Pep Guardiola insisted he is pleased overall with his Manchester City squad, despite their latest stumble in the Premier League title race.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s early header was enough to give second-place Liverpool a 1-0 win at Anfield on Saturday, leaving City 10 points shy of runaway leaders Chelsea at the midway point of the campaign.
Guardiola enjoyed a wonderful start to life in English football, with 10 consecutive wins in all competitions – six of those coming in the Premier League – but some harsh realities associated with an aging squad he must continue to overhaul have bitten thereafter.
Nevertheless, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was keen to point towards his club’s interest in honours on three fronts, with a trip to West Ham on the agenda in the third round of the FA Cup next week and a last-16 Champions League tie versus Monaco in February.
“There are many, many things to fight for,” he told a post-match news conference.
“The Premier League, the Champions League, the FA Cup, [qualification for] the Champions League next season.
“When there is one month or two months left we are going to see our position and then we will decide our target.
“After a defeat in the league on the last day of the year the conclusion is always ‘it could be better’.
“The way they are training I am glad. I am delighted to work with these guys and the way they try to do the things.
“These are new things for everybody. Sometimes it is quicker, sometimes you need more time.
“In my career as a manger I never expect what is going to happen. I am training and playing and training and playing, after seeing the good things and bad things to getting better.
“We are not even in January. There are a lot of games to play. You have to be patient and keep going.”
Burnley are next up for City in the Premier League on Monday – the latest test for a defence that has come in for its share of scrutiny.
Guardiola rejected the notion that goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was to blame when Wijnaldum derailed a promising start for the visitors at Anfield and praised aspects of defensive play from his team that were ultimately in vain.
“We were a lot of people [defenders] there but it is a good cross, a good header,” he said.
“I am not a guy to come here to personalise, to say we lost for this reason. In one game many, many things happen.
“How we reacted after 1-0… I didn’t see people not running and not playing with personality. We just missed a little bit in front for the last pass, the last individual action.
“It’s a little bit part of our seasons. We control the games, we concede here at Anfield. I think it was the goal and after Bravo did not take another ball.
“We were quite stable behind. We controlled their start points of counter-attacks with [Sadio] Mane and the other ones.
“We did not let them run too much because they defend well and when they win the ball they are a top team running in behind.”