Soccer-Guardiola's demand for perfection fuels Manchester City hunger


Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v West Ham United - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 19, 2024 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates with the trophy after winning the Premier League Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City's insatiable appetite for trophies spells bad news for any club hoping to break the stranglehold Pep Guardiola's side continue to have on English football.

Admirably, Arsenal pushed them very close this season but once again the sight of Guardiola's players cavorting with the Premier League trophy was the abiding image of the final day.

City's 3-1 victory over West Ham United on Sunday took them to a place not even the great Liverpool side of the 1980s and Manchester United team of the late 1990s and 2000s inhabited.

A fourth successive English league title is unprecedented and the big question is who will stop the City march.

They have averaged 89.7 points in their last four title-winning seasons and, while Guardiola's side again failed to threaten the 100 they amassed in 2017-2018, City proved that when the pressure is really on they are almost impregnable.

Arsenal and Liverpool both headed City in the standings in the final months of the campaign, but the champions put together a blistering run of 19 wins and four draws since their last league defeat by Aston Villa on Dec. 6.

No one was really surprised because in 53-year-old Guardiola City have a manager obsessed with perfection.

"It's a bit demanding at times. It's tough, but look what he's done. He demands a lot every single day," City's Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland said of playing for Guardiola. "If you don't live up to what he expects you have a big problem."

The Spaniard has now won the Premier League title six times in his eight seasons at The Etihad Stadium and perhaps the only glimmer of hope is that he might decide to follow Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp and step away.

"The reality is I am closer to leaving than staying. We have talked with the club -- my feeling is that I want to stay now. I will stay next season and during the season we will talk," the ex-Barcelona boss said. "But eight or nine years -- we'll see."

Incredibly, in the 152 Premier League matches City have played across the last four seasons, they have recorded 112 victories with just 17 defeats, racking up 372 goals.

That is in a league regarded as the toughest in Europe, where the huge broadcasting deals mean all 20 clubs have the spending power to sign some of the world's best talent.

Their Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who along with 23-year-old Phil Foden now has six Premier League titles to his name with City, explained that the secret was quite simple.

"The manager sets the tone but this team we enjoy playing with each other. It is not a team with big egos," he said.

"We play around with each other we run like crazy and we just enjoy it. The enjoyment is lasting so that's it."

It could yet get better for City, with next Saturday's FA Cup final against Manchester United still to come, and there will be no slackening off until another trophy is in the bag and a double secured, hot on the heels of last year's treble.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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