Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has defended Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola after his defensive tactics were questioned following a 4-2 loss to Leicester, saying criticism of the Spaniard has been “unfair.”
Guardiola was criticised by pundits for dismissing the importance of tackling after his side fell to a second straight league defeat following a 3-1 loss to Chelsea the previous weekend.
“I’m not a coach for the tackles, so I don’t train the tackles,” Guardiola said after the Leicester game.
But Wenger said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach should be applauded for his attack-minded style of play, and that his record proves his teams know how to defend.
“Pep Guardiola, like myself, we are for offensive football. And when you don’t win, people question that. And that’s as simple as that,” Wenger said ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Everton on Tuesday. “Overall, I think what he wanted to say is that he promotes a game that is positive and I agree with him on that. You respect him for that. I believe that he doesn’t forbid his players to tackle.
It’s true that in the trainings you focus on your players to play an offensive game. You look at the number of games he has lost in his career, you would think that he defends quite well. For me it’s a bit the wrong debate. His teams usually defend well.”
Defending champions Leicester have struggled badly to repeat their heroics of last season’s stunning title charge, but looked back to their best against City as they took a 2-0 lead after five minutes and were 4-0 up by the 78th when Jamie Vardy completed a hat trick.
And Wenger pointed out that the strong start by Leicester didn’t leave Man City much of a choice other than to expose themselves defensively for the rest of the game.
“I come back to one simple fact in that game. When you’re 2-0 down away from home, against a team that is good on the counter-attack, you know you have have to come out like mad to come back,” Wenger said.
“And you expose yourself on counter-attacks. What was the strength of Leicester last season? It was that. So they were in a position where they are at their strength after five minutes. Then you can criticise what you want. I believe it’s unfair because they had to come out and they had to take the risk to be exposed on counter-attacks.”
Wenger’s own team have often been criticised in recent years for conceding too many goals on counter-attacks, but this season they’ve been a lot more successful when they’re chasing a deficit. The Gunners have fallen behind in six games in the Premier League and Champions League, but finished those games with three wins and three draws.
One of those was Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Stoke, but Wenger admitted that the Gunners have often had small margins on their side — such as when Petr Cech made a good save to deny a Peter Crouch header when the score was still 2-1 against Stoke.
“I look at the history of the games, there are always turning points that have gone for us. It’s never one-way traffic. Even on Saturday it could have been 2-2,” Wenger said. “We manage to get the turning points on our side. I’m conscious that it’s very tight. But I’m conscious as well that there is a resilience in the squad, because it’s not a coincidence, six times.”