Even that season, Barcelona were always either leading or within one victory of the top; Guardiola has never before, at this stage of a campaign, succeeded in clawing back the size of deficit he now faces. “It’s a new challenge,” he said.
A lethargic display at Newcastle, produced with defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester City fresh in the memory, raised questions as to whether City can meet that challenge. On Tuesday, they could certainly have done with the leadership skills of club captain Vincent Kompany, who has made only six league starts this season because of injury problems.
Guardiola, though, has rejected the idea that he does not have the players willing to take responsibility in Kompany’s absence.
He said: “I have a lot of leaders, people who make a step forward when the situations are going badly but they have to do it again and again.
“Of course, there are guys with a huge personality to talk, to communicate, but that is only worth so much.
“I am not going to call out a guy who is shy, who expresses himself with a lot of character on the pitch, but off the pitch is more quiet and doesn’t talk too much with his mates.
“You have to talk your talk, and that comes from inside. We cannot bring a player out and tell him to be something he doesn’t feel.