Saturday 18 November 2017

Guardiola needs time to reduce City age profile

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Pep Guardiola admits he will take time to reduce the age of his veteran squad as he concedes there is a real danger that Manchester City could miss out on a top-four finish and Champions League football next season. City face Swansea at the Etihad this afternoon, the start of a sequence of league fixtures in which they also take on Bournemouth, Sunderland and Stoke.

The run appears to offer City, so impressive in their 4-0 away win at West Ham in midweek, the perfect opportunity to improve on their league standing of fifth and ensure that they play in Europe's premier club competition next season. Not that Guardiola took kindly to that line of questioning, or the suggestion that failing to qualify would be a "disaster" for his club.

"Disaster? No, disaster is a better word than bad!" said Guardiola sarcastically. "Yes, it's possible we won't qualify for the Champions League. Today, we are not in the Champions League positions. We're going to see at the end of the season what my impression will be. Let us fight until the end. Let me try at least that. Fight."

However, Guardiola was more open when discussing the age profile of a squad with an abundance of players at either end of the experience spectrum, but very few in the important age between 23 and 29, seen as the peak for professional athletes. Of the six first-team squad players who fit that profile, Fabian Delph is rarely used and Ilkay Gundogan has been lost to long-term injury, leaving Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin de Bruyne and Fernando as his only four such players.

In contrast, 12 of City's first-team squad are 30 or over, a problem that Guardiola inherited and one which he admits will take time to rectify. "We realise we have a lot of players over 30," he said. "For example, the full-backs are over 31-32, but they are so important and we cannot change absolutely everything in one season.

"They are the basis. I can understand, for example, how important Yaya [Toure] is. And [Aleksandar] Kolarov. And how important it was with the personality of Pablo [Zabaleta] in the dressing room. At the end, the heart and the soul of the team is the old players. The people who know the club. Sooner or later, the process is going to change, but it cannot be possible to change overnight."

Today, City must overcome patchy form at the Etihad, victory at West Ham in midweek means that they have collected two more points on their travels than they have at home. "We need to make victories in a row," Guardiola said of his team's run of favourable fixtures.

Telegraph

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