Pep Guardiola attempted to play down Manchester City’s dominance in the Premier League after his side beat Brentford to pull further clear and described their next opponents Arsenal as ‘one of the top teams right now’.
The defending champions rounded off a brilliant 2021 with a 1-0 victory in west London on Wednesday night to move eight points clear at the top of the table.
European champions Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton earlier in the evening and as Liverpool lost 1-0 to Leicester the day before, City now find themselves in a dominant position in the title race.
Phil Foden’s first-half goal settled the encounter with his fifth league goal of the season but Guardiola insisted Liverpool and Chelsea could still catch Manchester City after the hard-fought win.
Guardiola was particularly wary of getting carried away ahead of Saturday’s trip to north London to face ‘the best Arsenal team in the last four or five years’.
Asked whether Manchester City were in control of the title race, Guardiola told Amazon Prime: ‘There are 54 points to play for. It is not expected to have this distance for eight and nine, but Liverpool play one game less.
‘But is is 54 points. In December no one is champion. We are going to lose games. I see in my mind, Arsenal, Chelsea, Southampton coming.
‘We have a game in London against Arsenal, maybe one of the top teams right now. The best Arsenal in the last four or five years
‘I cannot say more than congratulations to the team but we must focus.’
Manchester City sit top of the Premier League table at the turn of the year for the third time, after 2011-12 and 2017-18. They went on to win the title in both of those seasons.
The Premier League leaders on New Year’s Day has gone on to win the title in eight of the last 12 seasons.
The 1-0 victory over Brentford was Man City’s 16th win of the campaign but they were made to work hard by Thomas Frank’s side.
Guardiola added: ‘For the way they played it was the best performance. We cannot play better when they play in this way.
‘They were high pressing and it made it difficult for us to build up. After when they defend deep it is incredibly difficult as they are so organised.
‘You cannot go inside as there are no spaces. When a team defend this way it is so difficult. You see how the other teams come here and they suffer. I know it.
‘How many chances they create from corners, from throw-ins. We didn’t concede once or a shot on target in the second half.
‘People expect that we will score four goals after 23 minutes. That is not the reality, that is the exception. The reality is this type of game.
‘In some games you have to play one way, in others you play a different way. If you play quicker than usual they can make the transition with Ivan Toney and the other guys and you suffer.
‘They create the counter-attacks and fee-kicks and throw-ins and at this they are the best team in the Premier League. Statistically this is the best team. We compete and we adjust something at half-time.’
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Source: Metro Sport