Pep Guardiola felt the manner of Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Arsenal will help to rebuild confidence and reserved praise for his defensive unit.
Raheem Sterling scored the only goal after 23 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, converting on the rebound after Bernd Leno blocked Phil Foden’s shot.
But City also broke the deadlock in their previous Premier League games against Leicester City and Leeds United, matches that ended in a 5-2 defeat and 1-1 draw respectively.
On Saturday, despite the absence of influential centre-back Aymeric Laporte, Guardiola’s side dug in to earn their victory.
Ederson completed a brilliant trio of first-half saves before Arsenal could only manage a solitary shot on target during the second half, when a back three of Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake grew in stature.
“It was a tight game as we expected. It was for our heads, so important this victory, for the problems that we have,” Guardiola told Sky Sports.
“In the game against Leeds, Ederson made outstanding saves and again today.
“What we have done today, without the ball, defending together. I think Nathan and Ruben were incredible, and Kyle as a central defender.
“We could not train one session on the build-up [with this back three]. We need more time to grow as a team, but it’s okay
“I think this game is going to help us to make a step forward.”
The result was Guardiola’s 500th victory of his coaching career, including his stint in charge of Barcelona B.
500 – Pep Guardiola has won 500 games in all competitions as a manager (including Barcelona B), winning 172 as Manchester City boss. Winner. pic.twitter.com/c7U4uuNBU1
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 17, 2020
Although it might not have been a triumph typical of his City tenure, Sterling and the eye-catching Riyad Mahrez produced some moments to savour.
“Raheem has the sense of goal, now he is our best striker, the guy I sense the most chance to score a goal,” Guardiola added after the England international netted for a fourth time in three matches.
“Riyad, when he is in this form, with this ambition he is an incredible top player.”