Connect with us


Fixture scheduling outrage, love for Liverpool’s Thiago, injury warnings – Every word from part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-Arsenal press conference



| Last Updated:


Manchester City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a contest that has been described as a ‘final’ by the Sky Blues boss Pep Guardiola.

City are hoping to make amends for their defeat in the reverse fixture at the Emirates earlier this season, when a late deflected effort from Gabriel Martinelli issued further damage to a travelling Guardiola side without defensive midfield mainstay Rodri.

Manchester City will continue to have absences this time around, with Kyle Walker and John Stones both ruled out of this weekend’s clash due to injury problems sustained while on international duty with England.

In more positive news, a lengthy fitness concern list has been improved over the last few days, with Manuel Akanji and Matheus Nunes recovering from their own respective problems endured during the international break.

Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne, and Ederson are all back in contention having made significant progress in their own recovery processes during the international break, and at the perfect time for Manchester City with a hectic fixture list on the horizon.

Speaking in part two of his pre-match press conference from Friday afternoon, here is every word from manager Pep Guardiola in a wide-ranging address with national media.

On the advantage previous Premier League title winners/challengers have in future races

“It’s a good question but what I’ve done in the past in sport, in life, the past is the past. You have to win (against) Arsenal, Aston Villa, the next games, and you will not beat them thinking about the past, what you have done. It’s a new day, it’s a new life… you know? The song says like that. So it’s important we have done it.

“But I’m satisfied with what I’ve said; I didn’t expect to arrive after the last international break being where we are. Always you can say after more than 20 years, Arsenal didn’t win the Premier League so they will have something special to prove it. And that is normal. When Liverpool won for many years and a few years ago with Jurgen (Klopp), always it gives you something special.

“Our first league (title) here was something, ‘Oh god, we give every single game to win the first Premier League in our period here!’ So what we have to do is tomorrow is a game and be ourselves with our people. They will bring what we need, I’m pretty sure tomorrow. They will bring what we need, like it happened against (Manchester) United, to try to make a good performance.”

On Rodri seemingly being a reassuring, father-like presence in midfield for Manchester City

“It’s the same with Rodri. The amount of a lot of games and the high-level that he’s playing, of course he’s a really, really important… Listen, in the big clubs when you fight for big issues, big targets season by season, you need incredible, good, good top players and characters, no injuries and all the situations in your favour. And Rodri has proven since he arrived how he grew up in terms of mentality, always has been so strong, and what can I say? I said many times, he’s a really important player!”

On whether Manchester City’s form against the top-six concerns him, and whether City are at their best when there is a ‘question mark’ against their form

“The same when I answered before; the past is the past. It’s the same question. I didn’t know it. I know around these kind of games they have a lot of stats, and normally our stats are good but maybe that is the reality. But if you say the stats about how the way we play in some games, against top (sides), we were really, really good.

“Against (Manchester) United we won both games, against Tottenham and Liverpool at home we played incredibly well, we could not win. It’s another game and I don’t pay attention to whether it is top-six, or top-seven, or the other teams. It’s the same points, one against another one, if you don’t win, they don’t win, that’s why it’s a moment to… you have to win the important games to get the advantage and we’ll try tomorrow.”

On whether that statistic has to change in the coming weeks

“Yeah, of course. To win the Premier League you have to win almost all games, otherwise I don’t think Arsenal, Liverpool is going to drop much points.”

On whether Mikel Arteta’s development and management gives him personal pride

“It belongs to him. All success belongs to him. We were together, I said many times, and it was really good, and it’s a long time ago so… And he’s doing really well. (But you’ve played a big part in his development?) No, I will not say (that). I’m not the right person to answer this.”

On who he would like to win the Premier League this season if Manchester City don’t win

“Yeah of course, I have a friend (in Mikel Arteta) but also Thiago (Alcantara) is in Liverpool and he’s a friend of mine. Honestly, I didn’t think about that for one second. So I don’t know. Who wins is who deserves it, this is what I want. But of course if he wins, I will congratulate him. If he wins, Jurgen (Klopp), I will congratulate him, because they deserve it.”

On how he motivates Manchester City’s players each year, given the players who have been at the Club for many years

“My face, on my face, when they see my face on grumpy days and after they say, ‘Oh, Pep (Guardiola) is a little bit mm mm’, and after… No, I don’t know. I think it comes from themselves. It’s not a question of motivation. You cannot, after eight years, I need to motivate them every three days. It doesn’t work in that way. They have something inside that still they have fire to compete, otherwise we will not be here.

“I said a thousand, million times, the biggest success of this club, organisation is that. After many years, still we are there. People cannot imagine how difficult it is, cannot figure out, not even for one second. To fight for one title you never won for many years is, wow, it’s easy. But now, being here for many, many years, still being there, wow. The benchmark, the new generations in this club, this is really, really, really good. Really good.

“I could not expect, honestly, being here with the problems that we had this season, being in that position right now, and we want to extend it. We want to try to be longer, but this is the most complicated thing. It’s just take a look, in the biggest clubs, biggest teams, and qualifying for the Champions League every season, and (going through) the group stage, and arriving in the latter stages of all competitions, playing in the semi-final of the FA Cup, every Saturday, it’s really good. Really good.”

On going public with ‘happy flowers’ and ‘living like a cat’ – how difficult it is to judge when that is necessary

“But it’s normal. When you win a lot, and some seasons and period you have games like you are (going down). But if I say happy flowers, living soft, it’s one or two games in six years, seven years in one season, that’s exceptional.

“I think the worst game, by far, I can remember is I think Carabao Cup last season against Southampton there, we lost 2-0. That is the worst game I have seen in eight years here, but the rest, even that game we won in that moment with a little tendency but that is our job, my job, stats’ job, to say, ‘Oh guys, this is not the way we are’, and you have to lift again our level, otherwise we will not be there.

“And the players, I know them, they have still, ‘Ok, you want to take our crown? Ok, let’s fight. With our people, let’s fight together, if they are able to do it’.”

On April/May being intense months with pressure games

“Yeah normally it’s critical because it’s the end of the season. So in June, you are on holidays. So that’s why it’s critical… (Yeah, there’s a point to my question!) Laughs

On whether the position of the March international break in the calendar needs rethinking due to the threat of clubs losing players at the worst time of the season

“Yeah sure, but they will not rethink. UEFA has it’s own business, broadcasters have their own business. So I can give my opinion. We play Wednesday against (Real) Madrid in the second-leg here. After, we can play Saturday or Sunday. Coventry, (Manchester) United, Chelsea; they are on holidays for one week. Why do we play on Saturday? Every year we play on Saturday.

“Why don’t they give us one more day when they don’t play, Coventry don’t play Champions League, Chelsea don’t play Champions League or Europa League, United don’t do it. Why don’t we play Sunday, broadcasters? Are we going to fight? The answer: I pay a lot of money. It’s right, so we play Saturday. No sense. And after we play Thursday, why don’t we play Wednesday? It’s Thursday and Sunday, why don’t we play Wednesday? ‘No but you qualified for the next round of the Champions League, and after you play Wednesday.’ Ah, OK. That’s good, that’s good…

“Just understand it from my point of view. Broadcasters have their own decisions, Premier League decisions, I have to defend my club. We play Saturday, of course. We will go to London to play Chelsea, Chelsea will not come here. We go to London, five hours, to go there. We will travel, no problem. We will go there. Because I have experience of that. We play quarter-finals many times in the last years; Wednesday, second-leg, and EVERY time play Saturday. ALL THE TIME. And when you play away…

“We’re lucky we play at home, but we played in Dortmund and arrived Thursday afternoon here, and Friday we take a train or plane to go to London, four or five hours, we arrive in London and we know everyone it’s a lot of time, and play Saturday against Liverpool, Chelsea, or all the incredible teams. We’re exhausted. So we play Aston Villa at 8:15PM, playing 12:30 (against Crystal Palace) Saturday, 12:30!

“And after we go to Madrid on Tuesday, Madrid have nine days to prepare our game, nine days! Playing this weekend, until our game, no plays. And I would like to think, ‘Oh give me one more day’, because one more day the difference is a lot. But there’s no chance. That’s why you ask me about the calendar? I give my opinion, forget about it. UEFA has it’s own business, FIFA has it’s own business, and broadcasters have it’s own business, but I have my own business, and I defend my club.

“And my club is really tough; three days, three days, three days, three days, when the other clubs don’t have that situation. So when we’ve done it in the past, but the calendar has been always like that with us, always! Always they give us less days to recover, and we did it! We did it, but that is only when you have the whole squad. Unfortunately in the next days and weeks it cannot happen.”

On if UEFA/FIFA have their own business, whether UK authorities and decision makers can look at your situation and put the FA Cup game on Sunday

“But they don’t think about that. Do you think they think, ‘Oh City play…’ (In Spain they do?) No, in France they don’t play between the quarter-finals, PSG don’t play between the week because it’s out. They have time to do it. And many (countries), I think in Portugal I don’t know, playing on Friday before a Champions League, we play Sunday at 12:30. (Why do other nations assist their clubs in Europe?) I don’t know.

“And not even do I want to ask, because they will have their own business, their own decisions. I would like to know the answer why all the time it’s Saturday and not Sunday. Why? Because one day is a lot of difference. It’s a lot of difference at this stage with the injured players, with the accumulation of games and games. I would say we are fortunate, we are able to do it. I think Coventry, and with all respect to the guys, but (Manchester) United and Chelsea would love to play in midweek, it’s going to happen in the future in Europe.

“We are fortunate, I don’t want to change the position. But in the same situation, why could we not play on Sunday? We have to go there, they are there, they will not move, we will go, it’s fatigue. The problem is the fatigue. You know good Chelsea are when we played a few months ago here. Honestly, for many years in the stands, I know it’s English, another competition, it’s OK. We do it. I don’t want more advantage than the other one, but not even this disadvantage, and the calendar…

“UEFA as well and FIFA, it’s the problem of amount of games with the World Cup next season at the end of the season. At the end of the season, going to play 32 or 36 teams playing one month or three weeks in the United States. It’s an honour, a pleasure, a lot of money comes for the club, it’s perfect, we will go there. And after, when we start the next season, one or two weeks ago and the holidays for the players, it’s a problem of more competitions, more games, and players fatigue.

“That’s why Kevin (De Bruyne) was five months injured, because he accumulated seasons and a lot of games and we want to win tomorrow, and we want to win Aston Villa, and we want to win Crystal Palace, and competing in Madrid to get a good result when they come here. But three days… I know the players when I give them two/three days off when they come back, fresh. Now, how we prepare for Aston Villa? OK, three days recovery, line-up, play. And after, travel to London, 12:30 and Crystal Palace, play. It’s a lot.

“It’s fortunate because we are in contention there and that is good but when I see Saturday, why?! It’s just put the game on Sunday because we play on Wednesday, and no game for Coventry, United, Chelsea, nothing change. Why, please, Saturday? I would love to know it, but I don’t know. ‘No, because this is an important game,’ it’s an important game?!

“Yeah last season was against Sheffield, and after it was Brighton/United, and we played Saturday as well after we had Champions League. So all the time it’s the same. It is what it is. That’s why when you asked me… No! It’s not going to change, because they have their own reasons, but I make that because we have our own reasons…”

On whether he has looked at Liverpool/Arsenal’s remaining fixtures, or just assume due to their quality they will not drop many points

“Yeah. The experience Liverpool have in this situation, the quality, and Arsenal winning how many games in a row, scoring a lot of goals, the quality they play. So I don’t think so. I know my team when it’s close to the end, wow, they do everything, they will do it too. So that’s why… Tomorrow is the final, absolutely. You play a final tomorrow and yeah, with our people we’re going to do it.”