Saturday 18 November 2017

We will need to make some big decisions, warns Guardiola

Pep Guardiola: Tough season. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Pep Guardiola: Tough season. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Pep Guardiola finds himself in new territory heading into tonight's Manchester derby. For the first time in his career he is approaching the end of a season polishing up his excuses rather than silverware.

Whatever the merits of Guardiola's list of mitigating circumstances for his first trophy-less campaign - a lack of clinical edge and refereeing blunders have been the most cited - the manager who arrived at City as the anointed one has been momentarily demoted to the ranks of mere mortals.

Champions League qualification would be a significant consolation, and victory over Manchester United tonight would surely secure it, but it will not disguise what has been a broadly underwhelming debut campaign in English football.

Read more: No time for feuds as old enemies focus on bigger picture

"I have been managing for nine years and this is my first year without a trophy," said Guardiola. "If I extend my career a lot in the future I am sure it will happen again but there are a lot of big clubs in Europe without a trophy.

"If you analyse the trophies, how many were we able to win this year? Zero. If you analyse how many titles was good or not good, then the season was not good.

"The most important thing is to analyse the reason why we weren't able to compete in the Premier League and then make decisions.

"I tried to introduce the players to the way we play, and in many cases we did it. Some (players) we were not able. We were not consistent. We are one of the teams who have created the most chances and the team who conceded few. I'm satisfied by what we have done."

The high point of City's league campaign was their first-half display at Old Trafford in September, when most observers felt they were watching the future champions secure a 2-1 win. Guardiola insists the difference that day was the end product rather than performance.

"We played many games at the same level or even better than that level," he insisted. "In Old Trafford we arrived (in the box) two or three times in the first half and scored two goals. We arrived more and didn't score (in other games). In the box we weren't good enough, but we played the way we did in the first half in Manchester many times."

On his rivalry with Jose Mourinho, Guardiola was suitably ambivalent: "The relationship is good. When we see each other we say 'Hi'," he said.

He was more responsive when informed of Chelsea coach Antonio Conte's remarks that the Manchester clubs had failed to 'buy' the title this season.

"All the clubs are going to spend a lot of money and you cannot forget all the players that Chelsea have that cost a lot of money," he said.

"People think that just City spend money but all the clubs around the world, in Spain, Germany, England and Italy, they spend a lot of money." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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