Pep Guardiola believes that it was key that Manchester City were close to Arsenal in the table when the two sides met last month to help propel them towards their fifth Premier League title in six years.
City were crowned champions this weekend after the Gunners succumbed to defeat against Nottingham Forest yesterday. The loss meant that Guardiola’s side could not be overhauled at the top of the table.
Guardiola’s side themselves overhauled Arsenal after Mikel Arteta’s men had spent the bulk of the season at the top of their league but saw their challenge crumble over the past two months. City meanwhile gradually chipped away at Arsenal’s advantage before finally overtaking them.
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The City boss believes being close to the Gunners when they visited the Etihad Stadium towards the end of April was key to their success. A 4-1 win for City on that occasion saw Arsenal’s lead reduced to just two points, with City having two games in hand.
City duly overtook the Gunners in the following weeks and the rest is now history. Though a challenging achievement, Guardiola believes being close to Arsenal when they travelled to Manchester was crucial to their title aspirations.
He told Sky Sports: “Of course, all Premier League [titles] are special. Last season was more special for the way the game was, but always it’s so difficult to win it.
“Every time it looks like it gets more difficult. If you tell me ‘next season what will happen and imagine if you can win it again’ it’s difficult, but here we are.
“Quite similar to Liverpool sides, Arsenal made 50 points in the first leg, so if they sustained that rhythm it would have been almost impossible to catch up. We had to push them and wait to see if they dropped some points and they did.
“We had to try to arrive at the day where they had to visit us here at the Etihad Stadium and to be close to them. It was a moment where we were seven, eight, nine points behind, so hopefully when they arrived here we could beat them.
“But we knew we had to do it, stay there top of the league or quite similar. But after that there were difficult and tough games against Fulham and Everton and even here against West Ham, in the middle of Champions League games, an FA Cup semi-final, so there was many games.
“You never know how we are going to respond but again the team was outstanding I would say.”
City are now a third of the way towards completing a historic Treble. They are in the FA Cup final against rivals Manchester United and also the Champions League final versus Inter Milan.
Guardiola believes even if City do not win the Champions League, they will still be remembered for their top-flight domination. But he conceded that to be considered up there with the greatest sides in football history, his team must go and secure European club football’s top honour.
He said: “I know the feeling and it’s true, we have to win in Europe to be considered something memorable. But always it’s unfair, I don’t have the feeling just in case we are not able to win it in terms of that [to be considered one of the best teams], because the Premier League makes sense too.
“Of course as a club you get to another level, that’s for sure, but we have to admit it, we have to win in Europe and the Champions League to be considered one of the best teams like Roy Keane’s United was or Liverpool.
“But also it’s unfair to say if we don’t win it, Premier League five wins in six years does not make sense. Of course it makes sense and of course it’s important.
“It’s like now in the Premier League in the next six years, you have to win it five times. It’s crazy.
“It’s impossible, so this club won five in the last six, six in the last 10 and seven in the last 12. In 12 years, we won seven times, it’s amazing. It’s not just with me, it’s with Manuel [Pellegrini], with [Roberto] Mancini, so that means this club in one decade has been stable, but everybody knows if we want to be considered one of the best teams we have to win the Champions League, I’m sorry but we have to admit it.”
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