Pep Guardiola rubbished claims Manchester City’s patchy form this season will persuade him to seek pastures new, suggesting he a stay beyond the end of his contract is possible.
City host Chelsea on Saturday as they resume their title defence nine points in arrears of Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp’s runaway leaders beat them 3-1 at Anfield last time out.
Guardiola’s animatedly fraught touchline demeanour throughout the contest, where he railed against key decisions that did not fall in his side’s favour, arguably painted a picture of deeper discontent.
This is only the second time the 48-year-old has entered a fourth season in charge of a club, following his 2011-12 campaign at Barcelona, where they won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, but ceded LaLiga to Real Madrid.
A year’s sabbatical followed before a three-season stay at Bayern Munich, and the manner in which events unfolded on Merseyside meant it was easy to draw parallels and presume the famously intense Guardiola was burning himself out.
“My last season in Barcelona, I won four titles. I’m sorry – it was not bad,” he grinned when the comparison was raised before the game against Chelsea, who are a point and a place better off than City as they sit third in the Premier League.
25 – Man City have won 25 points from 12 Premier League games this season – the lowest ever total by a Pep Guardiola side at this stage of a top-flight campaign. Slip. #LIVMCI pic.twitter.com/d5QpYKkz6y
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 10, 2019
“Okay, we didn’t win the league and, as always, I didn’t win the Champions League, but it was good.
“And we played the best football we played in Barcelona in the last season because we knew each other. That was my feeling.”
Guardiola reports a similar feeling of contentment when it comes to his current employers, bolstered by an affinity for the city he presently calls home.
“I don’t have any reasons to move from here. I am incredibly satisfied to work with this club and these players and I want to help,” said Guardiola, whose City contract expires in 2021.
“If the people believe I am going to resign or I am going to be sad for these results, for nine points behind, the people don’t know me.
“I like this challenge. I love to be in this position. If the club wants, next season I want to be here. One hundred per cent.
“I want to live in this city because I know lovely people here and I want to work and live with them. I want to be here.
“It’s not because I am friends with Txiki [Begiristain, City and ex-Barcelona director of football] that I am going to stay here for the rest of my life. I am sitting here because I win; if I don’t win, I am in trouble. I know that.
“I am incredibly satisfied to work in this city and at this club. I want to help this club to get better. I still enjoy working with these players a lot and I would like to stay longer.
“If the club wants, I will stay.”
Our boss >>>
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 22, 2019
Ederson will return from a thigh injury against Chelsea after the goalkeeper was a keenly felt absentee versus Liverpool, although City’s long-term casualties still include Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane.
During the international break, the Football Association handed Bernardo Silva a one-match ban for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy, while Raheem Sterling’s clash on England duty with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez amounted to another unseemly episode.
This set of circumstances adds up to a sharp contrast with City’s imperious march to a domestic treble last season and a 100-point haul in 2017-18, but Guardiola insists he always maintained a sense of perspective.
“A few months ago, people said, ‘you can’t do better; you are a perfect team’ and I said all the time, ‘nope’,” he recalled.
“Football depends on the balance of the team and it is so flexible. Wow: be careful. I have the feeling we are not far, far away from the way we played in the last seasons.
“It would be easy for me to say we miss Laporte, Leroy and the other ones and that is why there is a nine-point gap.
“That would be poor analysis to get through and improve as a team. We have to find a solution. The big clubs always overcome the situations.”
Having rejected any notion of finality around this phase of his City reign, Guardiola expressed a similar sentiment regarding the uphill battle to come in the title race.
“I know all around the world the Premier League is done,” he added. “If that happens, we will try again next season.
“We have two options: give up or don’t give up. And I don’t think after the way we played, especially at Anfield, we are going to give up.
“We are not going to win, maybe, but we are not going to give up.”