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Pep's Guardiola's Manchester City boys are still record breakers despite him wanting more

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Statistically, Manchester City have been more successful in 2021 than any other English club in a calendar year.

Not bad for a team Pep Guardiola considers modest at individual defending and short of a replacement for record scorer Sergio Aguero.

The figures are remarkable. City have won 51 of 65 matches in all competitions since January and have already broken the record set by Bob Paisley’s Liverpool of 33 league wins in 1982.

Manchester City are still record breakers despite Pep Guardiola wanting more from his stars

Manchester City are still record breakers despite Pep Guardiola wanting more from his stars

They can extend that against Leicester on Sunday and Brentford on December 29 despite a period of their history in which they’ve lost legends Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and, from last summer, Aguero.

Guardiola places goalkeeper Ederson as his most important player and the mantra of keeping possession as his recipe for success.

‘If you see our players individually – Bernardo, Gundogan, Kevin (De Bruyne), Raz (Raheem Sterling), Riyad (Mahrez), even Joao (Cancelo), Oleks (Oleksandr Zinchenko) – they are not good defenders,’ he claims despite conceding only nine goals in 18 league games this season.

Boss Guardiola believes his side are not good at defending individually and short of a forward

Boss Guardiola believes his side are not good at defending individually and short of a forward

‘But when you have the ball, you create chances and concede fewest. What you do with it, how the midfield players handle situations, makes you stable behind and productive up front.

‘We need to drive and play with the ball. We can’t attack quicker like Liverpool who are masters of that. We have to be patient, and that doesn’t mean lazy or slow.

‘For us, it is not about whether we defend deep or press high. It is all to do with the ball, no more than that.’

One of Guardiola’s main innovations at City this year has been to rotate De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden. Sterling and Bernardo as false nines to compensate for the departure of Aguero.

City have won 51 of 65 matches in all competitions since January, and look unstoppable

City have won 51 of 65 matches in all competitions since January, and look unstoppable

He failed in attempts to sign Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo last summer and says there won’t be any transfer activity in January even if Ferran Torres leaves for Barcelona.

But he acknowledges at some point a centre forward will have to be found. Erling Haaland looks one suitable prospect next summer.

‘I would say Sergio has not been replaced because we didn’t buy any striker. Sooner or later this club has to do this. One day it is going to happen,’ promised Guardiola.

‘When it wasn’t possible, at the beginning of the season, I said ‘OK, I am more than satisfied with the players we have. I am going to live with them, no problem’.’

Guardiola has admitted it has been difficult to replace Sergio Aguero after the ace left the club

Guardiola has admitted it has been difficult to replace Sergio Aguero after the ace left the club

‘It is so difficult replacing these icons Sergio, Vinny, David, Pablo (Zabaleta) and many important players. What they did for the soul of this club was incredible.

‘But nobody stays forever, players, managers, sporting directors. The club always has to anticipate and be prepared. People get older and have to be replaced.

‘We can not complain that we are still up there which is fantastic after what we’ve done these years.’

City look unstoppable. They won the Premier League and Carabao Cup in 2021, reached their first Champions League final and an FA Cup semi-final. Beat Leicester today and they go six points clear at the top of the Premier League, chasing their fourth title in five years.

During Guardiola's rich tenure, a host of different players have stood up to the plate for City

During Guardiola’s rich tenure, a host of different players have stood up to the plate for City

During Guardiola’s time, so many different players have stood up to the plate. One season it’s Sterling, the next De Bruyne. At the moment Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo look the stand-outs.

Guardiola himself regards goalkeeper Ederson as the most influential person in his team, requiring bravery to keep the ball out and skill to distribute passes.

‘His consistency is incredible,’ said Guardiola. ‘There was a period when he came back from Brazil earlier this season a bit low having to play three games over there in a pandemic, jet lag, different conditions, but over the last two or three weeks in training, I feel this is the best Eddy we have had.

‘I’d say the keeper is most important player in the team, more than any striker, more than any other. He’s been fundamental to us since he got here in Manchester.’

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