It’s time for part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-Aston Villa press conference from Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the midweek Premier League meeting at Villa Park.
Manchester City will be hoping to record their first win in the Premier League in around a month, following three successive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham around the November international break.
In a contest largely marred by controversy and anger following a late officiating blunder at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw against Tottenham on Sunday afternoon despite Jack Grealish’s late goal to put them 3-2 ahead in the game.
Dejan Kulusevski’s late headed goal, aided by some far from convincing defending from the Manchester City back-line, meant the reigning Champions would come into the midweek clash with Aston Villa in third position in the league table.
As for Unai Emery’s side, they have the golden opportunity to leapfrog Manchester City within the UEFA Champions League places with a win on Wednesday night, currently sitting just one point behind Pep Guardiola’s players in fourth place.
Speaking during the embargoed section of his press conference looking ahead to the trip to face Aston Villa on Wednesday night, here is every word from the Manchester City boss at the City Football Academy.
On whether the passion shown against Tottenham shows a desire and hunger that they really care
“I don’t need that, for the last action, to see it.You see how we behave… there is a pattern… Here the analogy is when you lose it’s immediately the complacency, that you don’t have character, and when you win it’s because you still are hungry. It’s beyond that.
“I think the way we behaved in the last two games against two top sides, and I said, ‘Ok we are there. We are there!’ I would like to know how it should be, the reaction, when that happens (Simon Hooper’s decision) in the last action. I said afterwards, we didn’t lose for that action. Maybe Jack (Grealish) doesn’t score, who knows that?!
“Always I grew up, in the Barcelona academy, and Barcelona (first-team), to not find much there in these kind of things. But I would like to know from the Premier League or whoever, how should you react in that situation when you are close to winning a tough game, because we want to be there, because I have the feeling that still we want to compete against the top sides – how should the players not react?!
“Ok, I’m sorry, the laws say we cannot talk and stay at home, and nothing happens. It’s a human instinct; now the players here, now, will not react in that way, but in that moment? Someone tell me. We will be fined? It’s fine! What else… I shouldn’t react sometimes, and I promise you, all of us, we are here in this room, in this auditorium, if you are a football player, and that happens, you will react in that way. But it happened 20 years ago, 40 years ago, and it will happen in 40 years.
“Of course you have to respect the referees, come on! Tell me one player who doesn’t want to respect the referee, tell me one! Or managers! But it’s emotions, it’s feelings. And sometimes, okay, it’s a lot, yeah. But it happens because… the referee knows exactly, ‘Oh what happened, what have I done?!’ But it’s a mistake from me first, nothing happened, okay that’s all. We can apologise, they didn’t apologise, we can apologise, and we do it. We don’t want to do it, if it happens, it happens. But I don’t understand how it should be different, honestly. I understand my players, completely.”
On whether he has spoken to the PGMOL, or whether there has been an explanation for the incident
On Manchester City conceding late goals
“Yeah that is true, it happens a lot in the last games against Chelsea, Liverpool, and (Tottenham). Yeah we could close (the game) before, by scoring more goals, and after when it’s open in that league, in the last minute everything happens.
“We didn’t avoid the cross, we didn’t defend well the far post, also the cross is good from (Brennan) Johnson, (Dejan) Kulusevski attacked well, he made a good goal with his shoulder. Football is sometimes like that! You have to accept it, and yeah it happens in some periods. In eight years, some periods it happens, in some moments you have to try to break it and start to win games.”
On whether it is about not killing teams off by scoring more goals
“No, sometimes we want to score more goals, sometimes we are not able to do it, and we are tight. And what is the way? Defending deep a lot of times, or continuing to press? It was an action where he was quick, it happened. We play against top sides, they have the ability to score, to do it, and that’s all. But the players know it, we know it, and try to improve.”
On whether he is surprised by thoughts of pundits like Gary Neville, who used the word ‘complacency’ to describe City’s performances
“No I don’t have anything to say about the pundits, honestly. It’s not about that. Honestly, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s about complacency. Honestly. I know those players, I know how we run, I know how we behaved, it was extraordinary. I have the feeling that if we maintain that level, we will win the Premier League. We will win it… again. He knows how difficult it is, otherwise Gary Neville would have won four Premier Leagues (in a row) in the best period of Man United, and he didn’t do it.
“Maybe he knows complacency, but I see my team how is the back line, how we fight, how we press, how we continue at the end, how upset they are after conceding goals, how we react, everything – I don’t have that feeling. But maybe, maybe, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they see everything that I’m not able to do, to see. But I don’t have that feeling, honestly. Normally when that happens, when you lose or drop points, people say, ‘You drop points against Chelsea, against Liverpool, against Tottenham – what a disaster! Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham!’ What do people expect? We’re going to win 120 points, we’re going to be 20 points in front?
“Of course our behaviour in some moments, after winning the Treble and three Premier Leagues in a row, sometimes we need this; how we defend the cross to be more aggressive, how we attack the ball, the little details, the long ball to Manu Akanji against a Leipzig player who won the duel and scored the goal, yeah that’s the details – it happens. It comes because we won a lot. And that’s why we talk a lot, guys, still we have to try to be there.
“But I saw how we pressed Tottenham, the first and second-half against Liverpool, even against Chelsea in the bad moments there. I don’t have that feeling of, ‘Yeah, how good we are, playing football like we’re a little bit naive, how good we are and don’t respect opponents’, not at all! I don’t have that feeling. But maybe they have more experience, but not even him (Gary Neville), not even Jamie Carragher, of course, because he didn’t win once, Micah Richards, and all the (pundits)… no one won four Premier Leagues in a row.
“Never, ever, no team in England! So when that happens, normally you have more chance to not happen than happen, no? Because the Treble, just once (before), we’re the second team – it’s so difficult to do again, and again, and again, and again, and again! We don’t have, like other teams have, we never done it for many, many, many years. When you try to come back in certain moments, it’s more difficult. But what am I feeling? It’s so difficult to maintain the level from Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham. It’s so difficult! If we are able to do it, we are going to win (the Premier League).
“But it’s so difficult, I’m not sure we are going to be able to do it. But this is the target! The is the target to the players to maintain that level that we are playing. I’d signature right now to play the level from Liverpool and Tottenham, I’d sign it right now until the end of the season, every single game, right now. I’m not saying we won 4-0, 5-0, we draw and we draw, I’d sign right now. My team, I see, play and behave the way we played these Two. Last. Games. And my players feel like that, and I think my opponents feel like that. But will we be able to sustain that all season? Hm, I don’t know.
“But that is the challenge. But if tomorrow, and we lose on Sunday, and we go six points, six points, carry on, keep going, keep going, this is so long. Try to arrive in March, April being there in all competitions. This is the target we’re going to do, but I’m very, very, very pleased with the team, very, very pleased. And I said right after Liverpool, right after Tottenham, sometimes I have to talk with the team and say, ‘Oh I’m 100% certain that what I feel, I’m going to tell them’, and when you’re not 100% it’s better to shut-up, go home, and maybe the day after or tomorrow we’re going to talk. In those two days, I say, ‘Guys, heads up! Go in the media, and defend, and be proud of what you have done because there are no regrets’.
“But if you make a result, and you don’t win, you have a complacency, cause-effect, OK, I cannot say anything. If we lose semi-finals, I don’t have character. Many times I listen in seven, eight years, never. It’s like saying for example, ‘You want to make a dig to Mikel (Arteta)!’ I don’t want to make a dig to Mikel, it’s a little bit of a joke, maybe the people don’t get it. If I want to say something to Mikel, I promise you, like it was one week ago, we speak to each other, I talk to him.
“Mind games?! Mind games is to play better than the opponents. Mind games is there; to defend better, and play better – that is it. Mind games is after 10, 15 minutes you have the ball and chances, chances, the opponent is affected by the mind games because you are much better than them. Managers control the emotions of the players, before and after, no chance. I come here to use my press conference to do mind games to the opponents? To beat Aston Villa is to play better than them. Start the game, and play better – this is mind games!
“The others is believing something that you cannot control. I’m really pleased with my team, really, really, really pleased. And I would love… I have the feeling we dropped points, yeah, we were close against Chelsea, at 4-3 you have to close it. We defended them really bad in that moment, really bad. Against Liverpool, we had – not a lot of chances because against Liverpool it’s so difficult to have enough chances to kill it, but (Trent) Alexander-Arnold close to the box, he can take the weapon and shoot the gun, it’s difficult to stop it. Fulham got it too. Against Tottenham, what we have done in the first-half, even in the second-half, the chances that we had, what can I say to my team after what we had come from?
“Maybe they accused us of complacency because they FELT this complacency in the first season that we won the Premier League, maybe they felt it?! This team, so far, I don’t know tomorrow or on Sunday, I don’t know in the next games, but now? No chance. How we behaved against Young Boys, how we behaved against Red Star; you have to be humble enough against them, in the Champions League, as the winner, to behave in that way. And I like it! I’m in love with my team, for many years, and still I am!”
“Do you think you need another question after I did this speech?!”
“The questions of Jack (Gaughan) are so special, all the time. That’s why! *winks*”
On what will stop Manchester City from maintaining that level; physical, mental, injuries
“Next game! Next game, Aston Villa, what do we have to do; analyse the good things that they do, what we have to do. Next game! But I like to live to do it again, I like to live. Every morning I wake up, I go there and say we’re going to do it again. I like it, I like that feeling. And I would not say that when I see the team (going down). Maybe we go there!
“From now on, maybe go there and we don’t lift it (the Premier League). It happens. It doesn’t happen, we come back next season. So, what can I do? I’m pretty sure we’re not going to win, in the next 10 decades, 10 Premier Leagues in a row. I’m optimistic, but not idiot. This is not going to happen! Sooner or later we are not going to win the Premier League.
“I said many times to my hierarchy, ‘Guys that is exceptional what we have done so far, in these years it is the exception, in this country!’ In this country, it’s so difficult, so accept it. But how we saw the team with the problems that we have that changed the core of the team, the midfield players that we have is completely the opposite that we have in the last seasons, to change many things and still we are quite stable, create more chances and concede few to the opponent.
“At the end, by average we create more chances, concede fewer than the opponents, okay we are in a good path. Normally I still have the feeling, maybe I’m wrong, that if you have more chances than the opponent, you have more chances to score goals than the opponent. If you concede few chances to the opponent, you have more chances to concede less goals than the opponent. It’s a question of average. But that is not 10 to 10, that happens the opposite. But what happens; I try to analyse the performance, not just the results, and they have been more than decent, I would say.”
On whether the team who wins the Premier League this season will need a lot fewer than 100 points
“I don’t know. Maybe when there are just one or two contenders, maybe you have to do what we have done with Liverpool for many years, maybe you need it. But when there are four, five, six teams like every team is fighting for that, you drop points. But honestly, I don’t know.”
“But that depends on the standards that you have. These are the standards that you have. When you won the Treble, three draws is chaos. When your standards are lower, and the previous season is not fighting for the Champions League or you are not qualified for the Champions League or you are there, after that it’s less important.”
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