Pep Guardiola believes that Manchester City’s defeat at home to Chelsea was a major turning point in their season.
Victory at the Etihad on Dec. 3 would have seen City return to the top of the Premier League but instead the gap behind Chelsea widened to four points after a 3-1 loss.
City had led 1-0 through a Gary Cahill own goal but missed a handful of chances to kill off the game, most frustratingly when Kevin de Bruyne slammed a shot against the crossbar from close range.
David Luiz could also could have been sent off when he hauled down Sergio Aguero as he raced through on goal and City’s frustration boiled over in the dying minutes. Aguero was given a straight red card for a dangerous tackle on Luiz and was followed by Fernandinho, who was sent off for pushing Cesc Fabregas in the melee that followed.
“We finished the game against Chelsea four points down and, believe me, I saw the game many times. We were much, much better. I’m sorry Antonio but we were, we deserved to win,” Guardiola told a news conference.
“At that moment it was one point, then we go to Leicester without Sergio — another three and soon it’s 10 points [behind]. These are minimum details.
“There were unbelievable penalties that did not happen in that game and many other things. In this kind of situation against big teams, [it] influenced a lot. In general we’d like to be further up, but how they try and how they play, I’m so satisfied.”
Guardiola said Chelsea deserve to be top of the Premier League because they have been the best team this season.
The Catalan coach identified the London club as one of the favourites for the title at the start of the season and said that Conte and director of football Michael Emenalo deserve a lot of credit.
“My opinion about my colleague Conte is that he’s superb — maybe he’s the best,” Guardiola added. “How he was able to make Italy play beautiful football, Juventus too, in a culture where it’s so defensive.
“He’s an excellent manager, I learn a lot when I see his teams — Juventus, Italy and now. I like to do that because you see what they want to do. Their teams control a lot of aspects. It’s a good lesson for me to see his teams and learn.
“Through Emenalo, the sporting director, he’s brought very good players. They started the season so so but after they settled the way they want to play — and the fact they have a week to work on many things — that helps a lot. It’s a big advantage if you have time.”
That defeat to Chelsea was not the only time that City have failed to a hold onto a lead this season, with points dropped from winning positions against Middlesbrough, Tottenham and Arsenal last Sunday.
“I think it is one of the things we have most to improve on,” Guardiola said.
“We react when we are in the bad moment, when everything is lost after we take out the best in our game, but to be proactive as much as possible in the game, to be in a leading role in the game we need the process to change, yeah. Always we are better when we have problems.”