It’s time for part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-West Ham United discussion with the media from Friday afternoon.
Manchester City will look to pick up right where they left off following the first international break of the new season, having established a 100 per cent winning start to the campaign and remaining the only team to have such a record following the opening four fixtures.
City come into the contest with the boost of having Pep Guardiola back on duty, after the Catalan head coach spent the last two Premier League games away from the club while he recovered from surgery on his back in Barcelona.
A meeting with high-flying West Ham United at the London Stadium is the first contest back for Manchester City and Guardiola, in a contest that sees the league leaders and reigning champions take on the UEFA Conference League holders in the capital.
In part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-West Ham press conference, the City boss discussed conversations over Kalvin Phillips’ future, the development of Kyle Walker at the Etihad Stadium, and who he will be voting for in the club’s annual leadership group ballot.
Here is every word from the embargoed section of Pep Guardiola’s pre-West Ham press conference at the City Football Academy from Friday afternoon!
On whether Kalvin Phillips is closer to acclimatising to Manchester City
“First I’m going to say I’m really pleased for the game he played (for England vs Scotland) because he’s an exceptional person and guy and I love, I said many times, to work with that kind of people.
“And of course he didn’t have much minutes in the past, I don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s important for him, for me as well, to have this good performance. Of course, still he can improve because he has the dynamics that came from the complete opposite.
“Stay with us with the lack of players that we have in the squad for now due to injuries, he will be important, he has to be ready.”
On whether it was Kalvin Phillips’ choice to stay at Manchester City
“We talked with him and the club with the chance to maybe go on loan because he did not have a lot of minutes but he decided ‘no, I want to stay’. He is more than welcome. As a good guy who accepts everything and stays, they are welcome. When we finish the transfer window, every player here is part of the family and are going to help.”
On what Phil Foden needs to do to play centrally
“With the ball, he doesn’t have to improve anything. Without the ball, to know exactly when he has to mid-block or go deeper, you have other responsibilities, completely different than when you play wide. But it’s just a question of time because we cannot forget he’s so young.
“But playing inside he has some qualities, in first control, his dynamic, and especially how he attacks the last line – that is difficult to find all around the world. Every control he made, he knows exactly where is the goal. And with his control, he doesn’t need two or three touches to say, ‘Oh I have to attack there’. He knows exactly.
“His first reception, right or left, is always a threat, and this is not easy to find. Phil is special with that. But when you’re in the middle, in the final third, you have to defend the goal and it’s just a question of time, and unfortunately we don’t have much time to train and sometimes you have to prove it just in an idea.”
On whether he needs to work harder defensively
“That’s not the point. Phil runs a lot. He’s not lazy at all. I think he’s not bad at that. He’s bad to read the situations. On the wing, he is there and when the ball is on the opposite side you go inside, and when you go inside they come from right, left, in front, back, and you have to take more positions. But I would say if he’s able to do it with the ball, without the ball it’s easier. It’s a question of time.”
On why Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland are now playing more together
“Well, basically it starts for one reason; Kevin (De Bruyne) is injured. And especially with (Ilkay) Gundo(gan) leaving for Barcelona, we need players to live close to Erling (Haaland) in the sense of goal, not just like Erling.
“When our attacking midfielders live away from Erling, we struggle to score goals, to create chances, and I decide from the beginning without Erling we have to adapt. Not adapt, because I think Julian (Alvarez) behind the striker moves perfectly, he loves it.
“He’s another player who has to improve in simple things; losing less balls, and to continue to do that it’s not easy in the position he plays because the gaps, spaces are minor. But he has an incredible quality and sense to move, and his work ethic without the ball, and his sense of goal, and assist, his impact from the beginning of the season has been huge. And we are very, very pleased.”
On whether he could have afforded to lose that much experience if Kyle Walker left in the summer
“(Shakes head) It would’ve been a problem. After (Ilkay) Gundo(gan), at the end we could not retain him, and Riyad (Mahrez) in the last moment, we didn’t expect he leaves as well. Losing Bernardo (Silva) and Kyle (Walker) would have been a big, big problem. It’s not about the quality of the players, or about their skills.
“We can find quite similar, or different ones can help you. But there are some things like in the locker rooms, that is so difficult to replace. You need time, being here one or two years, these guys have a lot of experience in important moments, important games. Like you are there, you know exactly how you are going to respond in the bad moments, how to make a step forward to the team or for himself. It would have been a big, big loss.
“That’s why as a club we fought to (make them) stay with us.”
On whether there is any surprise in the Kyle Walker from 2017 developing to now
“Of course, everyone grows up. It’s normal. When you arrive and you come from Spurs, and the situation is different, arriving step by step. Especially, he’s a player that when he talks, people listen. It’s difficult to find that. Everyone makes mistakes, but he has an incredible heart, a really nice guy, really, really nice.
“Always tries to help, and always when our players are injured, always calls him. I was at home and he called me twice, ‘How do you feel, Pep?’ Always he takes care of a lot of players, backroom staff. This counts a lot in a group of people. The people say, ‘Oh how good the players are, how good they are!’
“The reason why we have a lot of success is because of the quality of human beings that we have, we have a lot. We have competitors, but sometimes not selfish enough, generous in there and understanding the situations – this is the reason why.”
On whether Kyle Walker is getting Pep’s vote for captaincy
“No, I don’t vote. Never. It belongs to the players, not me. What they decide, I’m fine.”
On whether the level of change seen in the summer transfer window is good after winning
“We have to wait. We’re going to help them, we’ll talk a lot with them in the short time we have, and they have time. First season that he arrived, Bernardo (Silva) didn’t play much and now is irreplaceable for us. So it’s a question of time for Jeremy (Doku). Mateo (Kovacic) knows the Premier League better, Matheus (Nunes) as well. It’s a question of time to adapt, but they will adapt, and they have time. They have time, we have time to wait.”
On whether you can demand more from Kyle Walker because you know him better
“Kyle (Walker), since day one, we had a relationship because I know his character is there, but always accepts everything, always he tries to listen. As much as Kyle is focussed and settled and family life is there, he’s incredible. An incredible player.
“When that happens, it’s not a problem. In seven years, there are highs and lows. We cannot expect all the time being perfect. So it’s not a problem. But all the time, what we’ve seen since last year in the last part of the season, especially this season, every training session he’s incredibly focussed, every game he’s focussed.
“He makes mistakes, it’s part of football. I made a detail, I was at home and the game at Sheffield (United), he made a wrong decision when they equalised, but right after the next two actions came from Kyle on the by-line, and we scored a goal. And it’s, ‘Oh god’, that means what is a top, top player.
“To forget what happened, and to say, ‘Ok I’m going to win the game, go there, attack the action’. Arrive in the final third, one action Julian (Alvarez) shoots over the post, and the next action Rodri scores. That defines the big, big players. When in the good moments, bad moments, to forget it and do it there.
“And I think Kyle has become… anyone here has no doubts that he is a much, much better player than seven years ago when he arrived (at Manchester City). That is clear.”
On his reaction to Kyle saying he was going, versus him saying he’s staying
“When Bayern Munich call you, it’s a big, big, big opportunity. There’s no doubt about that. I was 29/30 years-old, I wanted to have an experience in another country that I was not born (in). I have that feeling I want to in the last years have this experience.
“And you have to respect it. At the same time, it’s not the end of contract like (Ilkay) Gundo(gan). He had one or two more years, Bayern Munich has to call and in that process we did our job to try to convince him to stay, and the benefits to stay. I promise you, it’s not just me, the club was too, but especially something you never see, his mates.
“They said, ‘Kyle you cannot leave, you cannot leave!’ And I think he felt how much he’s loved from everyone, and at the end he decided to stay.”
On Erling Haaland’s self-care
“Well, I would say to the rest of his teammates, to make this treatment and every player is going to score 50 goals. So, guys, we’re going to win the treble again this season, that’s for sure. If the reason why is that, we are lucky.”
On changes in recovery from his playing days
“A lot of difference; the amount of physios, the amount of doctors, the amount of everything, the amount of games – there are much more. And Erling (Haaland) does what every professional player has to do; rest a lot, sleep is the most important recovery part, and after eat well, spend time here, not just the 45 minutes when we train, spend time here with the people.
“It’s the only way. Today, in modern football, it’s the only way. And he’s good, he learned it at his early ages, it’s already in his body, and his mindset, and that helps a lot. Sometimes when you realise you are 29/30 years-old, maybe changing routines is not easy, and I think he lives 24 hours for his job and that’s why, for example in Dortmund, unfortunately for Dortmund and him during his last year he could not play much. Since he arrived (at City, touches wood), he’s playing regularly because he takes care of himself really, really well.”
On whether that is even more important with departures/absences due to injury
“(Erling?) No. Because Gundo is out and Kevin is injured, why should he do something extra special for that? Everyone has to do the best for himself and as much as he does the best for himself, you do the best for the team. There’s no doubts about that.
“We cannot be a guard to say, ‘You have to do this’. At the end, they have to know it. Because otherwise if they don’t do it they will get injured and they will not play. And if you want to stay as long as possible in this business, in the big clubs, you have to take care of yourself, for yourself, you have to know exactly what you have to do. As I said, if young players can do that, that is good.”
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