- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola defended his “amazing” players and then delivered a surprising statement.

“Maybe I am not good enough for them,” Guardiola said Friday.

City has lacked consistency since opening the season with 10 successive wins, and Guardiola conceded defeat in the title race after last weekend’s 4-0 loss at Everton left the team in fifth place and 10 points behind Premier League leader Chelsea.

City’s form has raised questions of the quality of Guardiola’s squad and whether he believes he has the right players. This is something he resents.

“They are good players,” Guardiola said. “I have respect for the guys, so why would I say the guys are not good? So I don’t understand the lack of respect for the professionals when they have been amazing players, and (people saying) they are not good enough for me.

“They are Manchester City players, top players. They have a lot of quality. They have shown that many times in the past and this season.”

One player who has attracted constant criticism is goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who was brought in by Guardiola to replace England No. 1 Joe Hart.

The 33-year-old Bravo did not make a single save last week as Everton scored from all four of its shots at Goodison Park, but Guardiola feels he himself must shoulder some of the blame for that.

Guardiola has not settled on a regular defensive line this term, making numerous changes in terms of both personnel and formation.

Asked if this may have been an issue, Guardiola said: “Maybe, maybe. Yes, maybe. Yes, (I take) all the responsibility as a manager.

“I never in my life - never - say the reason why we lost is because of Claudio Bravo. It’s one of the reasons why, but there are many many other reasons why. Maybe the reason why is because we changed the defense - maybe - but we will never know that.”

Guardiola, meanwhile, indicated Sergio Aguero has signed a one-year contract extension on top of the five-year deal he signed in 2014.

“He has already signed a contract extension, I think,” Guardiola said.

Aguero has scored 18 goals this season and 154 since joining City in 2011 but Guardiola has regularly had to deny the player does not figure in his long-term plans.

“Sergio will be here until he decides to be here. He’s our best striker. We have a problem with goals so we need him,” Guardiola said.

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