Pep Guardiola: Arsenal will now switch things up in title race after cup exit

Pep Guardiola: Arsenal will now switch things up in title race after cup exit

Pep Guardiola could celebrate victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup on Friday night but dismissed suggestions Manchester City’s 1-0 win will have any impact on the Premier League title race.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal saw City through to the fourth round of the cup but they had to battle as Guardiola admitted the tactics employed by his former assistant Mikel Arteta surprised him as Arsenal’s man-to-man marking interrupted City’s flow.

“It was a tight game, a difficult opponent,” Guardiola said. “The second half was better apart from 10 minutes after the goal.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, left, reacts as Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks on
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, left, reacts as Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola looks on (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I didn’t expect this approach, the man-to-man. It made the process difficult. In the second half we had to contact more than usual with Erling (Haaland), it is what we had to do. But it is a victory, the next round, we will see what we have to do.”

City consistently went long with their distribution, particularly in the first half, as they tried to bypass Arsenal’s press. But that did not play to Haaland’s strengths as he struggled to hold up the ball, and it was Arsenal who had the better chances before the break.

The introduction of Julian Alvarez, along with Kyle Walker, just before the hour, proved a turning point as City found a way through. Ake’s goal came after the Argentinian’s shot from range came back off a post, with Jack Grealish retrieving the ball to set up Ake.

City, who trail Arsenal by five points in the Premier League, head to the Emirates on February 15 but Guardiola said he did not think this result will have any bearing.

“I am pretty sure both teams are going to adjust something,” he said. “I have the feeling now they are going to do something differently.”

Arteta agreed, but also admitted his side had been found wanting by City.

“At the moment it’s disappointment because we are out and we could have taken much more from the game but we didn’t,” he said. “I feel we really competed against them and made it difficult but we lacked something to win against a team like this…

“We have taken the chances in big matches this season and that’s why we have beaten all the big teams but unfortunately today we didn’t and we didn’t defend the action well enough in the box when Ake scored.

“We had three or four big openings but we have to be more ruthless and put the ball in the net.”

Arteta would not be drawn on the possible signing of Brighton’s Moises Caicedo, even as the 21-year-old used social media to apparently say his goodbyes to the Seagulls, but the need for a midfielder became even more pronounced after Thomas Partey came off at half-time with an injury.

“He had some discomfort and it was getting worse and worse,” Arteta said. “He was uncomfortable to continue. (Saturday) or the day after he will have an MRI scan and see what he has.

“We have at the moment the injury of Mo (Elneny). It is not possible to get him fit. (Albert) Sambi has come in and has done well. It is true Thomas is a big influence and a big personality and in the second half we didn’t have him.”

City also ended the night with an injury concern, with England defender John Stones forced off with an apparent hamstring injury shortly before half-time.

“I don’t know (how serious it is),” Guardiola said. “Today he was not ready. I saw it from the first minutes. Maybe he was tired but he was not ready and when this happens you get injured.”