Pep Guardiola urged Manchester City to avoid complacency after the champions pushed Arsenal off the top of the Premier League by grinding out a nervy 2-1 win against Fulham.
City moved a point above Arsenal thanks to goals from Erling Haaland, his 50th of the season, and Julián Álvarez but they were under pressure during a feisty second half at Craven Cottage. Guardiola was concerned that his team would struggle with fatigue after a tough run of games and he was delighted that they managed to hold Fulham off.
The message from City’s manager was to stay focused. Arsenal can go top again when they host Chelsea on Tuesday but Mikel Arteta’s side are up against it. City, who host West Ham on Wednesday, already have a game in hand on Arsenal.
“I think that our opponent is not going to drop many points,” Guardiola said. “That is our best mentality, to be humble enough to accept that every game – especially away – will be similar to today. The bar will be on Wednesday. Arsenal have a game on Tuesday, and we play on Wednesday. Now it’s one game in hand, and on Tuesday we will have two games in hand.”
Haaland’s penalty saw him become the first top-flight player since 1931 to score 50 goals in all competitions in a single season. The Norwegian, who missed a penalty against Bayern Munich earlier this month, also equalled the record set by Andy Cole (1993-94) and Alan Shearer (1994-95) of scoring 34 league goals in a season.
“I knew that not even Winston Churchill was Prime Minister when the record today that Erling broke was set,” Guardiola said. “It’s a long, long time ago. I was really impressed that he took the penalty.”
Guardiola was pleased that Álvarez stepped up after coming in for Kevin De Bruyne, who was missing with a minor fitness problem. “Julián all the time helps us,” he said. “He’s incredible. Every time he plays he gives us everything.”
Marco Silva was happy with Fulham’s performance but worried about Tim Ream and Andreas Pereira going off injured. Ream’s season appears to be over after the defender suffered a broken arm when he was caught by Álvarez. Fulham were already without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic and the injured Willian.
“Let’s hope Andreas Pereira is not so serious,” Silva said. “This is the worst thing. With a small squad like we have it’s really tough to take. We have to wait a little bit more to learn about Andreas.”