Wednesday 29 January 2020

James Ducker: 'Loss of trusted sidekick adding to off-colour City's woes'

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta. Photo: Reuters
Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta. Photo: Reuters

James Ducker

Pale and heavy eyed, Pep Guardiola looked very much like a man in need of a Lemsip and a few days in bed, not one gearing up for a frenetic run of games.

His demeanour will not have been improved by the questions about the departure of his No 2 Mikel Artetaor, yet again, his own future.

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But, months on from one of the more extraordinary nights in Guardiola's managerial career, the mood as his Manchester City side prepare for another big game against Leicester City at home feels very different.

Fourteen points adrift of Liverpool, City need to beat Leicester simply to keep pace with Brendan Rodgers's team, and Arteta's exit feels like another untimely episode in a season that has been stumbling along.

Rodolfo Borrell, one of City's coaches Arteta was keen to take with to Arsenal, will now step up to fill the role of assistant manager but Guardiola will wait until the summer before deciding on a permanent successor. The name of Xabi Alonso has already been floated and may come into the reckoning if the Spaniard has not taken a manager's job on his own by then, even if Guardiola said yesterday he had "not thought about names".

Currently in charge of Real Sociedad's B team, Alonso could come into contention for the first-team job and is also thought to be watching developments at Bayern.

As respected as Arteta was, it seems doubtful Guardiola or City will miss him in the way they have, say, Vincent Kompany, the captain whose 30-yard drive on that May evening against Leicester helped them on their way to becoming the first Premier League club to retain the title for a decade.


Nor, it seems, Guardiola's wife, Cristina, who returned to Barcelona to tend to her business.

Since Cristina left Manchester, well-placed figures at City have noted how Guardiola has buried himself in the job more than ever, and not always in a positive sense.

Part of that may be explained by Guardiola's determination to find solutions for City's struggles, which have been largely blamed on injuries to key players in key positions.

Sergio Aguero's return from injury after a month on the sidelines should at least provide Guardiola with a little cheer. Victory would seem a necessity, just as another home defeat may raise more questions about Guardiola's own long-term future. He insisted again he would see out his contract, which runs until June 2021, but stressed he would have to earn an extension.

"I said many times I would like to stay as long as possible but I will only be sure if it's the best for the club that they want me to stay longer.

"It's important to be sure the decision is perfect for both sides."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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