Pep Guardiola believes he has already completed the main challenge of his tenure at Manchester City.
City are 17 points behind runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool heading into Sunday’s trip to Arsenal, with any realistic hopes of a third straight title already extinguished.
As a result, an increasing focus has been placed upon their manager’s future over recent weeks.
Guardiola is in his fourth season at the Etihad Stadium, meaning he is set to equal his joint-longest tenure at a club, having led Barcelona from 2008-09 until the end of 2011-12.
The former Bayern Munich boss denied reports this week that his contract at City, which expires in 2021, has a break clause at the end of this term and has spoken of potentially staying beyond his current deal.
Nevertheless, he does not think trying to re-establish dominance in England, where City have won five of the past six major trophies and back-to-back Community Shields, would be as big a challenge as implementing his famed style of quick-passing positional play successfully at the Etihad Stadium.
“The challenge is done for me – to come here and try to play like we did in Barcelona and Bayern Munich,” he said.
“That was the big challenge and, in the end, in England we were able to play the way that we wanted to play and we won enough titles.
“Considering the difficulty of this league, seven titles in three seasons is not bad.
“Now the challenge is to maintain what we did in the beginning and we have struggled a little bit, especially because we have an opponent who has not dropped points. If they had dropped points we would be closer but we are incredibly far away.
“Now the target is to win the next games – focus in the cups and try to win games in the Premier League.”
— Manchester City (@ManCityCatala) December 13, 2019
A 4-1 Champions League victory at Dinamo Zagreb in midweek saw City bounce back from a chastening 2-1 derby defeat to Manchester United last weekend and Guardiola feels this season’s indifferent form can become an important part of the club’s development.
“I think maintaining 100, 98 points for three or four years… I knew it [would be difficult],” Guardiola said.
“When we arrived here, the standard was 85, 90 points to win. Now you have to reach almost 100 points to win the Premier League.
“With the help of Liverpool, we made that step and now it is the level you have to reach. Before it didn’t happen and we were the reason why.
“For 11 years no one did back-to-back [Premier League titles] and we did it, winning 14 games in a row [at the end of the season]. That’s why, when the people say we are not good, I cannot forget what this team have done.
“Sometimes in the process, with NBA teams and incredible tennis players, always there are periods in the season where you struggle a little bit more. I would say that is more normal.
“The situation we are living right now as a club, as a team, will help us in the future. I would have preferred to be closer to Liverpool, but it is going to help us.
“Maybe after four titles in one season we believed we are something that we are not. The reality of sport means you have to make it again and again and again.”
Guardiola concluded the analysis with a reading of his own future that could be viewed as more ambiguous than some of his other recent pronouncements.
“In the next games we will see how we are as a team and at the end of the season we have to evaluate if we are good enough, first as a manager to continue and then the players to continue next season,” he added. “To analyse at the end is so simple.”
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