Pep adamant that City couldn’t be fur­ther from a dirty team

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - PAUL WIL­SON

PEP GUARDI­OLA has launched an im­pas­sioned de­fence of his tac­tics and footballing phi­los­o­phy af­ter Gary Neville ac­cused Manch­ester City of get­ting away with a high num­ber of tech­ni­cal fouls. José Mour­inho made a sim­i­lar point last sea­son but, work­ing as a pun­dit when City beat Tot­ten­ham at Wem­b­ley on Mon­day, Neville sug­gested Guardi­ola’s play­ers were clever at the sort of in­nocu­ous foul that stops the game and pre­vents op­po­nents break­ing quickly. He did not go as far as to sug­gest City play­ers were act­ing un­der in­struc­tions to play cyn­i­cally, but he noted they were good at push­ing the boundaries of what is per­mis­si­ble in de­fen­sive sit­u­a­tions.

“I do not agree with that at all,” the City man­ager said. “We are not a team that goes look­ing for these type of sit­u­a­tions and I would never ask my play­ers to de­lib­er­ately foul an op­po­nent. That never hap­pened at Barcelona or Bay­ern Mu­nich and it will never hap­pen here.

“It is not a se­cret that when we lose the ball we like to win it back quickly and if you watch us play you can see that when the op­po­nents have the ball we are go­ing to push them and press them to try and re­gain pos­ses­sion. As Gary Neville knows very well, op­po­nents are not go­ing to stand still and let you do that, they are go­ing to try to play too, so some­times there will be con­tacts and some­times you ar­rive late.

“I do not say we are per­fect, we do com­mit fouls, and on a pitch like the one Spurs had at Wem­b­ley there might be more con­tact than nor­mal but I don’t think any­one can say we are a team that com­mits a lot of fouls.”

Guardi­ola be­lieves sta­tis­tics would back him up in that re­spect and not just the foul counts but the pos­ses­sion break­down. “You reg­u­larly see us hav­ing about 60 per cent or 70 per cent of pos­ses­sion, be­cause we are a side that likes to keep hold of the ball,” he said. “When you do that you are not go­ing to be us­ing that time to make fouls on op­po­nents, it is im­pos­si­ble. Why would you kick play­ers when you have the ball? We would have to be kick­ing our­selves.

“I can as­sure you, never in my life have I asked my play­ers to use fouls to stop op­po­nents. What I do ask them to do is keep a high line, to keep the ball as far away from our goal as pos­si­ble, and to run back into po­si­tion quickly when the ball is lost. The guy who doesn’t run to sup­port or cover his mate has no chance with me. We don’t al­ways get it right and we have fouls given against us like ev­ery­one else but the ref­eree is there to rule on what is ac­cept­able.”

City’s de­fen­sive sys­tem cer­tainly ap­pears to be work­ing. A free-scor­ing at­tack won most of the plau­dits in last sea­son’s record-break­ing ti­tle cam­paign but this time Guardi­ola seems to have fine-tuned the de­fence. Only three goals have been con­ceded in 10 league games and City go into to­day’s home game against Southamp­ton hop­ing to keep a sev­enth con­sec­u­tive clean sheet.

“I don’t want to sound ar­ro­gant but in the sea­son I was at Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich we were al­ways the team that con­ceded least,” Guardi­ola said. “The clean sheets are of course im­por­tant and we have had many al­ready but what shows our de­fen­sive sta­bil­ity best is how few chances we have been al­low­ing op­po­nents.

“We al­ways be­lieve in de­fend­ing as far up the pitch as pos­si­ble and that is not just down to the back four or five but ev­ery­body in the team. Ev­ery­one makes a big ef­fort to de­fend well, even the strik­ers in mod­ern foot­ball.

“All the big clubs now have qual­ity strik­ers who can score goals but also fight for the ball. The days are long gone when strik­ers would wait for the ball to come to them but have a cof­fee when the op­po­nents are in pos­ses­sion. Nowa­days ev­ery­body fights.”

Guardi­ola is not known as a de­fence-minded coach, quite the op­po­site, though rather sur­pris­ingly he main­tains he puts more thought into that area than any other.

“Over the last 10 years I was al­ways con­cerned and fo­cused on de­fend­ing well, maybe more than any other thing,” he said.

“To at­tack well you need a good de­fence, that’s why I made John Stones and Aymeric La­porte the main tar­gets when I ar­rived. I knew La­porte from Spain and I was im­pressed with the per­son­al­ity Stones showed when play­ing for Ever­ton. The idea now is to keep those two to­gether long-term.

“Look back over the last 20 years and you tend to find that the team that scores the most goals usu­ally con­cedes the least. It’s a bal­ance that you should aim for. If you score a lot of goals and con­cede a lot of goals you are not a sta­ble team.”

John Stones (right) tus­sles with Harry Kane at Wem­b­ley dur­ing the week. The Eng­land de­fender is key part of Pep Guardi­ola’s long-term plans for Manch­ester City

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.