Saturday 18 January 2020

Guardiola shakes things up to get City feeling the love

'Pep Guardiola has made tough selection calls at previous clubs, including the exclusion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho at Barcelona'. Photo: Nick Potts
'Pep Guardiola has made tough selection calls at previous clubs, including the exclusion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho at Barcelona'. Photo: Nick Potts

Jamie Jackson

Pep Guardiola has acknowledged that keeping his 30-man Manchester City squad happy will be impossible, saying the only reason players ever criticise him is because they are not being chosen.

Guardiola's team host West Ham United today, looking to extend their 100pc Premier League record and having also won both legs of their Champions League play-off. The results have come against a background of City's manager deciding Joe Hart is not good enough to be the No 1 and giving Yaya Toure only one start. That was in Thursday's Champions League second leg against Steaua Bucharest, with City 5-0 up from the game in Romania, and the midfielder has not been included in any other match-day 18.

Guardiola has made tough selection calls at previous clubs, including the exclusion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldinho at Barcelona, and Xherdan Shaqiri at Bayern Munich.

Shaqiri said recently Guardiola can be a coach who praises a player publicly yet does not select them. However, the manager said: "I spoke with Shaqiri but cannot say every weekend why you don't play. You don't play because I decide to play another one but I try to help them. In my career I help few players or enough players but some criticise you to the media. They go to the media because they did not play. That is the only reason. So when they speak it is [like when] Pep doesn't play Shaqiri. I would like to have only 18 players. It would be a dream because everyone is happy but unfortunately there are injuries, unfortunately we have to compete every three days. In Germany they have a winter break, here not. We have all the competitions here: four; so many games, and need a bigger squad. But always we are polite with the players, always.

Read More: Pep Guardiola: Joe Hart is a legend of Man City but it's impossible to keep everyone happy

"We respect their careers but sometimes I take the decisions and the players who don't play, they are not happy they are not playing but they are not happy for one reason, they feel: 'The coach don't love me.' They don't feel loved.

"That is the reason why. Players [don't] understand: 'Why the coach love this guy and don't love me? Why?' It is true, you deserve to play. I said many times in the press conference, you deserve to play. All of them, 30 players, you deserve to play. Nineteen players don't play, so tell me how you handle that? It is impossible. Especially if you have many relationship minutes, training sessions with them to develop, to understand what you want to do.

"You have to communicate so that they believe: 'I am going to play because I created a [good impression],' and that is the goal."

Guardiola has asked Sergio Aguero to start closing down opposition players and he is happy to do so. "Pep has changed the way we have been playing in previous years," the striker said. "In my case, he's very demanding of me. I need to be the player who starts the pressure and with my pressure the rest of the team-mates will join me and keep up the pressure. I'm happy to do that. I'm still getting used to it. I need to keep improving.

Read More: UEFA confirm dramatic new changes to Champions League format

"Also, to me his arrival is great because with his way of playing I'll have more chances to score. I always respect the style of play every manager has. I try to adapt myself about what the manager wants as fast as possible. Pep has brought a way of play he has always used. We need to get used to it and I'm also enjoying the new concepts he's teaching us."

Despite his glittering CV and City's flying start, Guardiola tried to downplay his role. "It is not about me," he said. "I can't decide the games. The referee whistles and I move my hands but it is them [the players]. I am so happy [for example] that Raz [Raheem Sterling] can play and show his talent but when you go left-right, you go left-right, you go to receive in the middle, it is like that in dribbling: do you think my info is in there?

"Maybe I can say: 'If you stay here, you receive the ball more often or today you move in that area and you go right to left, you have problems to defend his right side.' I can help, we can help Raz and the other guys. Football belongs to the players. I am here to help but sometimes it is impossible."


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