Pep Guardiola claims Manchester City‘s best may not be good enough in the coming season.
City set a host of records – including most points, most wins, most goals and biggest winning margin – as they powered to the Premier League title last term.
It was a memorable campaign but City boss Guardiola is well aware that rival teams and managers will be determined to improve and cut them down.
Speaking ahead of his side’s opening game at Arsenal, Guardiola said: “We were the best, definitely, no doubts about that, but we don’t play alone. We can do our job but the others can do their job too.
“We can be excellent but the others can be excellent too. We cannot deny the other contenders. There was a gap last season but this season I don’t know.”
Guardiola does recognise, however, that City do come into the new campaign from a good starting point following last season’s successes.
In addition to the title, City also won the Carabao Cup and they have already shown signs of maintaining the momentum by winning the Community Shield in comfortable fashion.
Guardiola said: “People say we now have to forget what we did last season. No way. I don’t want to forget that.
“I know exactly what we did to achieve that and we start from there. The principles are there. Now when I say something they know exactly what I want to do.
“Because of what we did last season now we are going to win? Nobody can assure me of that. We start again. That is why it is fascinating, it is a new challenge.
“But winning helps to win more. During the season we will have really bad moments – it is impossible to have the perfect season all the time – but when you win one title you can win another one. It helps for the future to know that.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 10, 2018
Guardiola has no doubt Arsenal, who are at the start of a new era under Unai Emery, can prove to be one of the challengers.
Emery replaced the long-serving Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium over the summer and has immediately put his mark on the squad by overseeing five signings.
Emery arrives with a good reputation having won the Europa League three times with Sevilla and most recently worked at Paris Saint-Germain.
Guardiola said of his fellow Spaniard: “No advice (from me) – I think he has enough experience to know exactly (what to do).
“He is so intelligent. I have a lot of respect for this career – starting at the bottom and winning titles. He always makes his teams difficult.
“Now he is at Arsenal, one of the best teams in England, and he is a contender to win titles.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga made his Chelsea debut at Huddersfield, just days after becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in history.
The 23-year-old signed a seven-year deal after completing his world-record £72.1million move from Athletic Bilbao as the Blues replaced Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois.
Kepa was thrust straight into the startling line-up on Saturday at Huddersfield and Press Association Sport’s Simon Peach looked at how he got on in Chelsea’s 3-0 win.
Kepa did not make a save of note on his debut. Maurizio Sarri’s side bossed possession from the outset in West Yorkshire, where it took 20 minutes for Alex Pritchard to muster a shot on target – an attempt that was straight down the barrel and comfortably stopped.
It was Huddersfield’s only shot on target in the opening period, but Kepa was relieved to see a Steve Mounie header off the post and eventually get cleared from danger. That was the biggest threat to Chelsea’s goal, with the Spain international comfortably dealing with headers from Philip Billing and Laurent Depoitre.
At a time when there is an increasing need for goalkeepers to be capable footballers as well as shot-stoppers, Kepa looked composed on the ball but proved inaccurate with a number of his long passes. “How much?” screamed a Huddersfield fan when Kepa slashed a sixth-minute clearance, while his preference for a clipped ball to the hallway line was regularly cut out. Clearly capable on the ball, Kepa will need to work out what passes work best in English football.
Quick off his line when Mounie attempted to latch onto a through-ball early on, Huddersfield surprisingly did not use their physicality to put the new Chelsea goalkeeper under pressure. Balls tended to go away from Kepa than towards him, meaning he did not have to dominate the box and so much as claim a cross until the stroke of half-time.
The trip to the John Smith’s Stadium could well have been a baptism of fire given his inexperience and Huddersfield’s strength in the air. Yet Town were unable to turn promising moments into genuine threats and failed to give Kepa anything to worry about. It was as comfortable a debut as he could have wished for as N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Pedro goals sealed a 3-0 triumph.
Pep Guardiola speaks highly of new Gunners boss Unai Emery but won’t be pulling any punches at the Emirates Stadium.
Here’s a couple of key tactics the Catalan may utilise to secure a winning start.
Unlike his spell at Barcelona, Guardiola doesn’t encourage his full-backs to operate as auxiliary wingers at City. Instead, they were often seen tucking in to make sure the Citizens always had the numerical advantage in midfield.
That also serves to guard against the counter-attack – a ploy Arsenal will no doubt use. Walker’s forays forward last season often saw him bombing down the inside channels – ‘underlapping’ the winger if you will – and linking up with team-mates around the box. In the fit Benjamin Mendy, City have a similar if not greater threat on the opposite side.
With Arsenal working overtime to track midfield runners, the late runs of City’s full-backs can do the damage instead. Walker may get the opportunity to overlap more often on Sunday though with Riyad Mahrez cutting in from the right.
SWITCH OF PLAY
Guardiola likes to keep his side’s passes limited to within three metres during their build-up play and when that sort of possession is focus on one side, it sucks the opposition in, leaving them vulnerable to the switch.
With Mahrez operating from the right flank and Bernardo from the right side of central midfield, the switch to the left is very much on.
Leroy Sane has developed a knack for darting in behind the defence and could be played clean through in these scenarios while Mendy’s desire to get forward could see him get on the end of these dangerous switch of plays as well.