Pep Guardiola praised the “exceptional” mood amongst his Manchester City players after they kept the Premier League title race alive by thrashing Bournemouth.
City ran out comfortable 4-1 winners at the Vitality Stadium, having effectively wrapped up victory by the end of a first half in which they struck three times through Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden and outclassed the hosts.
“I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing every day,” said Guardiola. “The mood of the locker room is exceptional, the training sessions are really, really good. Everyone is helping each other.
Chris Mepham deepened Bournemouth’s woes an own goal shortly after the interval.
It was a clinical display of finishing from City who looked like scoring every time they attacked, as the gap on leaders Arsenal was cut back to two points following the Gunners’ win earlier on Saturday.
It was a first victory in three for the champions, who dropped two points away to Nottingham Forest in their last league outing before drawing the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie away to RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
There were no such difficulties for Guardiola’s side on the south coast as they returned to winning ways with efficiency and style to stay hot on Arsenal’s trail.
Guardiola added: “It’s tough because we played a lot of games away this last month. No recovery, three days between games, big travel. A lot of pressure, demanding physicality.
“Today we came here and behaved in the way we behaved. It made me feel we still have the desire to try and to try. We will try to fight for this Premier League, I don’t have any doubts.”
Even at 4-0 up in the second half, City’s players could be seen fighting doggedly to try and preserve their clean sheet.
Top scorer Haaland, whose first-half strike took his haul to 27 in the league and to within seven goals of the all-time Premier League record for a season, was among the players scrapping to get the ball clear as Bournemouth threatened from a goalmouth scramble.
Guardiola said it that he expects no less from his players in their duty to the team’s fans, who had travelled down from Manchester.
“The players will be in trouble if they don’t do it,” said the manager. “They will be in trouble. When fans come five or six hours in their cars, buy a ticket, with our salaries, we have to run whether it’s 3-0, 4-0, 5-0.
“It sounds like I am a demagogue, but it’s the truth. You can perform well or bad. But the effort in this club whilst I’m here never will be put in doubt.
“We see the faces how happy they are when we win. You produce a good feeling in people, families. Tell me something else that can be better than that. Our supporters away are incredible.”
Jerfferson Lerma’s late strike gave home supporters some momentary cheer after 83 minutes, but this had been the champions’ day.
Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil felt his side gave a good account of themselves but were undone by individual mistakes that proved costly.
“Not passing to them twice in our half would have been good,” said O’Neil. “I thought the performance was decent. We got punished for a couple of mistakes.
“I thought we were on the front foot. Apart from the scoreline, I thought it was uncomfortable for Man City.
“I thought we gave it a real good go, but we got heavily punished for a couple of mistakes. We didn’t make the most of our opportunities. There was lots to be positive about.”