Pep Guardiola claims Manchester City are the Premier League’s best team from box to box, but insists they must sharpen up at either end of the pitch next season.
Things were in full working order up front and at the back as City reinforced their top-four ambitions with a dismissive 5-0 rout of Crystal Palace, but that merely served to reinforce qualities that have been missing at key moments this term.
Had City been at this level throughout Guardiola’s first year in charge, led well at the back by the formidable Vincent Kompany and scoring four unanswered goals in a rampant second period, they would have been challenging for the title rather than scrapping for the Champions League slots.
It is a point not wasted on Guardiola, who talked up his team’s ability to cut through opponents and fashion opportunities only to critique their quality in the respective penalty areas.
“I remember one game where the opponent created more chances. It was at White Hart Lane against Tottenham. The others, no chance. So we are better than all the teams in the Premier League, home and away,” he said.
“Even the next champions, Chelsea, we create more chances here (at the Etihad Stadium) and even at Stamford Bridge, but in the boxes we are not good.
“Vincent helps us with his presence to be better in our box, but in the box of the opponent we are not good. We are the best team in the Premier League to create clear, clear chances. Nobody can beat us. We are the best one.
“But we are not able to score goals. In basketball you see Michael Jordan, last minute … puts it in the net. The most difficult thing in football, basketball, tennis, in all the sports is to do it in the last moment. That’s why we are in the situation we are in.”
It may have been a curious moment to highlight City’s profligacy, after David Silva, Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi all beat Wayne Hennessey, but Guardiola has noticed a weakness and will not let it slide.
At the interval, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss went so far as warning his side that a 1-0 advantage was not good enough to get the job done against a largely passive Palace outfit.
“If you arrive in the last 20 minutes of the game at 1-0 against Crystal Palace, we don’t win the game,” he asserted.
“I said that at half-time to the players: score a goal or forget about it, we are not able to win. It happened a lot of times this year and hopefully next season we improve on that.”
Palace boss Sam Allardyce has coaxed some fine displays from his side against the division’s powerhouses, beating Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in April, but bemoaned a “capitulation” this time.
The Eagles should still have enough to finish clear of the relegation battle between Swansea and Hull, but the former England boss was concerned about the ease with which they were dispatched.
“Defensively we made too many mistakes and they punished us heavily,” he said.
“It was a bit of a capitulation. All five goals could have been avoided if we had defended properly. That is the biggest disappointment. Manchester City, when they beat you here, normally produce outstanding skills, but we gifted them easy chances to score and they thrashed us.
“It is very difficult to take what I saw today. Lose, yes, but lose like that? No, unacceptable.”