Arsene Wenger sees common ground with Pep Guardiola

Arsene Wenger believes there are similarities between him and Pep Guardiola but insists the Manchester City boss has had it easy compared to his own arrival into English football.

The Spaniard has been criticised in recent weeks as his City side fell off the pace at the top of the Premier League following a run of three wins in their last six league games. 

That run leaves them in fourth place, seven adrift of leaders Chelsea and a point behind Arsenal, who are the visitors to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.

Heralded for his attacking approach on his arrival to England, Guardiola has seen his methods questioned since, with the rotation of his back four, playing players out of position and deciding to loan goalkeeper Joe Hart to Torino and replace him with Claudio Bravo all talking points.

Wenger came to the Premier League in 1996 as a relative unknown and as one of the first foreign managers in the history of the division.

Asked about the reaction to Guardiola’s first six months in charge at City, Wenger cited his own appointment over 20 years ago as a sign of how the times have changed for foreign coaches.

“I should get some newspapers when I arrived here and you will see that it’s much easier today for the foreign managers,” he said.

“I would say when I arrived here it was difficult for the foreign managers. Today it is difficult for the English managers, that’s what has changed. People are always resistant to radical change. They are ready to cope with it if it is successful.

“Our job is to always accept that you want your own philosophy but at the right pace, and when you go somewhere, sometimes you have to analyse what is going on and to bring in your own philosophy at a pace where you think they can cope with it.”

While he thinks his earlier years differ greatly to former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola, he feels the pair have plenty in common.

“He started at Barcelona, I started in an academy,” he said. 

“It’s not the same, but I must say he has done extremely well and he is one of the most respected managers in the game, if not the most and maybe rightly so.

“Every manager has a personality and can only act with his own personality. You cannot copy a manager, you can only be who you are.

“He has been influenced at Barcelona by the Johan Cruyff period when he was a player. And I think he has strong beliefs and that for me is the most important thing for a manager.”

Asked what he thought of Guardiola’s philosophy when compared to his own, Wenger replied: “They are similar, he tries to play. Do I admire him? Yes, of course.”

For his part Guardiola says he has the highest respect for Wenger, who he referred to as the “commander-in-chief”. 

He said: “He’s the boss, no? He’s the chief for Arsenal! That’s why. I’m the commander-in-chief for Manchester City. I saw so many Netflix series and that’s why (I called him that). Commander-in-chief and colonel, I use a lot.

“He has been here a long time. When that happens at a club such as Arsenal, it’s because a person is doing a good job. I understand it’s not easy to win the Premier League, but I have a lot of respect for his career.

“I’ve said many times that I admire the way he tries to play and especially the quality of the players they like and they buy. I like a lot.”

Confirmation that City’s German international midfielder Ilkay Gundogan suffered cruciate ligament damage in midweek could mean an increased role for Yaya Toure.

Toure is back in the first-team reckoning after being frozen out by Guardiola earlier in the campaign following a spat with the Ivorian’s agent.

Guardiola said: “Now he has come back I have seen him play like he can and he was (doing) when I met him in Barcelona. He’s a player with no doubt about his quality. 

“Now in this moment he is maybe going to have more minutes than before. That’s why you have a squad big enough.

“Of course we have other options. We have Fernando, Aleix (Garcia), Kevin (De Bruyne) can play in that position as well. In the next game Fernandinho is coming back (from suspension).

Guardiola also dismissed claims goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is unhappy at Manchester City. 

Some reports in the Spanish media in midweek suggested the 33-year-old had struggled to settle since his £15.4m move from Barcelona in August.

“I spoke with Bravo in the last days, with his wife and their little daughter. He told me he is so happy.”

Here's a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Chelsea on fire, Liverpool stuttering, Manchester City in disarray. The Premier League mid-term report


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