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Guardiola – the defending champion and serial title winner that he is – used his time in front of cameras, microphones and voice recorders on Saturday night to praise Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson nous, Mahrez’s quality and to send a clear message to his dressing room and Liverpool, who are forecasted to make it difficult for City to reach the podium for a third consecutive year. From the BBC:
“It’s always difficult here. First half we started incredible the first 20-25 minutes, then we had problems to control Gylfi Sigurdsson in that position.
“But we created from wide areas in the second half and we had the quality of Riyad Mahrez for the goal.
“Everton have fast players, they caused a lot of problems at the back, so I’m delighted because we want to go for this league and try to win it again,” he added.
Sure, Guardiola and company suffered a pair of setbacks earlier this season – with the historic loss against Norwich City headlining the bunch – but these type of nested comments are nothing short of advanced managerial strategy. With the tough feat of trying to surpass Liverpool – who are six points up on City after seven matches this campaign – ahead of them, the Spaniard was left with no choice than to start drilling “the champion mindset” in his player’s minds.
But it’s not all about hitting the button, however. It’s about knowing when to hit it and why. A convincing victory in late September was the appropriate time for Guardiola to do so, apparently. But it makes sense – the pressure and anxiety levels are still relatively low at the Etihad, Saturday night’s match wasn’t a marquee matchup, City are in true winning form after loosing to Norwich, and the list goes on.
Will the likes of Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, etc. listen and execute his message? Or will Guardiola have to repeat himself time and time again? Surely, that will be the grey cloud following City for as long as “leaders” doesn’t get referenced before the name of the club.