Xenia Sports – London
Pep Guardiola feels his Manchester City side are ready to explode on the Premier League after getting closer to his vision of perfection against Newcastle.
City eased to a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Magpies at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day with goals in each half from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres.
City are now unbeaten in six games – and have kept clean sheets in five of them – as they haul themselves into the title race after a slow start to the campaign.
Yet it was the manner of this latest result that pleased Guardiola the most.
“We played really well,” said the City manager. “We played the tempo. We won games in the recent past but we were not playing the right tempo.
“Football is about time. Without the ball everybody runs, but with the ball we have to play in rhythm – but not too high.
“Everyone passes the ball, knowing his position. At the right moment, when we contact several players in several positions, we make an explosion. This was maybe one of the first days that we saw it. That is why I’m happy.
“In the last seasons we’ve struggled against Newcastle but here we controlled everything. I don’t know how many millions of passes we had but that is the way we want to play, picking the right moment to attack.”
City could easily have won by more. Bernardo Silva hit the post and both Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero were denied by good saves from Karl Darlow.
Club record goalscorer Aguero only came off the bench for the last 13 minutes as Guardiola continues to ease him back into action after knee trouble.
City play again at Everton on Monday but it is still not clear if the Argentinian is ready to start, even with the club’s only other recognised senior striker in Gabriel Jesus being out.
Jesus, along with right-back Kyle Walker, is in self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 in the past week.
If Aguero is not risked from the kick-off at Goodison Park, Torres is again likely to continue operating as a makeshift centre forward.
Guardiola said: “We discussed whether to start with Sergio. I need him. This was very good news in general. In the minutes Sergio played, we saw him sharp and dynamic. This is incredible news for us. We need him, absolutely.
“But we have to be careful. We cannot do what we did in the past, when he comes back and then gets injured. I still want to handle the minutes but I saw him well. I love this guy.
“Saying that, Ferran did an incredible job. It’s not a usual position for him, he’s a winger. It’s not normal to play but he’s helping a lot with his movements.”