The 2018-19 Premier League season has entered the unofficial home stretch, and Pep Guardiola knows it.
As such, Manchester City’s complex manager is turning up the intensity, calling for a greater focus over the season’s final 11 games and demanding that his players not let “excuses about tiredness, fixtures, schedules or how many games” derail their PL title defense.
Guardiola has been in this position a few times during his managerial career — particularly when battling Real Madrid for La Liga titles while at Barcelona — so he has little to no sympathy for a squad still competing across three competitions after winning the League Cup on Sunday — quotes from the Guardian:
“I don’t want to see excuses about tiredness, fixtures, schedules or how many games. That is nothing. When you have the [dream] to fight until the end, to retain the title, the power and the energy to give you that, it is higher than any excuses you can find.
“We have to run tomorrow and beat them, and after that beat them again. In the last two months, the mentality makes the difference. People say about this player or the other one. It doesn’t matter [who plays]. We have a deep squad, we have good enough players, a second team, too.
“I want to see tomorrow the desire that we really, really want to win this title. I want to see it. I don’t care about the way we want to play or the other things. I want the ‘smell’ in the locker room. I want to ‘smell’ in the beginning of the game, during the game, with our fans, now when one competition is over, really we want to win this title. I want to see their faces tomorrow, my players. After the game, I’ll tell you if I saw something special or not.”
Guardiola has long been lauded — rightly so, of course — for his nous as a tactical mastermind, but it’s probably fair to say he doesn’t get enough credit for his artistry as an orator, a motivator capable of rousing lectures to rally his troops. More often than not, they seem to respond in exactly the manner he would have hoped to see.
Man City trail Liverpool by a single point, but have a 10-goal advantage in the goal-differential column.