Manchester City may be second in the Premier League table and perfect through two European matches, but perfectionist Pep Guardiola is not a happy camper.
Ahead of a home date with Atalanta in Champions League play, the Man City boss says the team is “still not ready” to win the coveted tournament despite fan expectations in his fourth season in charge. Guardiola is mostly upset with the team’s finishing, saying they must be ruthless in front of net.
City is coming off a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace that saw them take 21 shots and put 10 on target, and while it looks comfortable on paper, it still took 39 minutes for Gabriel Jesus to find the opening goal despite complete dominance in the first half. That has left Guardiola red-faced, wanting more from his frontmen.
“We miss a lot of chances in the final third and we have to do that, to be clinical. When the people say about the Champions League being the target, we are still not ready,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Atalanta match. “In this competition you have to be strong in the boxes and this season we are not incredibly strong in the boxes. Of course we have time.”
Interestingly enough, the analytics tell another story. In fact, Manchester City is scoring about at a rate they should be expected to – no more, no less. This season, they have a 29.57 xG in Premier League play through nine matches, and sure enough, they have scored 29 goals which leads the league by a considerable margin, eight more than Liverpool’s 21. Man City is also generating excellent chances, with a very solid 0.16 xG per shot from open play, better than Liverpool’s 0.15 mark and also besting that of perennial Champions League contenders Barcelona and Real Madrid who sport 0.15 and 0.12 marks respectively.
Still, Guardiola says that his side can do better on a more consistent basis, linking positive attacking play to better defending. “What happens when we make our incredible, fluid game from the build-up? We concede few [chances]. When our build-up is wrong, we make mistakes in the first pass, we are nervous like what happened against Wolves…we concede a lot. That’s why it’s related. It’s not that you play well in one department and it’s enough. When our pressing is high, is intense, we concede really few [chances].”
The Spaniard will have plenty of chances in the coming few weeks to test his squad. After taking on Atalanta on Tuesday, Man City will host Aston Villa in Premier League action. They then entertain Southampton in league play the following weekend before traveling to Italy for the reverse fixture against Atalanta next week. That then leaves City with a short week to prepare for a gargantuan showdown with Premier League leaders Liverpool on November 10.