A scathing Pep Guardiola accused Manchester City of being a “happy flowers” team and lacking the guts and desire to win, with the manager also criticizing fans’ lack of passion and the club as a whole, in an unprecedented attack after Thursday’s 4-2 comeback victory over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium.
In seven years at City the Catalan had never rounded on his players but he made no attempt to hide his dismay after seeing his side trail 2-0 at half-time. Following goals from Dejan Kulesevski and Emerson, City fought back via Julián Álvarez, Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez, who scored twice.
Guardiola said: “I want a reaction – not just from players, staff, the whole organisation. We are a happy flowers team, I don’t want this. I want to beat Arsenal. I cannot deny how happy we are [to win]. But we are far away from the team that we were. There are many things that we are far away, far away.
“We play because ‘my manager told me to do this and this’ – but there is nothing from the stomach, the guts. We were lucky, and if we don’t change, sooner or later we are going to drop points. No passion, fire, desire to win from minute one. It’s the same from our fans.”
The home support jeered City off at the interval. “They were silent for 45 minutes,” said Guardiola. “They booed because we were losing, but not because we played bad. We played good. They booed because we were losing, but maybe it’s like our team. We were lucky [to come back] but sooner or later if we don’t change then we are going to drop points. We were [lacking in] guts, passion, fire, desire to win from minute one. The same with our fans.”
Guardiola said City may have become complacent. “Maybe they’re too comfortable because we have won four Premier Leagues in five years. After we scored a goal they react, but that is not the point. We are far, far away from being able to compete at the highest level,” he said. “Do you think we are going to chase the gap to Arsenal the way we are playing? No way. Today we were lucky. If we want to win something or compete – but complaining, complaining, complaining [the players] – no chance we will win anything.”
City trail Arsenal by five points but, as they play Wolves before the leaders host Manchester United on Sunday, they could close to two. “We have an opponent in Arsenal who have the fire. Two decades without winning the Premier League. I am explaining the reality, everything is so comfortable [at City] goal opponents don’t wait. I don’t recognize my team, they [previously] had the passion and desire to run,” the manager said. “We are far away from the team we had in previous seasons. Do you think this comeback will happen every time? It won’t.
“I will sleep like a baby tonight – but it’s not about that. In 14 years I won 11 league titles – that’s a lot. So that means every day I see things you do not because you are not [there]. It’s not a single player, it’s everyone. People say we don’t have success because of no Champions League: bullshit. Two back-to-backs [Premier League titles] against this Liverpool, the way we played, in this country.”
Tottenham have now lost three of their last four league games. Their manager, Antonio Conte, said: “To concede four goals for me is not good and it is not good to concede four goals in only one half. This is my first time in my career that my team conceded so many goals but we have to continue to work, to improve and to try to do our best. At the end we are really disappointed for the final result. I think maybe we could deserve a lot more.”