Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic
London – Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City will be a far more formidable force next season after its FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal left the Spaniard empty-handed for the first season in his glittering career.
Guardiola’s side wasted their chance to reach the final as poor finishing and sloppy defending allowed Arsenal to come from behind and snatch a 2-1 victory in extra-time on Sunday.
With City trailing 11 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, its last realistic chance of silverware vanished at Wembley, leaving Guardiola to face the uncomfortable reality that he has failed to provide the trophies expected from him when he arrived last year.
Having dominated in the Spanish and German leagues with Barcelona and then Bayern Munich, while also winning two Champions League titles, Guardiola has found life much harder in the cutthroat world of the Premier League.
The Spaniard admits this season has been a learning process and, with his ego clearly bruised, Guardiola promised City would be much improved next term once he has time to make changes to an underachieving squad.
“We will improve next season. We will be strong, especially in the games away against the Premier League teams,” he said.
“For what I have done in my past the pressure will be on my shoulders for the rest of my career.
“Always in my life and always in the rest of my life I try to be better. That is all.
“Some players will stay and some will come in. I will try to be proactive.
“That is what I want to do. I’m not a guy who complains.”
After leading City to 10 successive wins at the start of the season, City has gradually fallen back into the bad habits that prompted the club’s Abu Dhabi-based owners to axe Manuel Pellegrini and bring in Guardiola.
While City is always capable of dominating possession, too often poor finishing and a lack of killer instinct means that control doesn’t bring enough goals, opening the door for a leaky defence to be fatally breached.
City’s 4-0 thrashing at Everton in January was the heaviest league defeat suffered by Guardiola in his managerial career, while their Champions League last 16 exit against AS Monaco was the earliest he had bowed out of that tournament.
Losing to Arsenal was a fresh indignity and Guardiola is left with little time to pick up the pieces with City facing a vital derby against Manchester United on Thursday.
While City was losing at Wembley, United beat Burnley to close the gap on its fourth placed rivals to just one point in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
Few would have expected Guardiola and his old rival Jose Mourinho, now in charge at United, to be squabbling over fourth place after its hyped arrivals last year.
Guardiola will have to lift his players quickly because a loss to United would be a huge blow.
“We arrived here and created more chances than the opponent. It was a bit like what happened this season,” he said.
“The team does not need to do a lot of things, we have some problems to score but we played like we want, so in the end we are sad today, but tomorrow we have to stand up and finish the games we have still to play.
“We have to look inside ourselves and see the reason why we can improve in the future.”