London – Vincent Kompany said Manchester City’s players have taken time to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s approach since his arrival last summer but expects them to end the season strongly and secure Champions League qualification for the eighth consecutive season.
Gabriel Jesus’s equaliser five minutes from time against Middlesbrough on Sunday maintained City’s one-point lead over Manchester United in fifth spot, with Guardiola’s side also level on points and goal difference with third-placed Liverpool as the season reaches its climax.
Crystal Palace are the next visitors to the Etihad Stadium towards the end of a first season under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager that many had predicted would end in a title challenge.
Since winning their first six Premier League matches, that hope has petered out with only three victories in their last eight games while Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have moved clear in the top two places. Kompany, who made only his sixth start of another injury-hit campaign against Middlesbrough, believes the best is yet to come from City.
“You can’t compare Barcelona and Bayern Munich to Manchester City,” he said in an interview with the Belgian television channel Play Sports. “Guardiola has come to City with a very unique style. And he wants to continue that philosophy. We had to work to adapt to his style. I don’t want to sugarcoat it but I think next season we’ll see if his approach was the right one. It looks like everything is already here but we are still a club under construction. Next season we’ll have to perform better.”
After Palace, City must also play Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion at home before ending the season at Watford. Kompany hopes that could hand them an advantage in the race for the top four and insisted the squad was focused on ending a disappointing campaign on a high. He said: “We will do everything we can to win the last four games but it’s in our heads. It’s not about looking at one game we don’t have to win, or looking at one game above another.
“Every game is priority and we approach every game in that way anyway. I’d swing the hammer if I had to, if I thought there was a lack of motivation or lack of desire. That’s something we shouldn’t allow but I really believe that’s not the case.
“Finish strongly now and we give ourselves something to look forward to next season, because you want to be in four competitions. Sometimes exceptional seasons are built on seasons like this.”
Kompany has started five of City’s past six games – his longest run of matches for nearly two years owing to niggling injuries. The 31-year-old signed from Hamburg in 2008 still has two years left on his contract and, if he can remain fit, has set his sights on leading City to a Champions League triumph before his time is up.
“I’m very happy. I’ve worked so hard, I’ve fought so hard for this,” he said. “My motivation has always been high. I’ve never doubted myself. I’ve that happy feeling: look, I’m back again! I have always been rational. I know my situation and I know why I came back. As long as I feel that inner strength, I’ll be all right. My only wish is that I could be part of the team that reaches that final goal [winning the Champions League]. One day it will happen – I’m sure.”
The Guardian Sport