Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Pep Guardiola reveals Manuel Akanji switch ‘scared’ him following Man City training session

Pep Guardiola reveals Manuel Akanji switch ‘scared’ him following Man City training session

Pep Guardiola admitted that playing Manuel Akanji at right-back in Manchester City’s win over Southampton was a’scary’ prospect, given that he had only had one training session to get used to the position.

Guardiola admitted after the game that Akanji quickly mastered the new position, as the new defender has defied expectations since joining Manchester City on deadline day this summer.

And, with John Stones still out with a hamstring injury, Guardiola reflected on Akanji’s ‘perfect’ performance against Southampton and his continued impact on the squad this season.

Guardiola said: “I thought he could [play at right-back] but there are players you have to explain ten times, a player has to train ten times there to do what you are thinking, what you want him to do. And this guy – we did just one training session. Just to tell him – and he got it.

“The movement you have to do as a full-back, the high pressing, he didn’t do it once. And he did it perfectly. With the ball he’s a magnificent player.

“Our build-up today should have been with three at the back and that’s why normally I play Kyle [Walker] or John, we thought he could do it, it was a little bit scary as he hadn’t proved he could do it before. He had to go up the pitch, pressing, come back defending the crosses at the far post. He didn’t miss once, absolutely perfect.

“It proves again, intelligent people always pay off. Really good, Manu has made a huge impact since he arrived. Again the club made an incredible decision with him. When you are intelligent, I didn’t know him but you realise immediately, I only had to tell him once and he knows it, the movement defensively at set pieces. He did it perfectly. It’s a gift for a manager, a gift.”

When asked if he was surprised that other clubs didn’t move for Akanji given that City signed him for only £15 million and he was available all summer, Guardiola said the Blues are lucky to have landed a player of his caliber.

He said: “Listen in terms of signing players or not, all of us do good things and bad things, you never know. There was this opportunity when we realised we didn’t know about Ayme [Laporte] – fortunately he played 90 minutes last game and was brilliant – and John, sometimes they are not consistent to play every three days.

“I said for this season we need a striker and a central defender. We were lucky to get him. He’s very pleased how his whole life is compared to Erling [Haaland]. He’s a person who is at home with the family, studying mathematics and this kind of thing.

“We are very pleased with him, now I discover today when we went three at the back and we needed him on the right, with the absence of Kyle and John, who I don’t know when he’ll be back. He had a chance to play right back in this position and it’s so important we have another weapon at set pieces, with long balls, how aggressive he is with the ball, he’s the whole package.”

Guardiola elaborated on his earlier statement that Stones is still out, having previously suggested the England centre-back could return in the coming days, saying: “He’s getting better, not training, hopefully he’ll come back and feel better.”

Pep Guardiola reveals Manuel Akanji switch ‘scared’ him following Man City training session