Pep Guardiola has insisted he is a pragmatic manager and pointed to his glittering résumé as evidence.
He espouses an attack-minded ethos and following Manchester City’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester City said he did not “coach tackles”. On Sunday City host Arsenal, whose manager, Arsène Wenger, is often accused of not having the correct balance between attack and defence. It is seen as a key reason why they have not been champions since 2004.
Guardiola was asked if Wenger’s record coupled with his opening few months in English football have shown a need to adjust his own approach. “I am pragmatic. I am so pragmatic,” he replied. “Look at my past, I am so pragmatic. I’m here because I won. I want to win. I’m so pragmatic, guys. Concede few goals and score goals.”
Guardiola’s respect for Wenger is considerable. “He’s the boss, no? The commander-in-chief, the chief for Arsenal. I’m the commander-in-chief for Manchester City. I saw many Netflix series and that’s why [I say this]. Commander-in-chief and colonel, I use a lot. I like his way of football.
“He has been there a long time. What happens at a club such as Arsenal, it’s because a person is doing a good job. I understand it’s not easy to win the Premier League but I have a lot of respect about his career. I’ve said many times I admire the way he tries to play and especially the quality of the players they like and they buy.”
City responded to the defeat at Leicester by winning 2-0 at home to Watford on Wednesday. Guardiola was asked if the team’s defensive problems were over and he again pointed to how City have to defend as a team. “I know a clean sheet is not just as a consequence of the back four,” he said. “The players who ran the most in the last game [Watford] were David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
“The players who ran the most were those two guys. That is the principle. What I am looking for the next time is that Kevin and Silva and those kind of players help us to defend quite well.
“Watford – it was really impressive, the quality of their strikers. We conceded two chances. One was offside, the other was so clear. That happened against Middlesbrough and we drew. That happened against Everton and we drew. And that could happen again against Watford.
“The guy could score a goal and it could finish 1-1, and then it’s the same as what happened before. But Kevin, Raheem [Sterling] and David helped us to make the clean sheet possible. Now we have to create a good buildup, a good moment with the ball, to help our back guys, to help our strikers to score more goals. That is what we have to try.”
Ilkay Gündogan will miss the rest of the season after tearing the cruciate ligaments in his right knee against Watford. The midfielder was in tears, clearly suggesting a serious injury. City have confirmed the 26-year-old, who cost £20m from Borussia Dortmund in June, requires surgery.
“It is so difficult for him,” Guardiola said. “We are sad for him. We are going to miss him a lot. A lot. He’s unlucky, sometimes football is like this. We don’t have Ilkay or Fernandinho [suspended] so we have to adapt.”
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