Manchester City’s night of mood swings ended with a remarkable outpouring from manager Pep Guardiola as he virtually presented a list of demands to the whole club for a return to previous exorbitant standards.
It wasn’t delivered in grim fashion, but after watching the defending champions turn a 2-0 half-time deficit into a chaotic 4-2 win, a spirited and passionate Guardiola felt he was time to strike publicly as he reminded everyone in Manchester. City that what he saw was not good enough.
City have closed the gap on leaders Arsenal to five points, but Guardiola has seen enough in recent weeks to cast a remarkable stream of consciousness in the direction of anyone willing to listen.
There was the unusual sound of booing at half-time as City fans, delighted with success under Guardiola, voiced their disapproval after a lame first 45 minutes and what they clearly saw as a lenient display by referee Simon Hopper.
Guardiola may have ended a thunderous night by raising his arms and blowing kisses in the stands, but he was clearly less than pleased as he warned Manchester City would not win their fifth title in six years unless they ‘it never rises to its previous heights.
The manager’s fire and sulfur reaction continued in his post-match debrief as Guardiola’s perfectionist approach surfaced, outlining what he expects from everyone at Manchester City on and off. ground.
No one was spared as Guardiola clearly felt the victory – “I’m incredibly happy. I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight” – allowed him to say he wasn’t incredibly happy at all.
Guardiola wants more than his players’ natural gifts, especially as they try to conquer the hunger for a new challenger in the form of Arsenal.
“The courage, the passion, the fire to win from the first minute,” Guardiola said. “The same with the fans. They’re silent for 45 minutes. I want my fans back.
“I want a reaction from the whole organisation. Not just from the players.”
He added, “I want our fans to push us. Demand more. Say ‘come on guys’. Show us more. We’re a happy flower team, all kind and good. I don’t want to be a happy flower. I want to beat Arsenal. If we play this way, Arsenal will destroy us.”
And on Guardiola went. It may have seemed like an impromptu outburst, in fact it looked like one, but he clearly detected an Arsenal hungry fighter approach that he now wants to replicate in every Manchester City game.
He said: “We have an opponent at Arsenal who are on fire, almost two decades without winning the Premier League. I’m explaining the reality. Everything is so comfortable at City but the opponents don’t wait.”
No one within earshot has left any doubt as to what Guardiola wants now, his words following a lame League Cup quarter-final defeat at Southampton and derby defeat at Manchester United.
City were watching the rarity of a third successive defeat until something happened in the dressing room at half-time, something that might have been quite special to listen to given Guardiola still seemed to be boiling long after the kick-off. final whistle.
All was well that ended well for City as they kicked into high gear with three goals in 12 minutes at the start of the second half, inspired by the magnificent Riyad Mahrez, who eventually scored two goals and been involved in the others of Julian Alvarez and Erling. Haland.
There’s no doubt City haven’t been smooth and threatening in recent weeks, but such has been the reaction from the players on the pitch and Guardiola’s message that they hope this is the night that will shake all the webs. spiders that have been hung up. on them since even before the World Cup, when they lost at home to Brentford.
Arsenal are still in control of the title race, five points clear with a game less, but no one listening to Guardiola had any doubt that he wants the former champion City to return consistently and wants him now.
It was spectacular, ultimately, on the pitch – and Guardiola made it spectacular.