Pep Guardiola impishly suggested his “ego” was responsible for a confrontation with Jack Grealish following Manchester City’s goalless draw against Arsenal at the weekend.

City drawing a blank at home against one of their Premier League title rivals on Sunday left them a point behind Arsenal and three adrift of leaders Liverpool with nine games of the season left.

At the full-time whistle, Guardiola was filmed in an animated discussion in the middle of the pitch with Grealish, who was brought on just after the hour mark in a fruitless bid to break the deadlock.

While Guardiola patted Grealish on the head before walking away, the episode has drawn plenty of scrutiny, which the Spaniard playfully took aim at ahead of City’s clash with Aston Villa on Wednesday.

“I do it for the cameras, for my ego,” the City manager said. “I’m the famous person of the team, if it’s on camera then I can sleep because I have incredible satisfaction.

“I always try to criticise the players there and let them know how bad they are.

“When Erling (Haaland) scores three goals, the compliments have to be with me, not with them, that’s why I use the cameras to do it. My advice next time is; don’t film us and it will not be a problem.”

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was more serious when addressing the title picture.

After labelling Liverpool as favourites to end City’s streak of three-successive league crowns on Sunday, Guardiola accepted his side were running out of opportunities to reel in and overhaul their rivals.

They overturned an eight-point deficit last season to pip Arsenal to the top-flight title – en route to an historic treble – but Guardiola insisted City’s experience would count for little in this run-in.

“It’s just winning games, that’s what we have to do,” he said. “We have not many chances to drop points but there are still nine games.

“Our experience is over, it doesn’t count. What counts is Aston Villa, before it was Arsenal. When we were able to win lots of games in a row, it’s not thinking how many we would be able to, I don’t know.

“The only thing is to now prepare well for Aston Villa.”

Villa were the last team to beat City in the reverse fixture in the midlands in early December and Unai Emery’s side are targeting a top-four finish.

Guardiola, who confirmed Nathan Ake would join fellow defender Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Ederson on the treatment table after going off injured against the Gunners, is not overlooking Villa’s threat.

Nathan Ake will be unavailable for Manchester City on Wednesday (Peter Byrne/PA)
Nathan Ake (right) will be unavailable for Manchester City on Wednesday (Peter Byrne/PA)

“Aston Villa are playing to qualify for the Champions League and every team is playing for something, so the last games will be difficult to manage for all of us,” Guardiola, who could welcome back John Stones, added.

“It’s excellent, the way they play. Unai Emery has consistency in every season. Villa have been impressive. It’s not a surprise, the quality of him, his management and the quality of the team.

“They’re really good on set-pieces and in transition, with two incredibly fast players up front.

“The shape is really clear, they can be high pressing after defending really well, they have a strong backline and an exceptional goalkeeper. That’s why they are where they are, fighting to be up there.”