Considering he probably knew the lineup of the squad he would take to Aston Villa at that point, that was a bold proclamation from Pep Guardiola yesterday midday.
Manchester City’s bench for the stunning 2-1 win at Villa Park included Jack Grealish and Phil Foden on their return from injuries, five young teammates and two goalkeepers.
And yet, speaking in his pre-match briefing, Guardiola made it clear that a situation he called “emergency” without providing all the details would not be an excuse.
âIt’s my job to make sure they do it right. I don’t believe in the idea of ââsaying ‘Oh I have these injuries,’ he said.
“[Ilkay] Gundogan the first season [injured his] ACL, Kevin [De Bruyne] the second season we won the Premier League played 10 games. Have you seen me complaining?
“We have amazing top players and our job is to make them feel comfortable and play.”
In the early stages in Birmingham City could not have looked more at ease as they pulverized the ball with languid swagger.
Raheem Sterling immediately leaned over Villa Matty Cash’s right-back. On the other side, Riyad Mahrez’s first touch looked like the kind of thing you want to put behind every door on the Advent calendar.
Bernardo Silva was commuting to knit everything together. There is no better midfielder in world football right now.
Grealish, on his return, watched from the bench, telling the Telegraph this week how he had found the adjustment to life in City a little more difficult than he expected.
It was easy to empathize with this predicament when you watched the fruits of years of intricately grooved work swirl all around its old playground.
New hires can’t just log in and play in Guardiola’s high-end setup. Grealish will surely get there, but it takes time.
“In transfers we try to make decisions to improve the team, not just for me – Jack has signed for five or six years, he might have another manager in this period,” Guardiola said the day before Match.
The fear that Villa had weathered the first storm was that City’s superiority was not reflected in the score. But Ruben Dias then deployed his 25-meter swinger to become their 17th scorer of the season.
If there was a touch of luck in the opening game of the 27th minute, there was nothing lucky for Dias’ compatriot Bernardo, who scored one of the finest goals you can see – his impeccable volley crowning a sublime movement of length of field. where Joao Cancelo, Mahrez, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus all played their roles to perfection.
Such a wonderfully synchronized team is a better solution to an injury crisis than any reinforcement in January could be.
When City went off during the opening moments of the second half and allowed Olle Watkins to bring home a smart finish from the corner of Douglas Luiz, it was frustrating to see some of their great work undone in one flash.
Then it was time to see the underrated grain and steel of this exhausted collective, with the Blues once again fulfilling their manager’s pre-game prophecy.
âWhen we win and win, the players are there every day, snow, rain, wind, home, away. It means that we are a good club, a good organization and that makes me so proud, “said Guardiola.
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âSometimes when you win the title after there’s a tendency to say, ‘I don’t want to run this meter, I don’t want to do this job, I don’t want to do it because I’m good and I won.
âBut, we’re still here. That’s good.”
As Villa threw long shots into the box, returns from Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko joined Dias in last resort activities and Ederson made a phenomenal save at close range against Carney Chukwuemeka.
Everyone wanted to run every meter despite the exhausted numbers available to cover the required distance. On a night where Liverpool and Chelsea were victorious as well, it seemed like a highlight for Guardiola and City in what promises to be a gargantuan title race.