Pep Guardiola says his Manchester City side have proved they can deliver when there is “no option but to win” after beating Arsenal to put the Premier League title race in their hands.
Guardiola’s team beat leaders Arsenal 4-1 at Etihad Stadium, and are now two points behind with two games in hand.
City have seven matches left, starting with Sunday’s trip to Fulham before home games against West Ham and Leeds.
“We cannot lose our focus. Now it’s in our hands,” said Guardiola.
“These next three games will dictate if we can do what we want to do. The reality is we’re still behind Arsenal.
“It will not be easy for us, but it is game by game and we see what happens.
“When it’s in our hands, we have to use it.”
City remain on course for a Treble of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, with Guardiola saying the experience of his players knowing what it takes to win in the final stages of the season is proving crucial.
“The players know it is necessary to say it is close and we need to win to stay in contention,” added the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
“That mentality where you have no option but to win is the best mentality to play. The players have shown they go into every match trying to win.”
|30 April: Fulham (A)|
|2 May: Chelsea (H)||3 May: West Ham (H)|
|7 May: Newcastle (A)||6 May: Leeds (H)|
|14 May: Brighton (H)||14 May: Everton (A)|
|20 May: Nottingham Forest (A)||21 May: Chelsea (H)|
|24 May: Brighton (A)|
|28 May: Wolves (H)||28 May: Brentford (A)|
City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne scored twice in Wednesday’s win, with defender John Stones heading in the second just before half-time and striker Erling Haaland adding a late fourth.
Belgium international De Bruyne said there is still a “long” way to go, despite many people thinking they are almost certain to win a third successive title.
“We know what people will say. It’s so hard. A lot of things can happen,” he said.
“There are still seven games left – and we’re still behind them [in the table]. People say we will win the title. We won’t give in until it’s mathematical. Our schedule is hectic.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he thinks his side will have to win all five of their remaining matches to have a chance of their first title since 2004.
Arteta’s team, who finished fifth last season, were eight points clear at the start of the month.
But three successive draws – against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton – meant they lost momentum going into the match at City, which had been billed as the title decider.
“We knew we’d need our best as a team. We were far from that,” said Arteta.
“I don’t know what will be required [to win the title]. We have to lift the players up because they’re suffering. It’s a difficult one to swallow.”
Asked if Arsenal need to win all five games to have a chance, the Gunners boss said: “I think so.”
However, the Spaniard expressed his pride at the team’s performances this season and pointed out they were performing way above expectations.
“It is a very difficult night, the way we lost, but we have to stand up and look at the bigger picture,” said Arteta, who worked as Guardiola’s assistant at City from 2016 to 2019.
“The fact we are competing toe to toe with this City team is incredible.
“There are five games to go and anything can happen. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot can happen in this league. We have to accept we lost to an exceptional team.”
Ex-Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport: “We looked at this as a title decider and the experience told today. City knew what was needed. The way they asserted themselves, won their battles and overran this Arsenal team, they showed their level.
“They can handle the big occasion better than anyone else – it is one of their superpowers. But they can play ugly at times – in terms of how they press, how aggressive they are and if they are pressed how they can go longer.”
Former Arsenal title-winning captain Patrick Vieira on BT Sport: “I expected Arsenal to challenge City a bit more. This was a strong statement from City to say: ‘You’re still a long way from us.’ It was a strong performance and City showed they are going to go on and win it.”
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown on BT Sport: “It’s the acid test when you play Manchester City. Haaland and De Bruyne are another level. When the big games come around, these players perform at a high level. You could see a huge gap behind the two clubs, Arsenal are about 10 years behind them, but they are on the right path.
“Arsenal are putting the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle but it is still a long way to go. When William Saliba is not around, when the best XI is not available, you can see the gulf.”
Ex-Manchester United striker Dion Dublin on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Arsenal from the outset didn’t have any answers to how City were set up. They looked a bit lost in the first half as City played through the thirds and stuck to the game plan.
“Arteta has been outstanding all season but it didn’t work for him tonight. City played like the champions tonight.”
Former Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given on BBC Radio 5 Live: “You’d say City have got the tougher run-in, so it’s not over yet. Fulham away is next and that’s not easy, they have to travel to Everton and face Brighton and Brentford away at the end of the season – they are tough games.”