Manchester City’s zip was missing and the tell-tale signs of fatigue were evident after their midweek trip to Naples, but manager Pep Guardiola said his team had shown the mental strength on Sunday to keep winning.
City’s 15 straight victories in all competitions – a club record – with nine wins in a row in the Premier League after a 3-1 home success over Arsenal, have put the Manchester side on 31 points at the top of the table.
It is the best start to a season any team has made in the Premier League era after 11 games, and it is surely not only Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger who finds it hard to see anyone catching City this season.
But for Guardiola, whose task is to ensure no complacency slips into his dressing room, the main source of pride was the way his team coped with the tiredness at the end of a week which saw a 4-2 Champions League Group F win at Napoli on Wednesday.
“Considering after the Champions League game we were so, so tired at moments, but we were mentally strong enough. We won it, we deserve it, three more points,” said Guardiola.
9 PL wins in a row! 💪🏼🔥🦈 pic.twitter.com/hKC2dmnzxx
“We spoke that we will be more tired than them (Arsenal), but we cannot be more tired in our heads. We were together, the body language in the second half was good. It is not easy because Arsenal made a good high pressing (game),” he added.
Guardiola said his team failed, too often, to deliver the right final pass, and it was a match in which their play lacked the fluency they have shown in much of the campaign so far.
But the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager is clearly impressed that his side are getting results against the top sides.
Liverpool were beaten 5-0 at the Etihad, Chelsea fell 1-0 at home and now Arsenal, something of a bogey team who City have only beaten once in their previous nine games, have succumbed.
“Last season we were only able to win twice against the big teams. This season in November, we already won three times,” said Guardiola.
“We spoke about that. If you want to win the Premier League, you have to win, especially at home, against Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea. It is so hard to win away,” he said.
But for all his evident delight, Guardiola has no time for phrases such as “unstoppable” and “unbeatable”.
“All I know is everybody can beat us. That is a principle in all sports. It doesn’t matter what happens in the past.
“You can win the Champions League and lose the day after. That is football, basketball, all the sports. It is so important if you want to fight more to win the title.”