Football

Guardiola salutes set-piece threat of shortest team in EPL

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised his assistant Mikel Arteta's work on the training ground as his side went top of the English Premier League table for the first time since Dec 15 with a 2-0 win away to Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The City boss was particularly pleased with Aymeric Laporte's headed opener in first-half injury time. Gabriel Jesus sealed the game in the seventh minute of stoppage time with another header.

Laporte's goal came via David Silva's free-kick. The Frenchman could have scored from another set-piece when he headed an Ilkay Guendogan corner wide from four metres out.

All four of Laporte's goals this season have come via set-pieces in away games.

City's dead-ball threat is a source of joy for Guardiola, considering his side are the smallest in the EPL with an average height of 1.797m.

Said the Spaniard: "We are vulnerable in set-pieces, we are not the tallest team in the world, but we defend with a good mentality.

"Of course, (assistant coach) Mikel Arteta works a lot on set-pieces and we get the goal. I am so satisfied."

However, City's deceptive ability via set-pieces is not a new phenomenon. Last season, only Arsenal and Bournemouth scored more goals via corners than Guardiola's men.

Everton, meanwhile, are the third-smallest team in the EPL with an average height of 1.815m, but they have conceded more set-piece goals in all competitions (19) than any other top-flight side in England.

After initially saying his side need to be "more aggressive" during dead-ball situations, Everton manager Marco Silva cut short a discussion on their set-piece struggles, saying: "(What) I want to do is not speak more about this situation.

"What I want to speak about will stay with my players, we've spoken many times."

Guardiola relished how his side have gone from seven points behind Liverpool to leapfrogging them, saying it's a lesson to "never give up".

"Now we have an incredible test on Sunday against Chelsea. I don't know how far we'll get, maybe we'll die in the road, but we are trying..." he said.

"It's good to be top but Liverpool (still) has a game at Old Trafford."

He was referring to the Reds' match against Manchester United on Feb 24.

Football