Sometimes Pep Guardiola’s press conference answers are not the best examples of brevity and clarity.
Take Friday’s briefing ahead of the weekend trip to Norwich, when Guardiola was asked a question regarding how the Manchester City fanbase’s lingering memories of “Typical City” lead to a fatalism almost entirely absent from the pomp and entitlement of his previous employers, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Pep responded over the course of three-and-a-half minutes, with a wide-ranging reply that included another enthused flagging of Kevin De Bruyne’s excellent piece of defending against a Brentford counter-attack on Wednesday.
How we got from point A to point B wasn’t immediately obvious.
But the previous two inquiries handily showed the clarity of purpose and vision that underpins all that is well with Guardiola’s City juggernaut.
For a change, all eyes will be on Jack Grealish this weekend as he is reunited with his old mentor Dean Smith. Now Norwich boss, when Smith was in charge of Aston Villa and Grealish was his captain the pair felt like a pair of modern-day folk heroes in the second city.
“No one knows Jack better than Dean and I completely agree with him,” Guardiola said of Smith’s observation that Grealish’s mentality to improve every day and be the best.
This might sound like an attempt to pump up a player whose three goals and as many assists in 25 appearances don’t exactly suggest he is dabbling with perfection.
“He played good when he was playing, he helps us to be in the position we are right now in all competitions. He played at a high level,” Guardiola countered in defense of Grealish, who he explained has quickly adapted to one specific demand that is part of the daily grind for even the most seasoned members of his squad.
“Of course, not just Jack – Fernandinho and the players who were together since day one, I try to push them and improve this, improve that,” he said.
“This is the best way: to wake up in the morning, go to the training center and think we can do something better.”
Riyadh Mahrez is on the crest of a wave. City’s top scorer this season with 16, having scored in each of his past seven club appearances.
They are Grealish numbers would give anything to call his own and returns that underpin the best form of Mahrez’s City career in the eyes of many observers.
Although, not in the eyes of his manager.
“No, last season was the best moment I found Riyad,” Guardiola said of the wonderful stretch where Mahrez became his sure thing in the big Champions League moments.
“Still he can do better this season to reach the level he played for the last four, five or six months of last season.
“It was outstanding the way he played and produced. I can do better.”
It means City players know exactly where they stand with their manager and those demands will not change.
Should Grealish hit a purple patch of his own and start rattling home the goals as Mahrez is right now, it would be a cause for celebration. But he and his teammates know the unrelenting message from Guardiola will remain.
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“Never a team will be perfect,” the City boss added (it was nine minutes in, he was getting philosophical…).
“We are not perfect, we are far away from being perfect because as human beings we are imperfect.”
But it is in the pursuit of that unattainable status that City’s strength lies. So long as the Grealish, Mahrez and the rest continue to buy in and chase that one goal they can never achieve under Guardiola, plenty of other prizes will continue to flow.
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