FRESH from being sent crashing out of the FA Cup, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola aimed a barb at Arsenal by saying he has a lot of respect for the team on the pitch but not much off of it.
The then-holders were condemned to a 2-0 defeat in the FA Cup semi-final, masterminded by Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta, and handing Man City their first domestic cup defeat in more than two-and-a-half years. While Guardiola did congratulate the Gunners for their success on the pitch, he made no bones about where his respect for the London club ends.
We didn’t play the first half against Arsenal like the second, that was the only regret. We wanted to play 90 minutes like the second half,” he told a press conference after the encounter, admitting his team’s first-half performance was not good enough. “But, after we were beaten, we shake hands. The opponents always deserve my respect and credit.
“Arsenal, I have all the respect for what they are on the pitch, not much off the pitch. But on the pitch, a lot. Congratulations to them and good luck in the final.” Saturday’s stutter shifts all focus to the Champions League last 16 against Real Madrid, with the final Premier League games against Watford and Norwich having no impact on their guaranteed second-place finish, albeit in the off chance City come out second-best in both.
Guardiola will be chuffed as City lead 2-1 from the first leg in Spain but is under no illusions how much his side will need to improve if they are to get past the newly-crowned La Liga champions and book a spot in the quarter-finals. “Against Madrid, we know we have to do good games, all the cups are one game and we did a good performance but [against Arsenal] we were not good enough, that’s all,” accepted Guardiola.
The next time we play Arsenal next season, we will see what we can do to play better, and we are incredibly excited and optimistic about the game against Madrid for the players that we have. We know that If we play at a decent level – higher than we play against Arsenal – we’ll have our chance. If not, we’ll be out.”
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