LONDON: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola advised club’s supporters it will take up to three years for his methods to fully bear fruit after his side lost 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur.
City had avoided defeat in the first 11 games of Guardiola’s tenure as manager, but they were given a rude awakening at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Spurs trimmed their Premier League lead to a single point.
The former Barcelona manager declared Spurs as potential champions afterwards, but emphasised — as he had prior to the game — that his team are at a different stage in their development to Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Asked if Spurs were title contenders, Guardiola replied: “They were last season. Why not? The same trainer, new players. In two, three years, my team will be better.
“In that sense, it’s normal. In the Premier League there are many teams who can achieve that and Tottenham are one of them.”
He further added: “They were the better team. It can happen sometimes. We play against one team that has been together the last two or three years, who last season were fighting until the end to win the Premier League.”
Guardiola, who had seen his team win the first six league games under his stewardship, acknowledged that City had been unable to live with Spurs’ asphyxiating high press.
“We knew how aggressive they are, home and away, but especially at home,” said the former Bayern Munich coach. “Of course it was difficult because we had problems to find the guys when we want to find them and control our game. We lost a lot of balls in positions that were so, so dangerous.
“They were one step in front of us today. We just can say congratulations Tottenham, because when the opponent is better, you have to accept it and learn from that.”
Aleksandar Kolarov, who struggled during City’s 3-3 Champions League draw at Celtic, gifted Spurs a ninth-minute lead when he inadvertently turned Danny Rose’s cross into his own net.
Son Heung-Min set up Dele Alli to sweep in Spurs’ second goal in the 37th minute and the hosts would have won with even more room to spare had Erik Lamela not seen a penalty parried by Claudio Bravo.
Alli described the result as a “big statement”, while Pochettino said his team had been “nearly perfect”.
The Argentine took particular satisfaction from the fact that Spurs had prevented a Guardiola team from dominating possession until the latter stages.
“To play a great team like Man City, you need to do a fantastic job,” Pochettino said. “In theory, we are a team that want to have control always. In front was Manchester City, who want the same as us, then it’s a battle on the pitch.
“For that I feel very pleased because our players showed a big commitment with the philosophy. The way that we played was fantastic.
The former Southampton boss, however, refused to talk about league title after impressive show on Sunday. “It’s too early in the season to talk about aims,” he added. “But it’s important to be consistent. If we can play like this, why not be consistent during the whole season?
“I know it’s a big effort, but that is how we want to play. It was a good example today that we want to follow and build our project.”
Son and Lamela argued over who should take the penalty, but Pochettino played down the incident.
“When we prepare the game, two, three, four players can take the ball,” he said. “If it’s Harry Kane, he’s the first, and Lamela and Sonny one, two, three. But different things can happen on the pitch.
“Someone can say: ‘I’m confident to shoot the penalty.’ And it’s discussed between them. Always they’re allowed to discuss and take the decision if two players want to shoot.
“It’s difficult, eh, from the touchline, to say ‘No, no, you shoot!’ Because they’re fighting, it’s impossible for them to see us and you’re not allowed to go into the middle of the pitch.”