Pep refusing to write off City’s title hopes in September

Manchester City
Pep Guardiola cool despite Manchester City losing at Norwich.

Pep Guardiola refused to criticise his players after the defeat to Norwich and says he will not be crowning Liverpool as Premier League champions in September.

City and Liverpool battled right to the last day in last season’s title race, with Guardiola’s men eventually coming out on top, but the Reds have edged ahead in the early part of this campaign.

The reigning Premier League champions were deservedly beaten 3-2 at Carrow Road as the injury-hit Canaries took advantage of defensive frailties from the visitors to notch up a famous win, but Guardiola is not reaching for the panic button just yet.

Kenny McLean headed the hosts in front from a corner before Todd Cantwell doubled the lead – only for a Manchester City comeback seemingly started as Sergio Aguero pulled one back on the stroke of half-time.

But Norwich did not buckle and Teemu Pukki’s sixth of the season soon after the restart – gifted to him after Nicolas Otamendi dallied in possession before being robbed of the ball on the edge of his own box – restored their two-goal advantage.

Rodrigo arrowed in a late consolation but the defeat leaves Guardiola’s side five points behind title rivals Liverpool – who are yet to drop any points, and beat Newcastle 3-1 in comfortable fashion earlier in the day.

Despite the setback, Guardiola believes it would be premature to consider it pivotal in the chase for a third consecutive league title, and was keen to reiterate that no prizes are dished out at this time of the year.

“Five points (behind Liverpool) is five points – but we are in September,” he said. “What are we supposed to do? Say ‘it’s September and congratulations to Liverpool, you champions?’ “Not for one second am I going to doubt my players.”

Guardiola also refused to criticise his players despite the defensive errors.

“Nico (Otamendi) doesn’t know someone is coming and nobody tells him,” he added. “Sometimes you know we make mistakes. I think sometimes we forget these guys are human. Football is quick, things can go wrong and I must see what I can do to help them.”