What marks Pep Guardiola out as a manager is his different – almost unique – way of looking at football, and that was never clearer than in his press conference ahead of Bayern Munich’s trip to the Emirates, when he claimed Arsenal “have the advantage”.
That’s despite Arsene Wenger’s side lying bottom of the table with zero points after defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, and Bayern running away with the group just as they’re running away with the Bundesliga, having hit eight goals and conceded none in their two wins so far. Naturally, however, there was rationale to Guardiola’s perspective.
“They have to win,” the Catalan said. “That means they’ll try to put in a perfect performance.
“In this situation, they have the advantage.
“It’s the last chance. In life, when you have the last chance you give absolutely everything, and we have to be prepared for that against Arsenal.
“You have to look for another way to compete against this enthusiasm.”
That’s exactly what Guardiola has been doing. “When I analyse the team, I never look at their position in the table. That’s irrelevant.
“They have great quality, they’re a technical team. It’s very difficult to play against them. Obviously, when a team decide to put [Santi] Cazorla like a playmaker, it’s the best signal how they want to play. Normally it’s a big guy there, that runs. That means they play nice football.
“Of course, we have to be aggressive, and we expect aggression in first few minutes.
“I read what [Aaron] Ramsey said in the press today, talking about two years ago [the last-16 match in 2013-14]. At the beginning of the game, they want to push us, to press us, using this amazing atmosphere. The best way to calm down that atmosphere is to have the ball.
“I love the ball, I make my team have the ball, to attack as much as possible.
“The rules of Fifa say we play with just one ball, not with two, that is the key point.”
That, for Guardiola, is the key to football as a whole. He is someone who only looks at the process. If you get that right, he feels with something close to fundamentalism, results naturally will follow.
He is not someone, however, who will be following Wenger’s example of staying at a club for 20 years.
“Twenty years at one club is now impossible. Nobody has that energy any more!”
“It can get boring for the people. Arsenal is an exception, like [Alex] Ferguson was.
“Wenger is not only a manager, he is a sporting director. He changed the club. They played defensively before he came.
“Wenger is more than just a manager for this club. He is almost everything. He can be at a club for longer. Me: no!”
Guardiola also evaded questions on his own future, as the fact this is the last year on his current contract increasingly becomes an issue.
“The club know everything,” he said. ”As regards the immediate future, and this match, Douglas Costa will have a late fitness test.”
Given his form, the Brazilian missing this game would certainly be an advantage for Arsenal.
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