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Pep Guardiola Keen To Drive Continual Improvement At Manchester City

Pep Guardiola Keen To Drive Continual Improvement At Manchester City Pep Guardiola spoke to Soccer Saturday about his never-ending search for improvement

Manchester City have scored five goals in each of their last two games but the contrast between those matches could not have been starker.

Huddersfield Town were routinely brushed aside on Wednesday night in a low key FA Cup fifth-round replay. The atmosphere inside the Etihad Stadium barely registered, but just a week earlier the same place witnessed one of the great Champions League nights.

The 5-3 victory over Monaco appeared to be City's season in a microcosm. Pep Guardiola's opening months in England can be defined by the energy, brilliance and unpredictability of his side.

The campaign started in August with that sustained spell of winning football, when it looked as if City would be the team to beat. They dropped off the title pace but appear to be finding their best form once more. Guardiola has already formed a strong bond with the players during his time in England. So are they starting to come to terms with everything their manager expects from them?

Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have been in impressive form over the last few weeks

"I don't know but I'm pretty sure we know each other better than before because we are seven or eight months together," says Guardiola. "And I think next season will be better than now. From the beginning I have been happy to work with them because they put everything into it. They are good guys, I love to work with them, that is what I like the most. I like how they celebrate the goals and how sad they are when they don't win."


Guardiola comes across as a man on the move. During our interview he spoke quickly and energetically about what he is looking for from his team and the improvements he wants to see. Constantly improving.


He adds: "Football is not a process where you can think, 'Oh, that's done.' Always you can improve; individually and as a team. As a team and as a club; the relationship with the community in Manchester. With many, many things you can improve. That's why it is nice, it would be boring if you believed it had already been done."


Little that Guardiola says or does passes without comment. He has been the subject of extensive books, documentaries and thousands of column inches in newspapers across Europe. Being the focus of such attention wouldn't come easy to anyone, but the 46-year-old has a simple explanation.

Pep Guardiola has Man City fighting for the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup

"Do you know why? It's because we won," Guardiola says. "Do you think they are going to write books about the losers? It would be nice to read a book about why they are losers, sometimes it's more interesting. They wrote the books and made the documentaries because we won. And we won because it was with huge teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Believe me, all the managers at this level - here in the Premier League - they are all good. I haven't seen anything here with the managers that is not good. All of them are top."


Managing such giants of the game means there is always an expectation to win every match. It is impossible of course, but every time a Guardiola team takes the field the fans expect victory. It hasn't always been that way.


"When I arrived in Barcelona the expectation was not high. 95 per cent of the people didn't want me," he explains. "And I know what happened in the beginning was tough, the people killed me, they didn't give me a chance to show what was good. The people in Barcelona say how beautiful they are with me now, but they are nice with me because we won. In that job if you don't win nobody survives.


"People talk to me nicely because I won not because I am better than the other ones. So the critics can be ready because sometimes I am not going to win. How can I handle that? Don't read too much, don't think too much about that, otherwise I would not sleep at night. Just think about what we did in the last game and what we can do in the next game to be better. That is the only way to survive in that world. If you thought about failing the illusions of the people and the players, wow, that would be tough to survive thinking like that."

Sergio Aguero scored twice for Manchester City against Monaco

Over the course of his time in management Guardiola has also learned to walk away when he needs time to escape the pressures of the touchline.


"When I have a week or 10 days I am able to switch off, before it was a little bit difficult but now I am a little bit more experienced. At Barcelona it was not easy to take time, it was a huge mistake not to do that. But now I have my time. If I say, 'I'm not ready, I'm tired', I will take a day off and when I have my energy again it's enough that I will work more hours. I think I can control it better now, but that's normal, I'm more experienced now."


So what gives Guardiola the most enjoyment in his work? "I like to work on the pitch, I like to be in my office to prepare for the games. I like to see before the games what our plan is. When it works it's fascinating, when it doesn't work it's a little bit sad, but we look at how we can improve. I like to look at our profession and say, 'We are at this point, what can we do to get better and better and better?' If I didn't do that I don't know why I would be here."

David Silva has been influential under Pep Guardiola

Improvement again. That is perhaps why three points will never be enough for Guardiola, never the be-all and end-all. Victories must be attained in a certain way.

He says: "It's so important. Because the way is the reason why you want to win the games. Every manager has his own way. I'm not saying my way is the right way, but every manager has a way of winning."

Watching Guardiola during a game is an experience in itself and he admits to wearing his heart on his sleeve.

"Sometimes you are there moving the hands and shouting because your stress is there. You have to put out your stress in that moment. I like to be involved. I would like sometimes to be more calm and more relaxed. But the people have to understand I am a Latin guy, from Catalonia. And there, for 10 or 11 months of the year, it is sunny days so that's why you have the energy! It's what it is, nothing is perfect. Normally your energy can help you win but if it makes you lose that is not good."

Guardiola has been a winner far more often than a loser. His first season in England may have had its challenges but with three months remaining City are still chasing major trophies, and Guardiola has every intention of fighting for them until the final moments of the season.

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Pep Guardiola Keen To Drive Continual Improvement At Manchester City
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