Pep Guardiola exclusive interview: Possession football is the secret of Man City’s defensive success

It is in the direction of the finish of the interview that Pep Guardiola begins to change into animated. “Football is not A, B and C,” he explains. “What works last season will not necessarily work this season. What did not work last season, could work now. It is open, it is moving, it is like an animal, it develops. Sometimes it moves this way, sometimes it moves another way.”

He is discussing football in the pandemic and his personal makes an attempt to determine it out. Despite Manchester City’s report run of 13 wins in a row, Guardiola stops nicely quick of saying he has solved it – a smart transfer provided that he takes his staff to Anfield to face Liverpool this Sunday. But City have clearly re-established themselves as English football’s staff to beat.

Their defensive report has been at the core of their upsurge in type, conceding solely as soon as of their final 9 Premier League matches. Even that was a late comfort at Chelsea with the sport lengthy since received. It is unusual to suppose that Frank Lampard’s aspect started that January afternoon stage on factors with Manchester City. They have been relentless ever since.

So imperious has been City’s type that it feels pure to ask what has modified however Guardiola prefers to see this success as a continuation of years of work. The statistics counsel they’re urgent rather less than earlier than, staying in form and enjoying a positional sport. He rejects that concept. “We are still playing 60 metres in front of our goal,” he insists.

Perhaps he has tried to shut off the center of the pitch extra, then. Benjamin Mendy’s solely begins since autumn have come at residence to Burnley, Fulham and West Brom. In the trickier trying matches, City have opted to maneuver the full-backs inside as a substitute, making it tougher to burst by way of as Leicester and Leeds did in these chaotic early-season matches.

“Sometimes we play outside, sometimes we play inside,” he says. “It depends on the opponents. But the reason why is to play better, not to defend better. It is to play better.”

The dialog takes place at the finish of Guardiola’s media duties in preparation for his staff’s showdown with the champions. He has fielded a sequence of questions on Jurgen Klopp following the Liverpool supervisor’s spiky remarks about City in the build-up.

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Meanwhile, the tradition conflict of a contest between Tottenham and Chelsea the earlier night, together with Marcelo Bielsa’s declare that afternoon that he would slightly be in the backside half than end eighth however not play nicely, have put points of fashion again on the agenda.

Maybe that is why it looks like time for Guardiola to double down on his rules.

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“The reason why [our defensive record is so good] is because 67 per cent of the time we have the ball,” he explains. “This is the main reason. The main reason is that we have the ball. If you have the ball as much as possible then the opponent does not have the ball.

“Of course, the opponent can rating from set items or a counter-attack however the extra that you’ve got the ball the extra probabilities you’ll have to rating a aim. This is the purpose why.

“Maybe one day they will change the rules but I think to score a goal you need the ball.”

Guardiola is talking from a place of power once more and one is reminded that his Barcelona staff had the greatest defensive report in Spain for all three of his title wins there. History repeated itself when he received a trio of titles with Bayern Munich in Germany. Examine his report. He is arguably the biggest defensive supervisor of all-time.

“You cannot win the titles, especially the titles of the Premier League and the Bundesliga, if you concede a lot of goals,” he says. “Last season we conceded greater than standard and we did not regulate nicely to some issues. But if you happen to take a look at the targets that we conceded in all of our years right here in Manchester, in Munich, in Barcelona, it was all the time few. Few, few, few.

“And we did it playing 50 or 60 metres in front of our goal, and always we were stable defensively. Absolutely, I do not want to concede goals. And I want to score a lot. That is what we are working for with good quality players who want to have the ball.”

Despite his preliminary protestations, there is an acknowledgement in there that one thing has modified at City. They are surrendering fewer massive probabilities to the opponent than at any level in his reign, managing these quick breaks higher than earlier than. His staff haven’t conceded on the breakaway since the defeat to Tottenham in November. They are unbeaten since.

“It is important. When you played 60 metres away from your goal then the controlling the counter-attack is important. Sometimes it is not possible because of the opposition players, but if you use the ball well and do not make mistakes, you will concede few.”

The point out of errors highlights one other essential shift. “It is the reason why we concede so few. The back four, no matter who plays, they are so solid. They do not make mistakes.”

City are making fewer errors resulting in pictures than in any of their earlier 4 seasons underneath Guardiola. It is a product of particular person and collective enchancment. Certainly, the arrival of Ruben Dias at centre-back has been key with the Portuguese having the similar game-changing affect on these round him that Virgil van Dijk had at Liverpool.

“Basically, he talks to them during the game,” explains Guardiola. “He anticipates. He does not play the game for himself, he looks what happens in front of him and behind him.”

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All of which signifies that Manchester City go to Anfield full of confidence, believing of their work. But Guardiola has by no means received there. The gamers have extra unhealthy reminiscences than good.

“For sure, but if we just think about this then we are going to forget to play. And when you forget to play you just adapt to what the other team are. Of course, they are such a dangerous team but I am concerned about what we are going to do.”

And what Guardiola is going to do, won’t ever change.

“I want to go into every single game reminding the players why they became football players and that is to play with the ball. It is a stupid thing, a simple thing, whatever you want to say. But I organise my teams from day one until today in this way.

“We attempt to do it in a sure manner. Basically, we would like the ball.”

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Football is an animal, it moves, adapts, and Guardiola intends to adapt with it. But the principles will not change. The song remains the same and the tune he is getting from his City players looks likely to bring a third Premier League title in four seasons.

“The necessary factor is the outcomes,” he concludes before adding the caveat. “And your rules, your fundamentals as a supervisor. The manner you consider is greatest has to stay the similar to assist this organisation – Manchester City – change into the greatest membership doable.”

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