Pep Guardiola denies his tactical changes delivered Manchester City's "dominant" win over Arsenal

Pep Guardiola denies his tactical changes delivered Manchester City's "dominant" win over Arsenal

Pep Guardiola dismissed the idea that his tactical changes, to involve David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne more in their build-up in the second-half, wasn't the reason Manchester City came from 1-0 down at half-time to beat Premier League title rivals Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.

charlie-malam
Charlie Malam

Pep Guardiola insists his half-time tactical tinkering did not win Manchester City the game, but believes his players can take a lot of confidence from the 2-1 victory over Arsenal that lifted them back up to second on Sunday afternoon.

The Sky Blues played host to Arsene Wenger's side at the Etihad Stadium starting the day 10 points behind league leaders Chelsea and could ill-afford another setback, but got off on the wrong foot when Theo Walcott handed the Gunners a fifth-minute lead.

City eventually responded two minutes into the second-half through Leroy Sane before Raheem Sterling completed the turnaround with 20 minutes to play, both goals created by Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva - who had been thwarted for most of the first-half - as City came from behind to claim a crucial victory for their title hopes. 

But despite explaining his decision to pull the creative duo further into the centre, with the idea for goalscorers Sane and Sterling to then run in behind Arsenal's back-line, Guardiola insists his side were on top of the game throughout.

'We're so happy with both wingers scoring goals'

The City boss told journalists in his post-match press conference: "It means a lot to beat one of the best teams in the Premier League, in Arsenal, after a good comeback.

"The performance was quite similar to Chelsea, but I think against Chelsea we created more chances than today. Today we were unlucky in the first few minutes for Arsenal to score the first goal.

"Arsenal were lucky scoring with the first action [of the game]. It was a game I think we dominated. We were like we were looking for."

On how he changed the game to ensure Silva and De Bruyne played a more important role in the second-half, Guardiola continued: "Second-half, we played more without a striker, like two No.10s, with one inside and one outside to play in behind Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka.

"We tried to have the ball and make the movements outside, inside and runs in behind with Leroy and Raz [Raheem Sterling].

"The quality of the vision from Kevin, to make an exceptional pass, and finally Raz scored again a goal; because we need his goals.

"Today we're so happy with both wingers scoring goals. It's so important.

"Okay, now Fernandinho's coming back. In one week, Sergio [Aguero] is coming back and Gabriel Jesus [arrives at the club] soon. We will try to create more and more chances and make more and more goals."

Guardiola: We won because of our aggression, intensity and creativity

Yet the Spaniard felt that his side had a firm grip of the game in the first period too, adding: "I think the first-half we were in control as well. It's not easy when you create the first two chances, almost chances, and after the counter-attack, we were five against three.

"Sometimes the talent, you cannot control. The talent is the talent. That's why I like [our opponents] to be far away from our goal because when you're closer to our goal, the talent - it's difficult to control it.

"But we what we are looking for in the first-half didn't change too much [in the second]. We decided to put Sterling like a striker, not for the crosses, but for the one-against-ones against [Laurent] Koscielny and Gabriel.

"If he could take the ball between the lines and go one-against-one, with the movement and runs in behind, he's so, so fast.

"In the first-half, Kevin was a little bit out of the game in the sense that he didn't make contact with the ball often.

"For us, Kevin and Silva are so important and that's why in the second-half, we put the right-footer on the right side and the left-footer on the left side.

"We tried to have one more man in the middle with Yaya [Toure], Fernando, Kevin and Silva four-against-three in the middle against Mesut Ozil, Xhaka and Coquelin to create the space for movements in behind, outside to inside with Leroy and Raz, and finally with Jesus Navas."

"But the influence of the decision, after two minutes to score a goal, it's nothing. Always we have ideas. Sometimes good, sometimes not.

"I know what happens when it doesn't work, but I don't think we won for that reason. All the game we were there. We were so aggressive. We were intensive with the second balls and of course we created chances."

Guardiola caused a storm earlier this month for insisting he doesn't practice tackling with his side in training, instead stressing the importance of second balls.

Here, he felt his side were much better in that aspect of the game, adding: "The last three days, we spent two hours and a half in the training sessions just on second balls. It works.

"It is part of the game here [in England]. You have to be compact for the second balls. They [Arsenal] win the second balls and of course, they created chances.

"The last two games we were a little bit better in that sense, but we are not a tall team. We are not a physical team like most of the teams here in England. I think the second balls, it is tough to be in the right position at the right moment to challenge."

We must be there behind Chelsea as much as possible, says Guardiola

As well as moving up to second, the win narrows City's gap to Chelsea to seven points - a not-insurmountable gap despite Arsenal's fellow London outfit winning their last 11 straight league games - and Guardiola says his side must keep at the front-runners' heels.

He continued: "The victory gives a lot of confidence to the players for what we are trying to do.

"I'm so happy for the fans today to stay in the stadium until the 94th minute. Normally, the last games, with 10 minutes left they disappear. Today they were with us.

"That means we have to play good. Like this, they are going to stay with us. Now, three points, and we have eight days to recover and to consider Liverpool at Anfield and the other games.

Quizzed on the psychological impact of the performance, and the result, he added: "[It means] A lot. A lot. Since September 17th, we've won just one game here [at the Etihad] against Watford.

"Not because we didn't deserve because, I try to be honest, when we played against Southampton in the first-half we don't deserve absolutely anything.

"When we play against Crystal Palace and Burnley, okay we won, but it could be a draw. I think honestly against Middlesbrough, especially Everton, against Chelsea, we didn't deserve more.

"Today we won, that's why we're so happy. Seven points is still a huge distance and when a team makes 11 victories in a row, we can only say congratulations.

"But at least now we can be there as much as possible, waiting for the opponent to fail sometimes, and waiting until the last part of the season to be there to fight for the title."

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