Pep Guardiola believes his decision to change his “horrible” first-half tactics was the key to Manchester City’s crucial 3-1 victory over Arsenal.
City headed into Wednesday’s vital clash at the Emirates Stadium three points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, but Kevin De Bruyne struck to give City the lead after 24 minutes.
Although Bukayo Saka levelled from the spot, Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland scored second-half goals to earn three points for City and put them top on goal difference.
Arsenal had seven first-half shots to City’s four, and a much-improved display was required from the champions after the interval to hold the Gunners to no shots on target in the second period.
Guardiola, who has now won eight of his nine matches against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal after having him on his coaching staff at City between 2016 and 2019, pointed to a change in tactics at the break as the key reason for his team’s excellent second-half performance.
“The first half they were much better than us,” Guardiola told Amazon Prime. “The second we were much, much better.
“We were not playing, we were defending because they were so good. In the first half, my tactics, I tried something new and it was horrible.
“We adjusted in the second half and we were more aggressive towards [Martin] Odegaard and controlled more of the ball. Erling used his power to keep the ball.
36% – Manchester City had just 36% possession in their win at the Emirates; the lowest in a league game for a team managed by Pep Guardiola in his top-flight managerial career. Reversed. pic.twitter.com/YFnbeII2SV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 15, 2023
“We suffered in the first half, but in the second we were there, we were more aggressive, winning duels, and when that happens we are a better team. We are built to go as a crazy team.”
When asked why he felt City were better in the second half, Haaland also noted Guardiola’s half-time changes, explaining: “[There were] small adjustments in half-time from Pep.
“In the end, we have good quality players and we have to get it out of every player and we did today.
“We have to play a little bit more like this sometimes and that is what we did today.”
Despite City leapfrogging Arsenal to the Premier League summit, the Gunners hold a game in hand as they look to lift a first title since the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ season.
Guardiola knows the title race is far from over, saying: “Now we are top of the league, but they have one game in hand. We have a lot of games to play.
“Arsenal will be back. In three days we have another one. [There are] still many, many games to play for everyone, and we are not an exception.”
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