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The future of Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar Bobb, Xabi Alonso to Liverpool – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Luton press conference part two



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Manchester City are seeking a place in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals as they travel to Kenilworth Road in the fifth round of this season’s competition.

It was a comfortable rout over Championship strugglers Huddersfield Town that opened up the defence of Pep Guardiola’s trophy defence in the tournament this season, teeing up a clash with Tottenham Hotspur away from home.

The visit to North London would however mark Manchester City’s first-ever goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Nathan Ake’s late strike sending the club’s staggering 9,000 travelling fans into delirium on a Friday night in the capital.

That brings us to this week when Manchester City take on Luton Town, with Rob Edwards’ side having caused the reigning Premier League champions plenty of problems in their meeting earlier this season.

Goals from Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish ultimately turned the scoring around after the Hatters took the lead in the first-half, avoiding a major shock from the English top-flight’s newcomers prior to the turn of the year.

Speaking ahead of Manchester City’s second meeting with Luton this season, and with a third and final clash still pending, Pep Guardiola has been speaking at length to the media at the City Football Academy on Monday afternoon.

Here is every word from part two of Pep Guardiola’s media address!

On whether Jurgen Klopp leaving Liverpool makes life easier at Manchester City and makes him want to stay longer

“No… Of course, Liverpool will hire – I’m pretty sure – a good manager, but lose an exceptional manager. The influence in Liverpool’s organisation and on the team is obvious, it’s there. But I see Arsenal, and I see what is going to happen with (Manchester) United, and Tottenham will be stronger, Aston Villa, look what happened in Newcastle and next season will be better because they will learn about what happened and what it means to play every three days during 11 months.

“They were not used to it in the past, it’s the first time, and you have to earn this experience and the decision making. So absolutely not will it be (easier). Every season is tough, and I think next season will be tougher.”

On Manchester United falling apart after Sir Alex Ferguson left, and that could happen at Liverpool

“I don’t know… I have no idea, honestly.”

On whether Kevin De Bruyne is OK to start games

“Yeah. (A little bit of a concern?) No. The beginning of his restart is completely different to Erling (Haaland), who needed time because it was a bone (injury). A muscular, five-month injury and we start to make minutes and minutes in the first two or three games and starts to play two, I don’t know exactly, from the beginning.

“And after he made a little, little setback of ‘niggles’ and said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable, a knock, and I have something in muscular’. And that’s why. And the game we played against Bournemouth, for the way they play, I decided for him to maybe stay on the bench and go in the second-half. And we’ll see tomorrow (against Luton). But he’s fine.”

On whether Luton is a possibility for a Jack Grealish start

“Yeah, it’s possible. Normally when we play Saturday to Tuesday, with the demanding schedule in the past, I don’t decide the line-up and everything and I’ll see in today’s training; eyes, talking a little bit with them, the feeling to line-up. Since then I don’t take a decision, never ever.”

On his thoughts on Jack Grealish prior to injury

“He started a little bit late, but in the last month Jack (Grealish) is back in terms of many things. And that’s why he played an important game in the Champions League in Copenhagen. Otherwise, when you play in the Champions League when you make a bad minutes, you can be out. But unfortunately it was a setback after 10 or 15 minutes, but he recovered quick and he’s back.”

On Manchester City winning more away games already this season than the whole of last season – why

“I don’t know why. We try to do the same last season as this season. And in the games we dropped points here (at home), we deserved to win most of them. And since Tottenham, and Liverpool, and Crystal Palace we were outstanding in all three games and we couldn’t win so maybe we missed these points.

“But away for example at Bournemouth, second-half they were a little bit unlucky, they could draw. Sometimes the balance of the Premier League and the long leagues, always they give you the position that you deserve.”

On the resilience to hold out at Bournemouth and win shows the players are still motivated

“Absolutely! I told you many times, I said from the beginning, September or October and people say we are not consistent enough, we are not doing that, and I was completely disagreeing. They can do it because I enjoy a lot being here in front of you defending my players when I see what they do. For me, they can do to me personally, I proved it for many years.

“Are you going to change the way you play because you are in England, in the first season when we didn’t win? What happened with that, trying to me, it’s not a problem. But when I see the players playing in that way, and it was they were inconsistent in the beginning, and they were already there, I said, ‘Hmm it’s not true’. And they proved it again! So that doesn’t mean we’re going to win, who knows that?

“Look at the quality of our opponents here and in Europe, look at Inter Milan now, they’re flying in Italy, and last season it was, ‘Ah Inter Milan in the Champions League…’ We knew it, how tough, look at now, they’re going to win the Italian league if nothing wrong is going to happen and next time it’s winning three or four goals a game, in the Champions League they beat a tough, tough, incredibly tough opponent like Atletico Madrid in the first-leg. So everything is really, really difficult.

“That is why my message is always don’t take it for granted. Don’t listen to the people saying, ‘No City is going to win’ in September, October, ‘Going to win their fourth (Premier League title in a row)’. No don’t take it for granted, don’t believe these comments, don’t believe them, they are not here. So it’s so difficult to continue to be up there. Yesterday I saw an incredible final in the Carabao (Cup), congratulations to both teams, it was an incredible game, a transitional game, chances for both teams, incredible spirit.

“I remember when I arrived, Brian Kidd told me, ‘Ah Carabao Cup, don’t pay attention, play the young players, nobody cares, Carabao Cup, eugh, Sir Alex Ferguson was always, eugh it doesn’t matter’. Phwoar, I don’t know what happened in the last years, it looks like the final of any competition. This is the truth. Today, everyone and every team plays for win, win, win, and win. It’s really, really tough to continue to be there, and yeah we want to continue for one more month, and we’ll see after.”

On loving to prove people wrong

“I love it, I love it. As much as they doubt, the better it will be for us. We need that!”

On the potential impact of Jack Grealish when fully-fit and fully-focussed

“Hopefully the impact that he had last season, it depends on him… It depends on him. And all of them, you know. I try to be fair in my decisions and making mistakes but… So if he plays a lot, a lot of minutes last season and this season a little bit less in the beginning, it’s the same player, same manager, the same way that we want to play. It’s the same, nothing changes.

“It’s just how you perform, that is the difference. And we need him, I said from day one, we need him. He has a special quality for our team, we need him. It depends on him, and hopefully he can do a good last three months.”

On whether Jack Grealish needs to play three/four matches in a row to get the best rhythm

“But everyone, I cannot give them three or four games to take rhythm. They have to take rhythm to play 20 minutes or 90 minutes. In the high level, the people and the team, not managers, the team doesn’t wait for you to be fit! It’s up and downs and why last season was all the time up and this time it’s up and downs. This is the reason. So you cannot wait for, ‘OK I’m going to give you three or four (games)’ and *claps*, you’ll be fit.

“And the other 70 players, and the other 10 players don’t play, they don’t deserve the three or four players to have the… Of course they deserve it, but that’s not how it works. We have to see in the training sessions and every moment and all details, and after you will be… It’s the same person, it’s the same lovely person, lovely guy, same qualities, and skills. Even having more years you improve what we want and what we need. So the players, they don’t have to convince me, they have to convince themselves that they deserve to play. That is what they have to do.”

On how tough the FA Cup is to win

“A lot! Every time when we win a trophy, ‘Oh how difficult it is!’ And to start again and do it again, not even a single one, today in modern sport – not football, modern sport – to win something is really difficult. Look at the opponents and how good they prepare, how they invest, everything, how well they prepare in all departments. The demand is miles away from when I was, for example, a football player at the beginning. It’s tougher, really, really tough.”

On how he compares the team this month to the team in February 2023

“I don’t remember, Jack (Gaughan)… I don’t remember. I know from a few days ago that we had one more point than last season in the Premier League right now, we had one more point. But Liverpool had more, many, it was seven last season at this stage and now it’s top of the league, and Arsenal had five or six or seven more points than they have right now, and look at how they are playing.

“So that’s why sometimes it’s ups and downs, all the seasons, but we are in quite a similar… You know, Champions League we are there, and FA Cup, a tough draw away at Luton is my feeling for the way they play against (Manchester) United, against Chelsea, against Arsenal, against us, against Liverpool away. But in the Premier League that we won last season, we are one more point right now, so we are the same, quite similar to last season.

“You say February? I don’t remember February how it was, I think we were five or six points behind Arsenal in that period at that time, and I was thinking, ‘Be there because they have to come to at home and maybe at home we can’, and they didn’t take the rhythm that they take in the first-half of the season and made 50 points, otherwise not even by playing incredible we could catch them.

“So right now we are three teams and Aston Villa is there, I don’t know about Spurs and their game in hand, so three teams that are all of them, one point, everything can happen.”

On Oscar Bobb and a new contract

“Yeah, he deserves it, very happy!”

On the most impressive thing about Oscar Bobb

“Application, yeah. Without application he would not be here, his commitment and work ethic and yeah, the most difficult part is now for Oscar (Bobb). Arriving, making an impact, and playing there, it’s the easiest one. The really difficult one is staying there for a long time, and the minutes you play, performing well, to earn more money- MORE MINUTES… money as well, more minutes, and after that is the part that is most difficult. For a young player to arrive and do it, some appearances, millions of players can do it. To be in the Premier League, at Man City, playing there for many, many years, this is the most difficult thing.”

On Kevin De Bruyne links to Saudi Arabia – worried or concerned

“It’s a question for him. I would love that he stays, but I don’t know. I listen, yeah, from some links, but I don’t know if he has an offer, I don’t know if Saudi Arabia wants him, I don’t know. I would love for him to stay here, of course. But everyone is everyone…”

On Xabi Alonso’s ongoing job in Germany and whether he would be a good fit for Liverpool

“It’s a question for Liverpool, and of course I’m not going to answer, because I don’t know the ideas that they have. But if you ask me about the job that he is doing, honestly?! WOW! It’s the only team in modern football that’s unbeaten in all competitions and fighting in that way with Bayern Munich there.

“Now they have the most important part of the season for them. Now they’re in the position that they cannot win the Bundesliga, they can LOSE the Bundesliga because everybody thinks it’s done. And now is the most difficult thing; it’s not done until it’s done. But WOW, not just the way they play, they didn’t lose one game in Europa League, in Pokal in Germany, and Bundesliga, and the way they’re playing…

“So I was so incredibly fortunate to have him for one year and a half, two years and he’s such an intelligent player, so intelligent. (Always see him being a manager?) In that moment? Yeah… There are holding midfielders, they ask you questions and how curious they are about the game, you realise that this guy, if he will retire and will be at home and will be annoyed and nothing to do, and says, ‘OK, I’m going to go back to my business in world football’, and normally holding midfielders like him, (Javier) Mascherano, (Sergio) Busquets – the holding midfielders I had – Rodri, (Ilkay) Gundogan, they will be involved in football for sure, because they have a vision for a global perspective that is different.

“And he was such an incredible, top class player otherwise you cannot play for Liverpool, (Real) Madrid, and after Bayern Munich, and a part of Real Sociedad, you cannot play in these teams if you are not a top class player, an intelligent one, skills and so on, and look. He took a good decisions and I’m so happy for him, he deserves it, he’s a lovely, lovely guy.”