Ilkay Gündoğan has told his Manchester City team-mates to leave their egos at the door as the Blues continue to fight for all four trophies this season.
City continued their pursuit of Liverpool by beating Arsenal 3-1 on Sunday, although Gundogan insists he is more concerned with his own side’s form rather than anything the Merseysiders can come up with, pointing out that last week’s poor performance at Newcastle was “more disappointing than watching Liverpool win games”.
Pep Guardiola was furious with City’s efforts at St James’ Park and decided to shuffle his starting line-up for Sunday’s clash with the Gunners, with John Stones, Danilo and Leroy Sane moving to the bench as the Catalan filled his side with midfielders.
Riyad Mahrez has found himself on the sidelines in recent weeks, and in fact his late cameo on Sunday was his first appearance in a league game since December 30.
Goal understands the Algeria international has been unhappy with his recent lack of league minutes, which was a factor in him being left out of the squad against Huddersfield recently, but he did play the full 90 minutes in four cup games throughout January.
That is the balancing act that Guardiola faces as he tries to navigate his side to victory in four competitions, and Gundogan insists players should be happy with their role in the squad, even if they are not playing every game.
“We have such a good squad, I try to bring myself to the best situation,” he told reporters on Sunday. “I try to do my best. If I don’t play I try to support my team-mates.
"That’s what every player should do. Sometimes we have to put our egos in the second, third, fourth row because we have that huge quality in the squad and nobody can expect to play every single game, all the minutes. We need everyone.”
City’s defeat at Newcastle went largely unpunished thanks to Liverpool’s home draw against Leicester City the following night, and the win against Arsenal means the gap at the top is down to two points, ahead of the Reds’ game at West Ham on Monday night.
Guardiola has been bombarded with questions about pressure in recent weeks but consistently points out that he is more focused on the performances of his own team, and that the best way to send a message to title rivals is to play well.
That is something that Gundogan echoes, not just in terms of batting away persistent questions about another team’s psychology, but in shifting the focus to City’s own efforts.
“I can’t see into their minds,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s an advantage that we won last year because the way we won, it’s completely different. This time it is a completely new situation.
"We are still second. We have to try to put pressure on them, but I try to see it that we need to put pressure on ourselves because the way we played at Newcastle was not the way we want to play – it was not our type of football.
“That is more disappointing than watching Liverpool winning games. It’s up to us to be able to say at the end of the season in the last few weeks we did everything to achieve what we want.”
Gundogan was, however, able to provide an insight into what it is like playing for a Jurgen Klopp team in a title race, having worked with him at Borussia Dortmund when they won the Bundesliga in 2011-12.
Asked about similarities between Guardiola and Klopp, the Germany midfielder replied: “They are different in terms of playing style and their characters, but both of them are great people, great human beings that I really like.
“Klopp didn’t win as much as Pep won – that’s why it was quite surprising when he was able to win two titles in a row with Dortmund in Germany. I just joined them for the second one.
"When you have to run in the season you don’t think about much things, you go out and play. When you have no concerns in your mind you are able to win a lot of times.
“That’s how I felt when we were able to win at Dortmund that title. We had an advantage of just playing Saturday, Saturday, Saturday and the week off in between. He is in a similar situation now with Liverpool – just the Premier League and then the Champions League on top.
"Maybe it’s going to be an advantage for them, I don’t know. It’s nothing we can change right now. They have to play their games and we have to play ours.”