Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s home form must improve next season if they are to challenge for honours after they beat West Bromwich Albion in their last home game.
Guardiola’s first season in English football will end at Watford on Sunday with the Catalan failing to win silverware for the first time in his stellar managerial career.
But Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over West Brom should be enough to guarantee a top-four finish — and a place in next season’s Champions League — while a win at Watford will assure City of advancing directly to the competition proper.
“I will not say fourth position is done, but Arsenal have to win by five or six against Everton and my good friend Ronald Koeman,” City manager Guardiola told reporters at the Etihad Stadium.
“We are there and we are going to travel to London to try and finish third and go direct to the Champions League. I’m happy it’s in our hands to finish third.
“This club had not played in Europe for 30 years. Now we are there every year, but we have to try and be better next season.”
However, City will need to improve their form at the Etihad, where despite ending the season with three straight victories, they have collected just 11 wins from 19 games.
“Our home season was not good,” said Guardiola. “We finished the last three games with good performances, but it was not good.
“That was the reason we didn’t fight (for the title) until the end of the season. We lost a lot of points, but this was a perfect night, especially for Pablo.”
Guardiola was referring to Argentinian defender Pablo Zabaleta, who played his last home game for the club prior to leaving as a free agent.
– ‘Thin line’ –
“It was an emotional night, for his family, for the people in the crowd,” said Guardiola.
“I saw many people crying and they are realising the impact Pablo had on the club.
“He helped build something special and he deserved absolutely everything and the performance was good, but it was a resume of our season.
“I don’t know how many chances we had and we didn’t score many goals. They had one chance and scored.”
Supported by his wife, Christel, and son, Asier, Zabaleta was given an emotional farewell by team-mates and City supporters after the game, with all keen to show their appreciation for his nine eventful years as a City player.
“As a football player and as a football fan it was a dream to come to the Premier League,” Zabaleta said in an on-pitch address to fans.
“I said to my girlfriend, now my wife, ‘Let me go to Manchester. I will enjoy it. It will be only for three or four years.’ So I’ll have to say sorry — it’s been nine years!”
First-half goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne put City in control before Yaya Toure added a third and Hal Robson-Kanu claimed Albion’s late consolation.
West Brom slipped a place to ninth without any of their rivals playing, the result of a run that has seen them collect just two points from the last available 24.
“I don’t think we’ve shot ourselves in the foot in respect of not trying,” said manager Tony Pulis.
“But it’s such a thin line between winning at this level. You’ve got to take your chances and, not tonight, but in other games we have been well in them.
“We’ve lost four games 1-0 when we have had really good chances. That’s the thing you have to accept and get on with it.”
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