibility of the quadruple.

"I feel I want to win and win and win and go again," said Ilkay Gundogan.

"I don't know if there is any psychology to it, or if it is just being a sportsman. Because sportsmen always want to do well. It is not a trick. As long as we can go for it, we will do."

If only they could borrow a bit of that sense of certainty on the banks of the Thames. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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