Sunday 15 September 2019

Pep: We must lift trophies to give value to what we've done

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Photo: PA Wire
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Photo: PA Wire

Jason Burt

The message from Pep Guardiola was unequivocal: I will be judged on trophies.

Guardiola suggested at the end of his first season at Manchester City that his team's style was more important to him than the substance of silverware but, ahead of tomorrow's League Cup final against Arsenal, he was emphatic: it's winning that matters.

"We have to lift titles to give more value to what we have done," Guardiola said.

"When we started (the season), we said the same - that we would be judged on how many titles we win.

"In the big clubs, in the five or six contenders, it's always the same: 'How many titles do you win?'

"We'll be judged on this and for the club it is so important because it is a club that, every year, needs to grow and win titles.

"The first one for any manager at a club matters more than most - even if it is the League Cup."

That first trophy was something Jose Mourinho stressed to his players when he first became Chelsea manager in 2005 and made such a push for the competition and won it. Mourinho did it again last season with Manchester United.

It breeds that winning mentality and, although Guardiola knows City have already all but won the Premier League, this is a huge Wembley occasion.

And, intriguingly, it comes less than a week after his side were knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan Athletic, which ended their hopes of a quadruple.

That FA Cup exit hurt Guardiola, who knows that, should City not triumph at Wembley, it would raise serious questions over their lasting power in a season when they have played extraordinary football.

"In the finals, of course, it's winning," Guardiola said, urging his players to have no "regrets".

"But after that it is how you win. Finals are (about penalty) boxes. It's how clinical you are in front (of goal), how tough. Finals are different - it's not what you have done in the past."

The Spaniard has a hugely impressive record in cup finals, having won nine of the 10 he has contested - excluding super cups - with the only defeat being the 2011 Copa del Rey, when Barcelona were defeated by Mourinho's Real Madrid in extra time.

In terms of the bigger picture, the League Cup still represents the first leg of a treble, along with the Premier League and with City pretty much guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Guardiola, though, is keen to play down any talk of that and sensed the potential for headlines that might come back to haunt.

The 47-year-old was even more wary of engaging with claims that if City won, it could herald an era of dominance.

Despite that, it would fuel the sense that he is tightening his grip. "No," Guardiol(above) a said. "The same thing was asked to me in the beginning of the season. Did we expect to fight until three days ago in four competitions? I said no.

"Not even in Barcelona when we won the first title in the cup (Copa del Rey in 2009) did I expect to win 14 titles in four years. I didn't expect that. I'm more pragmatic than that.

"In football, it's a big mistake to think what might happen in the next three years. It's a big mistake for our heads, our targets, our focus - it makes no sense.

"When people asked in the beginning, about winning four titles, I said, 'Of course we are going to try, but the big teams have not been able to do that - the big Liverpools, the big Uniteds, the big Arsenals or Chelsea. So, why should I think we can do it?'

We have a final and we try to do what we can to win it. After that, we will see."

A late fitness call will be made on Raheem Sterling and Guardiola has to decide whether to go with Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, with Fabian Delph beginning the first game of a three-match ban.

Claudio Bravo, who has played in all the previous rounds, will continue in goal.

"He (Bravo) deserves to play in the final and he's going to play," Guardiola said. "Without him we would not be here, he's going to play."

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