Pep spells out how City can get even better

Reuters
It was the third league game in a row that Pep Guardiola's rampant Manchester City has scored four goals, taking its total to 60 in 19 games.
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AFP

Striker Sergio Aguero heads the ball to score Manchester City's third goal against Bournemouth during their English Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England, on December 23, 2017. City won 4-0.

There was bad news for the 19 English Premier League teams watching Manchester City disappear into the distance on Saturday as City's manager Pep Guardiola spelled out how his record-breakers can improve further.

Guardiola was speaking after City had beaten Bournemouth 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium, extending its extraordinary sequence to 17 successive league victories and 22 domestic matches without defeat all season.

It was the third league game in a row that rampant City has scored four goals, taking its total to 60 in 19 games.

City has now scored 101 goals in 2017, becoming the first top-flight team to do so in a calendar year since Liverpool netted 106 throughout 1982.

In 28 matches, City's only defeat has been 1-2 away to Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk in a dead UEFA Champions League group match.

Realist more than romantic in his approach to the game, however, the experienced Catalan coach is a perfectionist who knows that perfection in football cannot be achieved.

Which is why he was willing to outline areas in which his vastly expensive squad can prove even more effective in the second half of the season as it chases all three domestic trophies plus the European title.

Indeed, although City appears to be making quite enough scoring opportunities even against teams which simply sit back and defend, that is the area in which the manager wants improvement.

"We have to learn, to improve and attack this kind of defense and I think that is going to happen," Guardiola told reporters.

"Our target is what we have to do to find a solution. It's not a target to be perfect, that doesn't exist.

"Always teams can improve. When they defend with 10 (men) in the box, we can attack more fluently, make more chances."

That is a worrying prospect for their opponents, given that three players in Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are already in double figures for the season, with Leroy Sane and Kevin de Bruyne not far behind.

With City so far ahead of the rest in performance and points, debate is already turning to questions like how many trophies it can win, whether it could remain unbeaten in the last 19 league games and if it is the best team of the 25-year EPL era.

Martin Keown, who played 10 games in defense for the Arsenal team that went unbeaten in the 2003-04 league season and is now a pundit, told the BBC: "You've really got to ask yourself 'is this the best team we've ever seen in the Premier League?'

"They're achieving excellence in their performance week in, week out. It's a stroll in the park every week for these boys."

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Leicester City defender Harry Maguire (right) shoots to score the late equalizer against Manchester United during their English Premier League match at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England, on December 23, 2017. The game finished 2-2.

Elsewhere on Saturday, City's arch-rival Manchester United was held 2-2 at Leicester City and champion Chelsea suffered a goalless stalemate at Everton.

City is 13 points ahead of United, which was criticized by manager Jose Mourinho for "childish" mistakes in defense and attack after conceding an equalizer in the fourth minute of added time at Leicester.

Two goals by Juan Mata had put the visitors in front after Jamie Vardy's 50th EPL goal for the home side, and Leicester's Daniel Amartey was sent off.

But with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard having missed clear chances and Chris Smalling limping, United allowed Harry Maguire to poke home Marc Albrighton's cross.

"It was an easy match to win," Mourinho said. "Childish in their box and childish in our box, we were punished."

Chelsea, three points behind United, was left frustrated at a misty Goodison Park after 25 goal attempts came to nothing.

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane also continues to rewrite records, with his seventh hat-trick of the year in all competitions firing his side to a 3-0 win at Burnley that put the Londoners back above their hosts, and Arsenal, into fifth.

Kane struck a first-half penalty and produced two clinical finishes after the break to equal Alan Shearer's record of 36 EPL goals in a calendar year set in 1995.

Arsenal and fourth-placed Liverpool drew 3-3 on Friday.

At the other end of the table Newcastle United ended a run of nine league games without a win to beat West Ham United 3-2 at the London Stadium and move out of the relegation zone.

Marko Arnautovic opened the scoring for West Ham but Henri Saivet, Mo Diame and Christian Atsu were on target for the Magpies who moved up to 15th with 18 points, a point ahead of West Ham which slipped down to 17th.

Stoke City arrested its worrying slide down the table to beat second-from-bottom West Bromwich Albion 3-1 while bottom club Swansea City, which sacked manager Paul Clement this week, drew 1-1 at home to Crystal Palace.

Bournemouth joined West Brom and Swansea in the drop zone.

Brighton and Hove Albion eased its relegation fears as Pascal Gross scored the only goal against Watford to give the Seagulls a first win in eight games. Watford has now lost four in a row and five of its last six.

Huddersfield Town remained comfortably in mid-table as it came from a goal down to draw 1-1 at Southampton.

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