MANCHESTER – Pep Guardiola says he can sense the coming tide.
The Manchester City manager will be even more convinced of the new threats to his team's dominance after the latest round of Premier League games.
Manchester United is “finally” on its way back under Erik ten Hag, Guardiola declared Friday. Newcastle is “already there,” while Arsenal, in his opinion, has been the best of the lot.
On a weekend when City briefly moved to the top of the table, Guardiola once again finds himself looking up to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal — which won 5-0 against Nottingham Forest on Sunday to retake first place — and over his shoulder to the rising forces of Newcastle and Man United.
Arsenal provided the latest evidence of its growing belief, responding to last week’s disappointing draw with Southampton to complete a rout of bottom-place Forest.
United demonstrated the character that is developing under Ten Hag when surviving an onslaught from West Ham to win 1-0 at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford scoring his 100th goal for the club.
“I thought ‘I like it’ what I see from United just now,” Guardiola said on Friday.
United's victory against West Ham was not as easy on the eye as some other recent performances but it showed another side to Ten Hag’s team — a resilience to see out a win when under pressure.
Ten Hag underlined his own ambitions when responding to Guardiola’s comments and United’s continued progress.
“It’s a nice compliment, but I also see still a lot of room for improvement in our game and we have to, if we want to compete for the top four positions, improve,” Ten Hag said after the match. “For instance, in the first half, we have to dominate more on the ball.
“When you see second half, definitely, we were I think quite poor in possession.”
It required three outstanding saves from David de Gea to deny West Ham an equalizer it probably deserved.
“You have to make that second goal because then games will be easier,” Ten Hag said. “But I think it is also a skill for a team, if necessary, to protect your box, to survive an opponent who come and go for the equalizer.
“There are some positives, but still a lot of negatives in our game and we have to see that and work on that.”
United moved up to fifth after extending its unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions since losing 6-3 to City at the start of the month.
Newcastle sits one place and one point above United after its 4-0 win against Aston Villa on Saturday, while Tottenham is third.
Meanwhile, City’s fiercest rival in recent years, Liverpool, continues to look short of confidence and consistency after losing to Leeds on Saturday.
Arsenal is undoubtedly the surprise package and bounced back impressively after a difficult week raised doubts about its ability to maintain its fine start to the season.
The draw with Southampton was followed by a loss to PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League.
But against a Forest team that shocked Liverpool a week earlier, Arsenal provided a resounding response to lead City by two points.
“We can have a result after the run that we were in,” Arteta said. “Now it is about how we respond, we did it from the beginning in a really convincing way.”
No one will be more convinced of that than Guardiola.
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