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Macaroni pasta, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez messages, celebrations planned – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Luton Town press conference part two



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Manchester City travel to newly-promoted Luton Town on Sunday afternoon as they look to end a run of four Premier League games without a win.

Criticism has come in abundance in the days that have followed Pep Guardiola’s side’s last outing in the English top-flight, after they were beaten 1-0 by Unai Emery’s Aston Villa in a midweek contest.

A single goal from Leon Bailey, deflected off of Ruben Dias in the second-half, deservedly awarded the Birmingham club all three points, in a match that saw the hosts record 22 shots on goal and City just two, with no shots after the 11th minute.

Things don’t get any easier for the reigning Premier League champions this weekend however, as they travel to face Rob Edwards’ men on Sunday, with the Hatters coming into the clash having taken plenty of encouragement from an enthralling 3-4 defeat to Arsenal.

Ahead of Sunday afternoon’s showdown at Kenilworth Road, here is every word from part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-match press conference with the media at the City Football Academy on Friday afternoon.

On whether he still thinks the Manchester City squad have the ability to chase teams down

“I’m able. I have a lot of trust in myself, I’m sorry. I will help the team. I don’t know how, but I will help the team to come back in our position and the team, absolutely (they have the ability). Will it be enough? I don’t know, because the contenders are so strong.

“The consistency of Arsenal over two years has been amazing, Liverpool is back, I knew it from day one, for many reasons, the character is still there because being with Jurgen (Klopp), always is happens. Look, all the other teams. We saw the quality, every team has… Look at the results, Aston Villa were much better than us, they should have lost at Bournemouth. I saw the game before at Bournemouth, they should have lost, yes or yes, and they draw in the 91st or 92nd minute. This is the competition.

“Look at Tottenham, they lost against West Ham at home, so many things are going to happen. That’s why we have to be ready, and you have to have the feeling – I want that from my team – if we are able to win in Luton, the people have to be incredibly happy, to realise how difficult it is. We have to come back, so FA Cup here, Huddersfield, if we are able to win it in January, you have to celebrate it, internally say, ‘WOW! We did it!’ And when you win a lot it’s, ‘Another macaroni pasta today to eat’. The last six months, just macaroni, macaroni. You have to realise, no it’s difficult.

“And when you realise in Luton you won, wow how difficult, that is when we’re in the good way, and give credit to that. It’s no need to win the semi-finals of the Champions League to be, ‘Oh how good we are!’ No, in that moment is what we have done all the time. Give credit to every game, and every game have satisfaction that we have done it. And we have to recover that.”

On whether recent results have also given himself a ‘kick up the backside’

“They have it! I have it. I said before, I need that. Also, I won a lot, personally with the team, a lot. And I need that. I need to step back to realise, ‘Oh Pep, come on! Wake up! There’s something wrong, make a good analysis with your people, look at what happened, why we are not able to win four games when before playing even worse than now we were able to win games. Come on!’ So, always myself I have to realise.

“It’s a good warning for me as a manager. If I will not be able to do it, the Club will decide what they have to do. Here you have to get results. But I never think about it, all my career, here in eight seasons, that every season is exceptional and perfect and winning all the games, winning the Trebles. I said many times, before was the exception, and everyone has to realise it.

“In this business, it’s so difficult because the competition is so high. That’s why it’s the best league in the world. Look at Sky with the new deals for the clubs, broadcasters, how many monies is it. They go to the clubs, and the clubs want to spend money on the good players, and every season will be better, and better, and better, and that’s why it’s so fascinating. That’s why we’re here! Because it’s nice. But this is results, and if you don’t get results you have to reflect what happened, with the players, with the managers, with people.

“But still we didn’t lose competitions, except for the Carabao Cup, we won one title already this season, we’re going to be on the verge of fighting for another title, and the competition, we are there. It’s not lost. Six points is, ok, it’s a bit concerning because Arsenal, but you have to start to be worried but it’s not the end of the world. That’s why be positive in our minds and show me really, really that you want to accept the challenge and embrace the challenge, this is what I want to see from myself, with the club, with the team, if we are ready to embrace.

“And I said to them many times, ‘If you expect in that moment to stay 10 points ahead after the Treble with the change we had especially in the core of the team, in the midfield or whatever, more proper holding midfielders, midfielders now have more of strikers when we play with Julian (Alvarez) and Phil (Foden) in that positions are more there (direct to goal), it’s not about what’s going to happen, midfield players we have another type, so that needs time’. I knew it.

“So if you think we’re going to be 15, 16, 17 points behind the second one, not even for one second. If that is the reality, how we react to that. How? Me first, and the others how we react. How? ‘Ah, disaster, we’re going to lose’. This is the way? I say, ‘Ok, let’s go!’ This is what I want to see with my team, and I don’t know, because so far, especially in the last game we were not able to do it.”

On how Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes react to adversity, and whether they want to be the ones who stand up and make a difference

“No man, in those cases it was because they were injured for the last two, three, four weeks. It’s not about that. They behave good, and Mateo in the first six, seven games he played was exceptional, the way he played. Really, really good. And Matheus in the first games the impact was incredible. They will be important players for us, I’m pretty sure of that, and of course we have to help him and he has to give us that chance.

“But always we have the tendency to, when we lose games, think about if we are hungry, or consistency, or still they are complacent – I don’t believe one second for that. For me as a manager, I will say, ‘Ah we lost a game? You don’t run! You don’t fight! You have complacency! You don’t have character!’ That’s so simplistic. There are many, many other reasons. I put in the last one. If that happens, I have a real problem, I was not able to make them feel alive or feel in a football game to do it.

“And I said many times, I never found a football player when they go out on the pitch they don’t want to do well, they don’t want to run, or they don’t want to fight, or they don’t want to be positive for the team or for the success. Never, ever found a player (like that). They don’t want to play in front of 60,000 people and play bad, thinking there’s 60,000 people looking at me thinking, ‘How bad I am!’ There’s not one person in the world that that can happen to.

“There’s always many reasons, never ever it’s for that. But sometimes after winning, you want to try to do it but this extra you don’t do it for what. Because you won a lot, and you need a punch in your face, you need it! I’m telling you, will we be able to overcome a situation? I don’t know. When the people say, ‘Oh we’re going to happen tomorrow and after we’re going to win 12 games in a row’, I don’t know! I don’t know how we’ll react, but that is the challenge to see the team, and they have to find it, the right words, the right training, the right message, the right selections, the right way we play, to do it, because I’m the boss!

“If I’m the boss, I have to help them, and they need me, and I have to be there. I have to be there. That’s why it’s a challenge for me, I need that too. Or maybe the complacency was the manager, not the players? Why not? Maybe the guy who’s relaxed is the manager, not the players. Why not? So I have to also react myself. When it’s four games without a win, and it’s never happened before, something wrong I’ve done. I don’t know what, but something wrong I’ve done.”

On his response to Jurgen Klopp’s comments about not writing off Manchester City

“Jurgen knows that if that happened to us in this period, in this short period in two, three weeks, it can happen. He knows that. If it was Man City? Man City can have a bad period, also they (Liverpool) had a bad period last season, but the mentality of the club, Liverpool, is there. He knows it can happen, because doing the same can happen.

“The human beings change, private life changes, the bad moments are there. I never believe in the big compliments, and I never believe in the bad, bad, bad situations. In football, in sport, in life the most difficult thing is when they say, ‘Oh they win, and win, and win, and do it!’ And we have done it. Because for many years, we are the main favourite, the main candidates to win everything, we were there.

“And when we were out in the semi-finals of the Champions League, oh it’s a big disaster. This was our levels. What they demand to us, they don’t demand to the other ones my friends, at all! The only team who is going to fail if they don’t win the Premier League is us. The rest? It’s a big success, any team. And at the end, they don’t win Arsenal, they don’t win Liverpool, they don’t win Chelsea, they don’t win everything, ‘It’s normal, City should win’. Ah it’s unfair, it’s difficult, huh? To handle that in every week, in every three days, doing it over years and years.

“It’s an exceptional the other ones, the other ones now is… But that position, it’s normal my friends, it’s normal. In sport, you have a period, seasons, that this can happen. Just take a look at our contenders and our rivals. Just win once. What’s important is to be there, and to be there we have to continue that.

“But the reality for us to handle that after winning, sometimes it’s not easy, with the problems that we’ve had, with the important players injured, with the new players coming. I wanted (Ilkay) Gundo to stay here, I wanted Riyad (Mahrez) to stay here, but they wanted to leave! For a new challenge in life, for family issues or whatever, thank you so much guys, because never it could have happened without you, never, impossible, impossible.

“But, people cannot imagine us being in a bad position like Jurgen said? Of course we can be there! Of course we can lose games and competitions and Premier Leagues. But please, don’t do it about consistency, or because of the complacency, or because they are relaxed, or they are presumptuous – the team is not there! The team is not in that way, we’re so honest and doing it every game.”