Pep Guardiola: Arsenal’s title push is ‘easy’ compared to Manchester City | Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola says Arsenal’s visit is “the final” of their title run-in, with the Manchester City manager claiming his side’s bid to retain the Premier League is far more difficult than Arsenal’s “easy” task of becoming champions after so many years.

City stand a point behind Arsenal, who lead Liverpool on goal difference, with 10 matches left. Mikel Arteta’s team won October’s reverse fixture 1-0 in pursuit of the club’s first league title since 2004 and Guardiola is conscious of how crucial Sunday’s meeting is as he aims to lead City to a record fourth ­successive championship.

“People cannot imagine how difficult it is – can’t figure this out for one second,” he said. “To fight for one title that you haven’t won for many years is ‘wow, it is easy’. But now being for many, many years still being there [competing] is ‘wow’. The benchmark for the new generations in this club, for what we have done is really, really good.”

Guardiola believes Arsenal and Liverpool will not drop many points. “The quality Liverpool have, Arsenal too to win, I don’t know how many games in a row, score a lot of goals, the quality they play so I don’t think so,” he said when asked if City’s rivals would falter. “I know my team when it’s close to the end, they do everything – they [Arsenal and Liverpool] will do too. So that’s why Sunday is the final absolutely.”

Experience of winning the title cuts no ice with Guardiola, whose side follow up Sunday’s match with the visit of Aston Villa. “What you have done in the past in sport doesn’t matter. The past is the past,” he said. “What matters now is Arsenal and then Aston Villa. You will not beat them if you are thinking in the past and what you have done before.

“Of course it is important what we have done before, but I didn’t expect to arrive where we are now [in contention]. But after more than 20 years, Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League, so they will have something to prove and that’s normal. When Liverpool won the title after many years [in 2020], that gives you ­something special.”

The first of City’s five titles under Guardiola came in 2017-18, his second season. “In our first year, it was like: ‘Oh God, we will give everything in every single game to win the Premier League,’” he said. “But what we have to do is be ourselves.”

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