Pep Guardiola says he is not surprised by a dip in Manchester City’s usual high standards this season despite his efforts to avoid complacency.
City were dumped out of the League Cup by struggling Southampton on Wednesday and trail Arsenal by five points at the top of the Premier League.
After the 2-0 quarter-final defeat at St Mary’s in midweek, midfielder Ilkay Gundogan blamed a lack of hunger from the English champions.
“What happened didn’t surprise me,” Guardiola said on the eve of City’s trip to Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday. “I tried to avoid it.
“It happened and hopefully it won’t happen again but it’s happened because we did four Premier Leagues in five years. Sometimes you have to reset.
“This was our strength as a team in previous seasons but after back-to-back (titles) two times, this can happen. We were not ready to go there and be ourselves.”
City face a huge week in the title race, with their visit to Old Trafford followed by a clash against Tottenham on Thursday, and Guardiola said he wanted a strong display from his team against their neighbours.
“Of course, it’s an important week,” added the City boss. “After what happened at Southampton, the last thing I’m worried about is the titles or this kind of thing.
“It’s to recover who you are day, week, day, week, day, week, game by game. This is what we have to do. In important games this season, in the important ones, we were there—in all competitions.”
City hammered United 6-3 earlier in the season but United have lost just once in 18 games since to close to within four points of Guardiola’s men in the table.
“A new manager has arrived, many things have settled, and the improvement is clear, not just in terms of results but everything,” said Guardiola on the impact of Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford.
“I have the feeling every time I’ve been to Old Trafford or United came to the Etihad that it’s been a difficult game.
“They are always attractive games. Both teams try to win. There are a lot of quality players in both sides. It will be a good game.”
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