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Pep Guardiola sticking by his methods at Man City despite mounting criticism

MANCHESTER -- Pep Guardiola knew what was coming, so he put on the kind of defensive masterclass that his Manchester City players have, in recent weeks, repeatedly failed to deliver.

On the front foot -- as uncompromising and blunt as a Roy Keane tackle -- even Guardiola has it in him to be tough and forceful when he needs to be.

Attack, so they say, is the best form of defence, and Guardiola, speaking at his news conference ahead of Wednesday's clash with Watford at the Etihad Stadium, was ready for the questions about his philosophy, City's poor defending and their increasing distance behind Premier League leaders Chelsea in the title race.

As he endured the probing from his inquisitors, Guardiola listened, played with a water bottle, scratched his stubble repeatedly and responded eloquently during a 28-minute interrogation of his methods and even his job prospects. But he reiterated that nothing will change when it comes to his way of working.

"No," he said. "No way. We are going to play the way I feel, making the mistakes, and improve the mistakes. I cannot do something I don't feel. The last month, I have to accept the results have not gone well. We didn't win the last four home games. We scored four goals. I have to accept we didn't do well.

"We have to improve what I believe, not change what I believe, but when it doesn't work, you have to be strong. I have to accept the opinions of former players, the media, the fans because we didn't win. But I wish and hope they will give me a little more time."

Does Guardiola have time? City are paying the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach £17 million a year over the next three years to take the team to the next level -- a level that will see them challenging his previous clubs for Champions League titles -- so he has clearly been hired for the long term.

If any manager enjoys the luxury of time, it is Guardiola, but he is plainly irritated by the failure of his team, so far, to match the all-conquering dominance of his Barca and Bayern sides.

Having won all 10 of his first 10 games in charge, Guardiola has now seen City win just four of their past 15 in all competitions, culminating in Saturday's 4-2 humbling at Leicester. This is new territory for the 45-year-old, and he insists that he will not get the time many expect if he fails to repeat the magic he produced in Catalonia and Bavaria.

"Long-term projects don't exist in football," Guardiola said. "You have to win immediately. If you don't win, you will be in trouble. Coaches have to win, or something is going to happen. The boss and the chairman are going to decide, but no way [do I have time]."

Guardiola, who offered a shrug of the shoulders when it was suggested that people in England want him to fail, made just one mention of tackling after his weekend insistence that he was a "not a coach for tackles."

It was a dismissive, roll-of-the-eyes reaction, when suggesting that the rarely fit Fabian Delph was City's man for "tackles," but while Guardiola has no time for that side of the English game, he conceded that one recent Premier League game crystalised everything for him.

"I understood English football the day I saw one game -- I was at home -- Swansea vs. Crystal Palace," he said. "Nine goals, eight from set-pieces. You have to control that, and we are unable right now to control that. Eight goals from set-pieces -- corners, free-kicks, throw-ins. That is English football and I have to adapt because never before I have lived that.

"Of course there are corners, of course there are many things, but not in that kind of influence on the game and where the teams are really good at making them.

"All the strikers, for example, and at Watford they are good at this kind of thing. I'm not saying they are not good with the ball in the short space, but they are strong from set-pieces and they used that.

"I am new here, but old coaches a long time ago here also had problems with that. It is not only Pep. It is other ones as well. But of course, it is only six months living here, so I have to improve on that and our team has to learn on that.

"Of course I have to adapt, but does that mean changing the way you believe in football? What am I going to do? Put in four further defenders? Change our strikers, who are Kelechi [Iheanacho] and [Sergio] Aguero and soon [Gabriel] Jesus?

"It's not going too well, but long-term projects don't exist in football. When it doesn't happen, another guy has to be in charge. I thought it would be shorter to adapt here, maybe it will be longer, but I'm pretty sure it will happen."

Beating Watford at home on Wednesday will be the perfect way to get the show back on the road for Guardiola. Otherwise, another failure to win on home turf would propel them into Sunday's visit of Arsenal and an even sterner test of City's, and Guardiola's, credentials.