Belfast Telegraph

Kolarov vows Manchester City won’t let perfect start just fizzle out

Man City 4 Bournemouth 0

By Tim Rich

For those wanting to know if Manchester City’s perfect start to the season will last, here are some dates; December 5, January 30, April 5, November 26.

These are the dates Pep Guardiola lost his first league match in each of his last four seasons at Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Judging from the way City have begun this season, his first stumble in the Premier League might be a long way off.

Guardiola’s strategy has always been the same — to burn off the opposition as quickly as possible. There are, however, those who wonder how long this kind of high-tempo football can be sustained in England.

In 1985, Manchester United won their first 10 league fixtures. Five years later, Liverpool won their first eight. In 2010, Chelsea began the defence of their title with five straight victories and 21 goals. Not one of those sides finished the season as champions and none of them covered the kind of ground Guardiola expects his players to.

“We won’t burn out,” said Aleksandar Kolarov in the wake of Saturday’s 4-0 defeat of Bournemouth, who Guardiola said were the best side they had faced this season. Kevin de Bruyne, Kelechi Iheanacho, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan found the net before Nolito’s late red card. “The reason is that the training sessions are so well planned.

“Just like we always talk more about strikers than defenders, it is the same when you talk about a manager doing great things.

“This is the best team I have worked with and it doesn’t get mentioned a lot. It starts in the office and reaches the pitch. It is why we look so mentally sharp.

“That creates a positive atmosphere. It extends to talking to the media, to having meetings together, to the training sessions and, of course, to the games.

“You guys in the press don’t see it but we know and that’s why we are so sharp on the pitch.”

Kolarov’s defensive colleague Gael Clichy argued that the sharpness was maintained because with his habit of playing footballers out of position, few of Guardiola’s training sessions were alike.

“What we like most is that every training session, every game is different,” said Clichy. “He has his own philosophy but he also looks at the opposition we play against and from that moment he will change things.

“Sometimes, that means playing out of position. We have seen so many players playing in areas they are not used to. For the young players that is unbelievable because they will learn so much in the four, five or six years he decides to stay here.”

The defeat of Bournemouth was City’s last game at the Etihad for nearly a month. If they still have a 100 per cent record after their next home fixture — against Everton on October 15 — then this season may have echoes of Guardiola’s strolls to the Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich which were sealed on some ridiculously early dates.

Man City: Bravo, Sagna, Otamendi (Stones, 52 mins), Kolarov, Clichy, Fernandinho, Gundogan (Sane, 72 mins), Sterling, De Bruyne (Garcia, 75 mins), Nolito, Iheanacho. Unused subs: Kompany, Zabaleta, Caballero, Jesus Navas

Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Ibe (Wilson, 46 mins), Wilshere (Gosling, 68 mins), Surman, Arter, Stanislas (Gradel, 74 mins), King. Unused subs: Ake, Afobe, Smith, Federici

Referee: Jon Moss

Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne

Match rating: 8/10

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