Manchester City took control of the title race after ascending to the top of the table over the weekend. It’s a familiar spot for the blues to be in after finishing top in three of the last four campaigns.
But Pep Guardiola will not let the players take things for granted heading into the most difficult part of the season.
Initial table-toppers Chelsea dropped to third in the standings after a surprise 3-2 defeat at West Ham. That allowed Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to take the reins. But the Reds’ time at the top was short-lived as City took over after a 3-1 win at Watford.
Given the way the team has been playing, it’s easy to assume City will have a smooth ride from here on. But Guardiola has cautioned against any complacency from the players.
The manager is well aware of the nature of the Premier League as one bad run can prove costly in the title race. That’s especially the case as both Chelsea and Liverpool have been in title-winning form this term.
Thomas Tuchel’s men have made their intentions clear early on. The London side have been top of the table for most of the season so far. After sitting four points clear heading into matchday 13, the London Blues dropped points against Manchester United and West Ham.
That allowed City and Liverpool to leapfrog the European champions on the league table. However, for anyone familiar with the nature of the division and how quickly things can change a the top of the table, Guardiola has called for caution, so as to keep the players on their toes.
“Today one team dropped points, next week it can be us or Liverpool,” he said after the victory over Watford.
“Many things can happen. It doesn’t matter to be top of the league now. Now comes the toughest part of the season with many games and we are trying to continue in this level and rhythm.
“We are playing at a good level, we are winning games, but in football everything can go down in one second, so I am more than pleased with what the guys have done in this tough period and now comes the toughest ones - for the amount of games, for the many things. Keep going with this rhythm and try to continue to play good.”
This is smart advice given how the season has gone so far. Each of the top three teams is looking good enough to win the league. With the teams going neck and neck in the title race, it could be a classic case of “you snooze you lose” in the end.
Taking the foot off the pedal could lead to a team’s downfall, hence the need to put the players on their guard.
Set to face Wolves, Leeds, Newcastle and Brentford to round off 2021 before squaring up with Arsenal on January 1, City will need to stay focused to start the new year still top of the pile. That’s why the manager is keeping his players grounded.
Fortunately for Guardiola’s men, both title rivals will face a tougher test during that time. Apart from playing a game more than City due to their involvement in the Carabao Cup, both teams will cancel themselves out at Stamford Bridge on January 2.
So if the Cityzens do their job well, they will not only be top of the table at the start of the new year but could actually be in a commanding position to go all the way.
But as Guardiola has warned, it’s not that straightforward. So the players must stay alert to avoid any slip-ups.