Men's Team

Dickov: That’s what Champions are made of!

Dickov: That’s what Champions are made of!
Paul Dickov says City’s victories over Brentford and Arsenal have portrayed the hallmark of Champions.

Pep Guardiola’s men kicked-off the New Year the same way we ended the last, grinding out a hard-fought away win in London to extend our lead atop the Premier League table in the most dramatic fashion.

City now stand 11 points clear, thanks to Rodrigo’s 93-minute winner, and Club legend Dickov believes the Champions displayed exactly why our name is engraved on the trophy.

“I’m absolutely buzzing!” he grinned, speaking on our Matchday Live show.

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“You can’t beat a last-minute winner, especially away from home.

“It’s just fantastic. That’s what Champions do: when you’re not at your best, away from home – and you have to give Arsenal credit because they probably were just the better team, especially in the first half – but you grind out results, that’s why you’re the best.

“We weren’t at our best but we still controlled the game. Arsenal didn’t allow us to play how we wanted to play but like I keep saying: Champions and winners when they’re not at their best go and win games.

“We had a tough game at Brentford a few days ago and then we were away in London again. To get six points without being at our best is the sign of Champions.

“It was a fantastic ball from Kevin De Bruyne but the most surprising thing was Rodri in the box! We’d spoken before the game about him being the one who sits in front of the back four, breaking things up and starting attacks, but that shows the desire to win the game…

“A point would not have been a bad result but in the 93rd minute, you’ve got your defensive midfielder breaking his neck to get in the box! It was a great touch and finish and I’m absolutely buzzing with that!

WATCH: Arsenal 1-2 City: Highlights

“To go into 2022 11 points clear is amazing. I’ve said all along that the games against Chelsea and Liverpool will define which way the season goes and as it stands, we’re 11 points clear.

“Chelsea come here [to the Etihad Stadium] in mid-January but we just have to match their results and with the squad we’ve got, we’re more than capable of doing that.”

Rodrigo’s last-gasp winner in North London edged an enthralling encounter packed with incident, including successful and unsuccessful penalty appeals, a crucial goal-line clearance and a red card for Arsenal’s Gabriel.

VAR was called into action for the spot-kick shouts and while referee Stuart Attwell’s conclusions divided opinion, Dickov believes the decisions were correct.

“Wow, what a second half!” he reflected. “It had everything – a penalty, a sending off, a goal-line clearance, a late winner…

“I’m not a big fan of VAR but it worked for us. [For the Arsenal penalty claim] I was worried at the time but when slowed down [on a replay] it was a good tackle from Ederson,

“if it was a centre-back, we would say: ‘What a good tackle.’ It set the tone for the game as Arsenal grew in confidence and put the pressure on.

Arsenal v City: Full-match replay
WATCH: Arsenal v City: Full-match replay

“It was the right decision [to award a penalty for Granit Xhaka’s foul on Bernardo Silva].

“You have to give the referee credit – and I don’t usually like doing that! He’s gone over and seen the screen, realised he’s made a mistake and given the penalty.

“I think Xhaka was saying Bernardo went down too easily but it doesn’t matter. I thought there were two fouls in one: when Bernardo chopped back, he’d done him and he left his leg there, which has clipped Bernardo and then the pull [of the shirt].

“You have to give Riyad [Mahrez] a lot of credit. There was a good four or five minutes before the penalty was taken and there were players around him – [Aaron] Ramsdale kicking the penalty spot and Gabriel trying to make divots – but he was the coolest man on the pitch and it was a great finish for the penalty.

“I used to love taking penalties but when you get a penalty, you want to get the ball down and take it as quick as you can – the last thing you want is a delay – and there must have been a delay of five minutes with everything else that went on, but it shows the great mentality he has to finish it the way he did.

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“You wouldn’t have said he was one of our main players a couple of years ago but he has added a lot of goals and assists to his game and become one of our most important players.”

Dickov also reserved praise for defender Joao Cancelo, who completed an impressive 90 minutes despite having been subjected to a burglary and assault with his family a matter of days ago.

The former City striker acknowledged Cancelo’s incredible mental strength, hailing the Portuguese full-back as the best in the world.

“It just shows you what sort of character he is,” Dickov added. “It is very traumatic for it to happen but all credit for him to play.

“He is just phenomenal. I think he is the best full-back. Gary Neville came out and said Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and [Andrew] Robertson are the best two full-backs in the world but Cancelo is better.”

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