Pep Guardiola admits he has been surprised how quickly Manchester City’s players have adopted his methods after a 4-1 victory over Stoke continued the Spaniard’s 100 per cent start.
After last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sunderland, City have scored nine times in their past two games, with Sergio Aguero and substitute Nolito both claiming doubles in Staffordshire four days on from their 5-0 rout of Steaua Bucharest.
It was thought that a fixture at the bet365 Stadium would present a big test for the embryonic Guardiola regime following Stoke’s 2-0 victory here last year and, after Aguero’s first-half double, the Potters hit back through a Bojan Krkic penalty.
However, two late Nolito goals gave Guardiola a third win on the bounce and he anticipates there is even more to come.
“It is impossible to say what is our target or what we can achieve,” the Spaniard said.
“But in the short time together my players show me how intelligent they are. They are really good players, they have a lot of quality.
“We can show it here, in one of the toughest games in the Premier League, with these conditions, when it is windy. It is impossible to come here for 90 minutes and control the game.
“We created a lot of almost chances, we missed the last pass. But the rest, we saw again amazing team spirit, how they communicate with each other, how they celebrate the goals, after the game with the fans. That is the first step. We have to improve many, many things. We have time to do that.
“I am a little bit surprised, in the short time, with the level we played here and in Bucharest; it’s very good. We have scored nine goals in two games. It was a nice week for us.”
The talking points from the fixture centred around the awarding of two penalties by referee Mike Dean for either side which may have been allowed to slide in previous campaigns.
City benefited in the first half when Ryan Shawcross’ grab of Nicolas Otamendi’s arm saw Dean put his whistle to his mouth and Raheem Sterling was adjudged to have impeded Shawcross at the same end in the second half.
“We have to be really careful,” added Premier League newcomer Guardiola. “I like to defend zonal marking, not man-to-man, just attack the ball. It was a little bit strange but I think Mark Hughes can say the same.
“You will realise the manager of Manchester City is going to speak few, few times about the decisions of the referees. I’m not a guy who likes to complain.”
Hughes was more forthcoming with his assessment of Dean’s performance.
“Unfortunately we had a penalty awarded against us at a key moment when I felt we were in the ascendancy and it knocked us sideways,” the Welshman said.
“We know the directives. This time last year the penalty wouldn’t have been awarded.
“Lets hope every time Mike Dean referees, he referees in the same manner. In my experience usually there is a purge for three or four weeks and everyone reverts to type.
“We benefited from an award in the second half. This time last year, that would not have been awarded for us either. You have to be careful.
“You’re never quite sure which referee is going to interpret the same things. Mike Dean is one of the more high-profile referees so maybe he enjoys that centre of attention, possibly.”