Pep Guardiola has warned that change is “necessary” at Manchester City this summer but told those players whose futures are in doubt that they have 10 games to convince him they deserve to stay at the club.
The City manager has also urged his players to keep their cool ahead of Wednesday's visit to Chelsea after Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho’s red cards in the 3-1 defeat in the reverse fixture in December.
Up to 19 players have question marks over their futures at the Etihad Stadium, but while around a dozen of those are expected to depart as Guardiola prepares to bring in six or seven new faces, the manager is adamant there is still time for players to prove their worth to him. Guardiola has repeatedly insisted that he will not take a decision on the futures of the six senior players who are out of contract this summer until the end of the season.
“We will think about it [making changes], we will discuss with the chairman [Khaldoon al-Mubarak], Txiki [Begiristain, the director of football], all the bosses,” he said. “Every club wants to improve and, of course, the changes are necessary but we are going to discuss at the end of the season. At the end, the players decide for themselves through their performances on the pitch.”
Asked if the Chelsea match would prove a yardstick for the progress of his team, Guardiola added: “Not really, I know now where we are. The good things and where we must improve but it will be a big test, a big stadium and away but it is important to play these games to learn for the future.”
Guardiola said he could not see Chelsea faltering in the title race, even though Spurs closed the gap to seven points at the weekend after the West London’s club defeat to Crystal Palace. City are 11 points adrift of the Premier League leaders after drawing 2-2 at Arsenal but Guardiola wants his players to keep their heads at Stamford Bridge, even though he is convinced Aguero and Fernandinho’s dismissals were out of character. Fernandinho was sent off for clashing with Cesc Fabregas in the wake of an awful challenge from Aguero on David Luiz.
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“They [Chelsea] are already there and they deserve to be there,” Guardiola said. “We can talk about Sergio and many things but we are not to going to talk about Sergio and say he is a dangerous player, please. What happened in that game happened – many, many things. We were 1-0 up, created unbelievable chances to go 2-0 or 3-0 up and after the reaction what happened with Sergio and Fernandinho is our frustration.
“Fernandinho is not one of those guys. He is an aggressive player but one of the sweetest and nicest guys I have ever met. Sergio and Fernandinho are nice guys.”
Pablo Zabaleta is right but Guardiola said another right back, Bacary Sagna, would be out for another “two or three weeks”. The Catalan does hope to have Gabriel Jesus back soon, though, after the Brazil striker began some light ball work for the first time on Monday after seven weeks out with a broken metatarsal.
“Yesterday is the first day he started to go to the pitch and run and walk,” Guardiola said of Jesus. “I don’t know exactly how many weeks he needs to come back but I think he is at the end of the part of his process to come back so we will see. Hopefully he can help us in the games at the end of the season.”