Saturday 19 October 2019

Manchester City got lucky at back with makeshift defence – Pep Guardiola

City are currently utilising midfielder Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-half.

Injuries have given Pep Guardiola a defensive headache (Barrington Coombs/PA)
Injuries have given Pep Guardiola a defensive headache (Barrington Coombs/PA)

By Andy Hampson, PA

Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City may have got lucky at the back last week – but is not “crying” over his lack of defensive options.

City are currently utilising midfielder Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-half as John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are both out injured.

Since former captain Vincent Kompany left the club at the end of the last season, the champions have been light in the position, and Nicolas Otamendi is now the only fit senior specialist.

Teenagers Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis provide further options and are in Guardiola’s thinking, but he has been reluctant to expose them in the Premier League.

“I’d prefer to have John Stones and Laporte back,” said Guardiola ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Wolves. “Against Everton we were lucky – Ederson saved us in two or three clear chances.

“But it is what it is. I said when it happened that we couldn’t be crying or complaining and that we were going with the two guys that we had, and the two young players had an opportunity.

“Right now we don’t concede (goals) but tomorrow we could concede five, so the important thing is to concede few chances.

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A tough battle last Tuesday!

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“Against Dinamo Zagreb we didn’t concede a shot on target, and that is our strong point in all competitions. We are a team who, in Europe, concede few, really few chances.

“That is good, but we have to improve so when they get those chances – one, two or three in a game – we have to avoid them being clear, clear chances.

“We have to be more solid but, for a team with this number of incredibly-talented players who are not defensively talented players, it is good.”

As well as being restrained in his use of his young defenders, Guardiola also continues to use Phil Foden sparingly.

The City boss regularly praises the young midfielder but the 19-year-old remains down the pecking order in a star-studded squad and he has featured just four times this season, starting only once.

Guardiola says that is only natural when a team that won the treble last season is again competing on multiple fronts.

He said: “This team needs to win titles and prizes and the process for the young players needs time.

“The best way is step by step for the players (because) the demand for the club is not (just) win the Champions League, but be there all the time in four competitions.

“The talent is there and when they have talent they will play, but at the same time we have to compete every single day to fight with the best teams in England and Europe.

“For that, we need the David Silvas, Kevin De Bruynes, Sergio Agueros, Fernandinhos and all these type of players.

“The young players can help the other ones but it is not possible (to rely on them too much).”

PA Media

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