Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League after Pep Guardiola’s side dominated possession against Bournemouth in a 1-0 victory on Saturday while Liverpool failed to beat Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Sunday afternoon.
The table makes good reading for City fans with the club now one point ahead of their title challengers, Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have spent most of the campaign top while the Citizens have an easier run in compared to their counterparts.
A relatively easy win on Saturday, Guardiola’s City had 82% possession against Bournemouth, who failed to register a single shot, the first time in Premier League history since Opta stats began.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Guardiola praised his side against a defence-minded Bournemouth: “We created a few chances. People should understand how difficult it is to attack 11 players [who are defending]. Thanks to the players, they are absolutely incredible.
“We demand a lot of the players without giving them the time to rest physiologically, that is why it is incredible. No matter what happens this season they deserve my admiration.
“We have competed in the Community Shield and the Carabao Cup, today we are leaders in the Premier League and we’re in a good position in the last 16 of the Champions League.
“We compete in all competitions, playing every three days, no recovery, so you need a quality and depth of squad. When a team play with that spirit and desire with everybody committed, it doesn’t matter. Hopefully they [injured players] can come back as soon as possible. Aymeric Laporte, we think, is getting better.”
Preparation well underway for next season
Things are certainly going well for Manchester City at the minute but while the focus is on the remaining three competitions, preparation for next season is already well underway.
Captain Vincent Kompany has yet to sign a contract extension with his current deal yet to expire this summer. However, Guardiola has already hinted that club’s hierarchy will offer the 32-year-old a new deal: “We are considering it, we are talking about that. I would like it. He’s our captain, 11 years here,” said Guardiola.
Regardless of whether or not the Belgian plays much football next season, given his injury history, he’s a personality that Manchester City need around. His wealth of experience is vital while he’s a role model for the younger players at the club, a perfect example to follow.
Elsewhere in defence, Benjamin Mendy’s future remains in the balance. The France international has spent most of his time in Manchester on the sidelines, missing majority of fixtures through injury although when he’s features, the Frenchman has been key for Guardiola.
He’s yet to start a game for Manchester City since November 11, with Aymeric Laporte and Fabian Delph often deputising for Mendy. However, it’s eveident that Guardiola could do with your typical full-back as opposed to a makeshift one.
On Mendy’s injury and future, Guardiola said: If [an injury] happens in two seasons it can happen [in] three, yes definitely. Hopefully not, we’ll work with that, he’s working with that, but the truth is we could use him in a few games. That is the reality. At the end, the strongest guys every day are there. That is the truth. That’s why we are looking for, maybe, you know, for the next season.”
Guardiola has already hinted that Manchester City will sign three or four players ahead of next season, with defensive reinforcements his priority. England and Leicester City defender Ben Chilwell has been heavily linked with City while the youngster would be the ideal deputy to Mendy.
In midfield, Manchester City are yet to renew the contract of Germany international Ilkay Gundogan. Expiring in June 2020, the 28-year-old has stated he’s happy at Manchester City but insisted he won’t be rushed into signing a contract extension, with negotiations already underway.
“I’m very happy here. I’m not the youngest any more, [it] just needs sometimes a little bit of time, you know? The club doesn’t rush me, I don’t rush myself, so I have still more than one year to go so I try to see it relaxed and then we will see,” said Gundogan.
Contracts of Fernandinho, 33, and David Silva, 33, also expire in 2020 and so planning for replacements will already be well underway, with Guardiola facing many sleepless nights ahead of him in these next couple of months.
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