Pep Guardiola criticises League Cup ahead of Crystal Palace clash
Manchester City manager questions the fixture burden on leading English clubs
Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola awaits kick-off in his team’s League Cup soccer match against West Bromwich Albion, at The Hawthorns. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
“My dear fellow,” Pep Guardiola said, his eyes twinkling to confirm that what he said next might not be completely what he believed. “This is the Premier League. Every single team can beat the others. That is the best expression I have learned.”
The Manchester City manager was responding to the inevitable question about how many goals his free-scoring side might rack up on Saturday against Crystal Palace, who have yet to score a league goal or claim a point, in the process injecting a hint of sarcasm because he does not accept the Premier League’s claim to be the toughest in the world.
The visitors to the Etihad Stadium have also become the first side to appoint a 70-year-old manager, something Guardiola was asked whether he could see happening to him. “Definitely not, I promise you,” he said. “I love golf too much. But I admire Roy Hodgson, I respect him for his long career. It is the same with Gareth Barry and his Premier League appearance record. I admire people who keep going, especially if they are 70.”
City are in a strong position at the top of the table, exactly level with Manchester United, but Guardiola is realistic about the situation after five games. “We started last season quite well too,” he said, “but it was not good enough in the end. We were not able to fight until the end in either the Premier League or the Champions League. We are better in certain areas this season but we still suffered in the second half at West Bromwich in midweek. They were the better team in the second half.”
Guardiola shares José Mourinho’s opinion of the League Cup, that it has outlived its usefulness and could be scrapped to ease the fixture burden on leading clubs.
“I don’t want to complain, we accept the situation as it is because we knew about it all along, but you can waste a lot of energy playing 90 minutes against a Tony Pulis team,” he argued. “As a manager you want your team to be as fresh as possible and that is hard with a match every three days. Now we have Palace, then Shakhtar Donetsk, then we must go to Stamford Bridge before the international break. I just hope we are still on maximum points when we go to Chelsea. ”
Guardiola admitted that the hardest part of his job is leaving out high-quality players each week, but said he believes a big squad is necessary to cope with the number of games.
“You can’t keep picking from the same 13 or 14 players,” he said. “The schedule is too complicated for that. When everyone is fit it is hard to tell players they are not in the team, but I can only pick 11 players. The ones who miss out are upset for a few hours, but then they realise that there is another game coming along in three days.”
Guardiola believes Gabriel Jesus’s return to fitness and overall impact this season has helped Sergio Agüero, whom he said was isolated at times last season, adding that City have enough talented attacking players to cope with teams who turn up at the Etihad principally to defend.
“It is hard to play against teams who do that, I have struggled with that all my career,” he said. “Both as a player and a manager. You have to have players who are good at attacking small spaces, and that’s what we have in David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan.”