LONDON — True champions dig deep in tough times and Manchester City did just that to put themselves on the brink of the Premier League title.
In their classy, dominant 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday they came out roaring in the first half as they set the tone after a disappointing 10-day spell.
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‘Mentality’ is a word Guardiola has pointed to time and time again about this group of players and after they lost three times (twice to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and to Man United in the PL last weekend), they dug deep. They could clinch the PL trophy on Sunday if Manchester United lose to West Brom, but it is more likely that moment will arrive next Sunday at home against Swansea.
When it happens City will have not only dominated the PL “their way” but they have also developed that winning mentality and toughness to continue to succeed.
As Kevin De Bruyne told NBC’s analysts after the game, “three games won’t define our season” and City’s incredible tally of 93 goals scored and 87 points with five games to go keep them on track to break every record going and KDB led the way as City put in a dominant display as Spurs lost for the first time in 15 games.
With Guardiola on the cusp of winning his first league title in England, to follow titles in Spain and Germany, he was asked where this trophy would rank.
“Yeah, it is one of the best by far,” Guardiola said. “One of the best but to win titles in every league is important. For example, first league in my club Barcelona was a dream come true and to come here in this stadium and win the Champions League against United was also so, so nice, especially the way we played. But of course Premier League, the moment we are going to win, it is going to be one of the nicest. Yeah. Definitely. We did it… we almost did it. We are so close and we did it in the way we wanted to do it and we arrive. For the capacity of the club, the club has spent a lot of money, like a lot of other club, but it looks just like us, but it is true that we spent a lot of money to have these amazing players. If not it is impossible to do that.”
Guardiola is always heaping praise on his players, always, but after a tough few days where his methods and his players have been questioned following their UCL exit to Liverpool and the crushing loss against United, Guardiola had an answer similar to KDB’s when asked about European disappointment: “Champions League is seven games.”
That is it. Guardiola is keen to move on, and quickly, from failure and instead focus on a grueling PL season where they have stamped their superiority time and time again. In a nutshell this display summed up their season. Starting fast, scoring often and even having the audacity to give opponents a sniff at grabbing a point before missing plenty of chances themselves.
Man City know that if they can keep doing what they’re doing and develop this team, many of whom are nowhere near their peak (De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson), then bigger achievements, such as the Champions League, will be ahead.
The way Guardiola and his players celebrated this win showed how much the PL success means and how relieved they were to get back to winning ways.
But winning the PL this season, in this manner, with this pressure on their shoulders, the season after Pep’s methods were questioned heavily as they finished third in his debut PL campaign, that shows they have the right mentality.
Guardiola knows the Premier League is one hard slog but his time have oozed true class and will be worthy champions.
“Physicality, weather conditions, amount of games. It is tough,” Guardiola said. “That is why winning the way, hopefully next Sunday, we are going to win, will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives, that is for sure.”