Saturday, September 19, 2020

Semi-final struggles make Guardiola wary of Arsenal

SoccerNews in English Premier League 17 Jul 2020

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A first all-Manchester FA Cup final was not on Pep Guardiola’s mind ahead of Saturday’s Wembley meeting with Arsenal, given he has plenty of ghosts of semi-finals past to keep him company.

City will contest a place in the showpiece with the Gunners as they aim to retain a trophy they won last season thanks to a 6-0 demolition of Watford.

Manchester United take on Chelsea in Sunday’s semi-final, with the prospect of the 183rd Manchester derby coming with silverware on the line an intriguing one – especially considering the Red Devils’ resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and impressive record against City this season.

Guardiola has won a staggering 16 out of 17 career finals, including three one-off UEFA Super Cup encounters, with the 2011 Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid with Barcelona his only reverse.

In semi-finals, his record is more mixed and stands at 14 wins and seven defeats, with three of the latter coming in consecutive Champions League last-four ventures with Bayern Munich.

City also lost a 2017 FA Cup semi-final in Guardiola’s first season against their weekend opponents, although they have won all seven of the subsequent meetings between the sides.

“I’m not even thinking for one second about [who] our opponent [could be in the final]. I struggle a lot in my career in the semi-finals,” he said.

“It was easier the finals. I handled them much, much better.

“I’ve lost many more semis than finals I’ve played. It’s more difficult, and after we’ll see what happens.

Since City overcame Newcastle United in the quarter-finals last month, by which point Liverpool were already crowned Premier League champions, Guardiola has repeatedly made reference to the Arsenal match and the forthcoming Champions League last-16 showdown with Real Madrid as pivotal moments of 2019-20 for his players.

Overall, he is satisfied with what he has seen in the build-up, but conceded City were fortunate to win 2-1 in their previous outing against relegation-threatened Bournemouth.

“To arrive well for these kind of games you have to play good in the Premier League, create a good feeling and mood and in general we did it, except the last game against Bournemouth,” he said.

“It was one of the few, few games this season when we deserved to lose for what the opponent did and we were not able to.

“I saw the game again and give incredible credit for Eddie Howe and his people, the performance – they didn’t get what they deserve, like us at Southampton but that’s part of football

“Now it’s a final [against Arsenal], there are a lot of factors – the concentration, set-pieces, throw-ins, the minimal details, how strong you are in your head, how you are in the bad moments how you overcome the bad situations that are going to happen, how you never drop, never give up.

“These games are about the mentality, not the tactics. We are ready to play another final and it will be a good test to see if we are ready to play against Madrid.”

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