Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero feels he and his team-mates will need time to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s tactical style.
Caballero was a shock inclusion ahead of Joe Hart for Saturday’s opening 2-1 Premier League win over Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium, boss Guardiola identifying the 34-year-old’s extra time on the training field during pre-season as a factor in making him more suited to an approach that values building attacks from deep than the England international.
It was not a flawless display from Caballero, who put City in danger when he sprayed a first-half pass straight to Sunderland attacker Duncan Watmore but he grew into a game that was decided by Paddy McNair’s 87th-minute own-goal after Jermain Defoe cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s early penalty.
“Sometimes we are taking risks when we pass the ball in our back and my first pass was really, really complicated because they could have scored,” Caballero told reporters.
“But after that, we played really better from the back and we can start playing as the boss wants, but we need minutes — we need minutes together.
“Two or three players have arrived in the last week — John [Stones] played like he has been here for the last three or four years. It’s important to play together.
“We need games and minutes together to have experience together and to have rhythm and to play more better if we can.”
Caballero conceded it was difficult to take the place of his colleague and fans’ favourite Hart.
Despite Guardiola offering qualified assurances to the long-serving City keeper, speculation linking the club with a move for Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo suggests his 10-year association with the club could be entering its final stages.
“For sure, it’s very tough in this situation for me, for Joe, for the fans, for everything,” Cabellero explained. “But I just tried to think and enjoy this opportunity and the most important thing is that we won as well.
“It doesn’t matter who played and when Joe has the opportunity, I think he will enjoy it as well as me.
“This kind of decision is for the boss and for the club, the most important thing for me is to just enjoy this game that I had and that I keep improving and keep trying to play as the boss wants to play.”
Amid Hart’s demotion to a substitutes bench where there was no room for Yaya Toure overshadowed Guardiola’s decision to employ attack-minded left-back Aleksandar Kolarov at the heart of defence alongside new recruit Stones.
It was a test the Serbia international passed with flying colours, according to his manager.
“I think Kolarov had one of the best performances I have seen in a central defender,” said Guardiola.
“He won all the long balls, he was quality with passes and he was strong. Kolarov not just [against Sunderland] but in the last few [friendly] games, he played really well [at centre-back].”
Guardiola added that he expects Nicolas Otamendi – a centre-half by trade – to be available to face Steaua Bucharest in Tuesday’s Champions League play-off following a tendon problem.