Pep Guardiola shows the fire still burns brightly after Man City’s trophy laden year… as the newly crowned world champions return to winning ways in the Premier League against Everton
Tucked away from the festivities in a stadium named after a king stood a crowd of Manchester City dignitaries late last Friday evening, some of whom might well deserve a crown when this era finally comes to an end.
Among them were CEO Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain, who casually leaned outside the dressing room and congratulated the squad on their latest achievements in Saudi Arabia, which saw them become world champions to go along with the rest of the titles. Inside, the players sang Queen as Pep Guardiola made sure they all took photos next to the year's five trophies.
Guardiola's brother and representative, Pere, was nearby with City Football Group director Joan Patsy, a key figure in the impending signing of Argentine teenage sensation Claudio Echeverri from River Plate for £20 million. Patsy also proved instrumental in the arrest of Julian Alvarez, who scored twice in that final and once from the spot on what could be a huge night at Goodison Park.
Everyone together, everyone happy, everyone forgets about domestic problems for a moment.
Even Guardiola, in a rain-soaked suit, declaring 'the job done' after City completed the full set. He had felt the same way on Istanbul night, but he held back, using last week's Super Cup and Club World Cup as motivation.
Pep Guardiola realizes it is impossible to replicate Man City's trophy-laden 12 months
The Man City boss showed the fire is still burning on the sidelines despite the club's success
Your browser does not support iframes.
So what now? Even Guardiola, with his ridiculously high expectations and standards, realizes that repeating the past 12 months is an impossibility.
But by talking about “going to the bookstore” and writing another story, by ruminating on what he sees as overly negative reactions to their recent form, he shows that the fire is still burning. Somehow it still burns.
That much became clear when Kyle Walker walked aimlessly towards the halfway point. And when Bernardo Silva rode clear under heavy pressure from Everton.
Guardiola fidgeted restlessly and complained angrily at his stars for succumbing to the pressure at home.
City, who had been fantastic for almost half an hour, were left unsettled by the hosts after meeting an inspired Jordan Pickford. City makes themselves restless by not killing teams mercilessly. Guardiola knows this.
“Kevin (De Bruyne) is so important for us, as is Erling (Haaland),” Guardiola said. “I would say these two types of players don't help you play well, but these two guys will help you win games.”
Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez scored as Man City returned to league glory
And Guardiola hit the nail on the head. City were not particularly bad during their slump, actually playing adequately if not exceptionally, but still lacking the brutal totality of the two players who are above it all.
If their season is to continue to flicker, patterns must change quickly. In the absence of the key players, others will have to step up in a way that they simply have not done in recent weeks in the Premier League.
Phil Foden pinning one in from 25 yards was a strong start to that on Wednesday evening. They need more of that if the story is to move beyond one outcome.
This new story that Guardiola is talking about will undoubtedly be shorter than the previous one.
However, short ones can still fascinate and his quill usually produces bestsellers.