Is Guardiola feeling the pressure?There’s really no way to explain clearly


Given Guardiola’s generally frantic form during and even after the Manchester City game, it’s difficult to gauge his mood even under the best of circumstances.

He might be frantically correcting one player’s mistake while others reflected on a 6-0 win, or hunkered down in his technical area, his biggest touchline ‘tell’ as Sheffield United Breakthrough for the first time in the game.

But to be fair, at this time of year, when anything short of victory could mean City missing out on a trophy altogether, he was as relaxed as one would expect from the figurehead of a team trying to win the English title. An unprecedented fourth top flight.

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Asked a day before Saturday’s 5-1 win over Wolves how important it is to trust his players at this time of year, he explained exactly what gives him so much satisfaction.

“We could lose all four games, which means I don’t trust my players? That’s impossible,” he said.

“I see them, I see them, I still feel what they’re doing. There’s no chance (of not trusting them).

“Win or lose won’t change my opinion of what they’ve done this season. If we win those two trophies (UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup) and win third and fourth place in the season (Premier League and FA Cup) , my opinion on that won’t change at all.

“Of course, we want it, but we’re fighting for something that no team in the country has ever done, so of course it’s a big challenge and we want it. But what about the opinion? It depends on what we can do at the last minute Can’t win? No chance. I love them.

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Briefing: Manchester City 5 Wolves 1 – Haaland rejuvenated as Championship win eases

That trust means he can handle the consequences of the game himself; as long as they’re committed and give their best, what more can you ask for?

Manchester City, for example, largely dominated Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals but lost on penalties, thus ending another year of trophy chasing. They won all their group games and last 16 games, but still crashed out.

If they draw one of their last three league games, Arsenal have a good chance of winning the title. They dare not repeat what they did against Real Madrid in the FA Cup final, lest Manchester United become frightened.

However, Guardiola has never seemed to be under greater pressure than when Palace were awarded a corner 2-0 down in September’s 3pm kick-off.

Those little droplets of water falling on the turf speak for themselves. He was on hand as Wolves broke forward on Saturday, looking for the three goals they needed to equalize, but when Rodri passed the ball into midfield for Kevin De Bruyne to take control, the hosts The coach stepped up again. The danger is over.

He was on his feet again for three seconds in February when he saw Everton disrupt their attack, but last June in Istanbul when Manuel Akanji left for Ederson He fell to the floor on the next pass, which almost gave Inter Milan a winning start in the Champions League.

There, we can see that in the biggest games, those little moments matter more, but you really would never tell from his overall demeanor that so much is at stake.

Guardiola knows his team must win all their games, and that in itself helps him and City focus on what they need to do.

For much of last season, the championship was not in their grasp. That hasn’t been the case for much of the season, but they know things could change if they keep winning. Things changed last season, when City fell behind from the start in a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal in April, and now, since Arsenal and Liverpool’s double-fault three weeks ago, things have changed again.

“We know that if we don’t win or draw we have no chance of fighting until the end,” he said after City beat Brighton 4-0 last month. “Of course, there is pressure, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to perform like this.”

This is also a key point: City players seem to enjoy the pressure. As Guardiola suggested, they may even need to be at their best to achieve the performance we expect from them.

“They like to play under pressure,” he said in April. “They know whether it’s dead or alive.”

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City


Guardiola knelt down during Manchester City’s 5-1 win over Wolves (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

He also said that in October and November, he felt his team looked tired and not ready to pick themselves up and make another shot at the championship. Those were the months he was most worried about, with people around the training ground asking each other, “What happened to him today?”.

Think back to last January, when he spent 20 minutes describing how his players’ enthusiasm was slowly dying down, how they and the club as a whole had become “blooms of happiness”, too content with their previous achievements to Too lazy to try again.

He’s getting the reaction he wants, which means, by the end of the season, he can sit back and feel comfortable knowing his players will do what they need to do. Even as the treble drew closer, you couldn’t tell what was bubbling underneath until, for example, he broke down in tears at Wembley after beating Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

It undoubtedly helps that Guardiola has been in this position a number of times at this time of year: this is his fourth time at Manchester City. He knows that anything can happen on a football pitch – such as this season and two seasons ago against Madrid, or even Liverpool’s recent struggles.

“My appreciation for Liverpool is higher than ever,” he said ten days ago. “You look at the games they drew at Old Trafford or (against Everton): (Jordan) Pickford was outstanding. Against Crystal Palace they missed their chance. Tell me why… this is football.

All he asks is that his players be ready to try — to, as he puts it, “go out there.” By this point in the season, he no longer doubts it.

Guardiola seized the opportunity to complain about the schedule during a live broadcast on the BBC, and despite being emotionally and physically fatigued from European penalties, they were defeated in the FA Cup through luck and sheer effort Chelsea. But beyond that, he has an attitude of complete confidence in his own destiny and that of his team.

As he said, he will believe in his players. Even if they lose every game in the future, what is there to worry about? Except how Brighton were at half-time or how dry the pitch was at Nottingham Forest.

These details will occupy his mind at any time this season, but Guardiola always appears as calm as possible when there is so much at stake.

(Top photo: Michael Legan/Getty Images)





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