Zabaleta: City defence can handle Gunners

Pablo Zabaleta is convinced Manchester City are defensively tough enough as Pep Guardiola’s men prepare to face Arsenal in a top-four battle this weekend.

City’s back line has proved their weak link on several occasions this season and they came in for strong criticism after last weekend’s heavy loss at Leicester. They responded with an improved display, and a confidence-boosting first clean sheet in nine attempts, in a 2-0 win over Watford on Wednesday.

Right-back Zabaleta said: “We have been talking the last few days that we needed to improve defensively. We kept a clean sheet, we were solid at the back and that is a big difference.

I think the main problem was we were conceding too many counter-attacks and we needed to concentrate more on those balls

.”I thought we were very concentrated during the whole game, winning the long balls, being very aggressive at the back, winning all the duels. That is what you need as a defender, and as a team you need that determination and that desire to win the duels and the tackles.

“You must be prepared for this and we’ve got the players that have the aggression to cope with this.”

City’s stronger showing – albeit against a opposition of limited ambition – came after manager Pep Guardiola decided to leave John Stones on the bench.

Stones is an important part of Guardiola’s masterplan, to create a side that can confidently play out from the back, but has been guilty of some individual errors.

Zabaleta opened the scoring against Watford before David Silva wrapped up victory late on, said: “We played direct when it was needed and we played out from the back when there was a good chance to play from Claudio Bravo. We need to respond to those situations where sometimes we need to play long balls and go for the second balls as well. In this league you need this, it is so physical.

“You need to be strong as a defender and you must be so solid.”But then we have quality enough to create chances and score goals.

“I thought the performance brought confidence back for defenders and hopefully we can continue doing the same things in the next few games.”


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