Pep Guardiola has warned that his players must better last season’s performances if they wish to win back-to-back Premier League titles, as Manchester City prepare for today’s season-opening clash with Arsenal.
Under the guidance of the Spaniard, City blazed a trail to the title in 2017/18, breaking nine records and equalling another in a season that saw the division’s first-ever 100-point haul.
City begin their title defence against Unai Emery’s Arsenal – who are led into the new season by a new manager for the first time in 22 years – and speaking to the club’s official website, Guardiola said: “Doing the same as we have done will not be enough.”
“That’s my experience at Bayern Munich and Barcelona – you always have to demand more to keep that level,” he explained. “First, you have to win the first one, and after that win the second one. In every competition we play we must try to win.”
Today’s curtain-raiser marks the beginning of a new era for the Gunners and in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports earlier this week, the Spaniard alluded to the manner in which his side will set-up in their quest for success this season.
“Our style with the ball is to be protagonists, to do things with combinations, to control the match with the positioning of the ball. And then when we have the space, to be aggressive going forward,” he said.
“We need two things: quality players, which we have, and then organisation. Together I think we can improve, to win in our way. I repeat: organised, then play.”
Emery will be hoping Aaron Ramsey is fit for today’s match. Ramsey, whose contract expires at the end of the season, suffered a slight calf injury but has returned to training and could be fit.
Sead Kolasinac (knee) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) are definitely out as summer arrivals Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi all push to make their competitive debuts.
Guardiola confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon both Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are available for selection for City, despite only returning to training this week following their three-week post-World Cup break.
Bernardo Silva has impressed in midfield this summer and could start, and though Ederson is another player yet to feature ahead of the new campaign, he should replace Claudio Bravo in goal, despite the Chilean’s clean sheet in the Community Shield triumph over Chelsea.
Danilo (ankle) has been sidelined since picking up an injury during the World Cup with Brazil, while David Silva is also on the treatment table, having been absent throughout City’s pre-season campaign.
Manchester City are unbeaten in their last nine opening Premier League fixtures (W8 D1), winning the last seven in a row. Arsenal are without a victory in their last five league meetings with Manchester City (D2 L3), and have won just two of their last 12 against City (D5 L5).
At the Emirates, Arsenal have enjoyed just one win in their last six league clashes with Man City (D3 L2), courtesy of a 2-1 win in December 2015.
The reigning Premier League champions have lost their opening game in each of the last two campaigns – this has never happened in three consecutive seasons in English top-flight history.
This is the seventh consecutive season that Arsenal have kicked off a Premier League campaign with a home game, but they’ve only won two of the previous six (W2 D1 L3).
Pep Guardiola and Unai Emery met 10 times in all competitions during their spells in Spain, with Guardiola never losing in those meetings (W6 D4 L0).