City still the team to beat — Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insisted his team are the ones to beat in the tightest Premier League race for years even though they remain third in the standings following a goalless draw with rivals Arsenal on Sunday.

City had scored in 47 consecutive league games at the Etihad Stadium before coming up against Arsenal’s mighty defensive effort on Sunday.

Mikel Arteta’s side held them scoreless at the Etihad for the first time in the league since they were beaten 2-0 by Crystal Palace in October 2021. The draw allowed Liverpool to go top of the table on 67 points with nine games remaining, while Arsenal are second on 65, a point ahead of Guardiola’s reigning champions.

When asked who is the current best side, Guardiola said: “Man City,” then added: “Your reaction, you don’t agree?”

“We would not be here. Semifinals of FA Cup, quarterfinals of Champions League and fighting against Liverpool and Arsenal,” the manager said.

Guardiola pointed to more parity in the league than in recent years, including last season when City pulled away from rivals Arsenal down the stretch to win by five points. Manchester United were a distant third with 75.

“When you see Liverpool play, I said we cannot (go) 10 points in front, when I see Arsenal play, we cannot (go) 16 points in front, they are really good,” he said.

“Juergen (Klopp) and Mikel with the teams are exceptional. But still we are there.

“So do we want to win? Yeah. We play to win? Yeah. We created more chances (on Sunday)? No. They created a lot? No. So it was a tight game, yes. It was a battle, yes,” added the Spaniard, who had appointed Arteta as an assistant coach at City when he took charge in 2016.

“I’m satisfied. I said to the team ‘Don’t be sad guys.’ I know my players and how they behave, and I give credit to Arsenal for the many good things they do.”

City have so far only taken four points off top-five teams this season, compared to 16 last season.

“We prefer to win obviously,” Guardiola said.

“(But) we take the point, nine games (remaining), we’ll see what will happen. The only thing we can do is refresh mind, legs for Wednesday, Aston Villa.” — SuperSport.

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