Pep Guardiola has played down comparisons between Maurizio Sarri’s first season at Chelsea and his own first campaign at City – due to the instability that comes with life at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri is the latest manager to be feeling the heat at the Bridge, with fans beginning to turn on the Italian and his Sarri-ball approach after several disappointing results recently.
Guardiola had his own difficulties in his first season at City, but he was given the time and the funds to get it right on the pitch and enjoyed a healthy working relationship with director of football Txiki Begiristain and chief executive officer Ferran Soriano, two of his former Barcelona colleagues already in place at the Etihad.
But Chelsea have rarely shown such patience with managers, having gone through 13 in the Roman Abramovich era. When Guardiola was invited to make comparisons between his first season in England and Sarri’s struggles at Chelsea, he instead focused on the differences between the clubs.
He also pointed to how quickly Antonio Conte came under pressure after winning the title as another example of how quickly the tide can turn at Stamford Bridge.
“The situation is a little bit different. In my first year, never the club doubted me. It was never in the media that I’d be sacked if they lose this game or the other game. It never happened,” Guardiola said.
“I was surprised that when Conte won the title and they lost one or two games at the beginning of the season, people start to say he was going to be sacked.
“I said: ‘Wow, but two or three months ago they won the Premier League.’ The situation is completely different.”
City added to the pressure on Sarri less than two weeks ago by demolishing them 6-0 at the Etihad. That was one of several disappointing defeats for Chelsea of late, including a 4-0 loss at Bournemouth and Monday’s meek FA Cup exit at the hands of United.
But Guardiola, who enjoyed two titanic battles with Sarri’s Napoli in last season’s Champions League group stages, remains an admirer of his opposite number and was actually impressed with parts of Chelsea‘s performance recently.
“When we lost there and when we won here, my opinion of Sarri and his teams is always high,” the City boss said.
“When we reviewed the game against us, maybe people don’t believe me but they did incredible things.
“The first goal was a mistake, they were not paying attention. The [third] one [Ross] Barkley made a mistake. The second one, Sergio [Aguero] scores an incredible goal.
“When that happens it’s tough for the managers and the teams. But they did many, many good things. That was my feeling. I’ve spoken to my staff and they had the same opinion.
“The pressure they had was quite good. They played good but we were so clinical in that game. With our four or five chances, we scored three or four goals.
“It always helps a lot, this kind of thing.”
Chelsea have fluttered their eyes at Guardiola previously, without success. While he insists there was never any possibility of heading to Stamford Bridge, the stability he has at City was a major attraction to moving to the Etihad.
“I decided to go to Munich and came here with Ferran and Txiki, they trust me and I trust them,” he said.
“In the first season when it was difficult, I said we needed time and they supported me, the players knew who was the manager and who would be the manager, it was stable, that’s the best way to do something for a long time, not just a short period.”