Pep Guardiola saw his team grind out a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on a ravaged Wembley Stadium pitch. Sometimes in a title race teams have to be able to see out wins on days they don’t have their best stuff, but the Manchester City boss was left shaking his head after watching his squad struggle to create the host of chances his side is known for.
“A lot,” Guardiola responded when asked how worried he was as the game went on. “[Erik] Lamela had many big chances because we miss a lot. We cannot expect against Tottenham to score a lot of goals, and we sometimes made mistakes because the grass, the pitch was complicated, so complicated.”
While the playing surface was battered from an NFL game the previous day, with yard lines and the NFL logo still clearly visible, Guardiola was not about to blame the playing surface for the struggles up front. Instead, he gave Spurs credit for their style of play which the City boss believed put his players in a difficult situation.
“We played today one of the most physical teams I have ever faced in my life,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “Harry Kane, [Moussa] Dembele, Eric Dier, [Toby] Alderweireld, [Davinson] Sanchez…it’s incredible physicality, and this pitch was so complicated, we missed some goals and we let them run, they are so fast so good.”
Despite the victory, after which he praised his defenders – and singled out his center-back pairing of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte – Guardiola fired a warning to his forwards, saying on another day, potentially in an important knockout tournament, they very well could have lost.
“We controlled quite good in terms of the difficulty to play on this pitch, and especially the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half we should have had the game over, and that is the problem we have. In the big events, in the important events especially the Champions League, either we are more clinical in those situations or sooner or later we are not going to win.”
Manchester City next hosts the league’s leakiest defense in Fulham on Thursday in League Cup play before welcoming Southampton to the Etihad on the weekend in Premier League play. Next week, City travels to Ukranian club Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek Champions League actions.