Gael Clichy admits Manchester City need 'time to adapt' to Pep Guardiola's style

There has been something underwhelming about City this season, but the former Arsenal full-back feels as though they will come back stronger next season

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The Independent Football

After Gael Clichy had creditably offered a strong defence of his former manager Arsene Wenger, insisting he could still be the “perfect” man for Arsenal and that dissenting fans should be careful what they wish for, there was one obvious question: if the Manchester City full-back thinks that, why did he leave the Emirates in 2011?

Clichy smiled at the question but also slightly evaded it, while talking about the different profiles of the two clubs.

“Yeah, but it’s a different club,” Clichy said of City. “It’s a club that is growing year after year, new players will be coming next year, and the club is growing year after year. It’s a different club, Arsenal is a club who brings players at 16 for free and perhaps sell them six years later, 50 million. I’m not sure City is capable of doing this at the moment, they will eventually, because that’s what they want, they want to be complete all around the club, it’s not just the first team.

“They want to go [develop] the woman’s team, they want to go the academy so like I said it’s a club that is growing year after year but Arsenal is a special club because of what they are doing. You can’t compare any club in England and of course the fan and the people will say that trophies is what matters in football, and I cannot come back with anything [to say]…”

The frustration with City, however, is that they have not quite been what they should be as a team this season. There have been flashes of brilliance, some supreme performances and generally excellently slick attacking play in every game but yet still something unconvincing and ever so slightly underwhelming about them - or, at least, compared to what should fairly be expected of a coach with the record and approach of Pep Guardiola.

Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Arsenal almost summed up their season: a brilliant start, a curious pronounced drop-off, some supreme football, wasted chances and then just the general sense that they should have done more. But, given that offers enough evidence that there is something good evolving at City, how do the players feel? How far do they feel are they off getting to the level Guardiola clearly wants.

“It is a new way,” Clichy explained. “It is not just football it is also outside football, his philosophy is extremely based on details so of course you need time to adapt. Also, you have to think that he didn't bring many players in so in the second year he will be able to being it players that he feels can improve the team.

“Once you have this I believe the team will be stronger. Our duty is to try and listen to what he asks and perform the best we can and I think we are doing good but when you don't get the three points you know it could have been better.”

“[Against Arsenal] they had chances, we had chances. I think we hit the post a few times. It is a hard place to come and they had a point to prove to their fans. I think we started the game well and for some reason we just dropped a little bit after the goal [by Leroy Sane]. Some players were coming back from international duty so you always have that feeling where after 20 minutes everybody gets a little bit down. The boss told us that we had to push on in the second half because he felt we did not play well enough in the first half. We tried to do it, we had some chances and it is a good point to have. But we could have had the three points even... It was one of those things where you felt you could have got more from the game than just one point.”

Clichy is in a distinctive position, both literally and figuratively, in that he is an out-and-out defender in a Guardiola team. So, what is that like? Is criticism of City’s defending fair?

“There is always room for improvement. Football is a game where everyone has their own opinion. When you concede goals of course you have people saying you can be better, but football is more than just defending and attacking, it is 11 players, 15 players, all together and sometimes you have things that go against you like hitting the post today or maybe the penalty, and then it is a different game. Of course there is room for improvement and if people think that then we have to try and correct it, we know what we are doing correct and what we are doing less good… the fact we aren’t losing is important. You have some moments where you cannot win and sometimes lose games. As long as we don’t lose I will say it’s a positive thing but we need to get the points because like we’ve seen so many times over the years, the title race isn’t over until the last day when finally you cannot get anymore points.”

They can prove that on Wednesday by claiming the type of win that could genuinely transform the title race, and the entire season. If City can go to Stamford Bridge and make it two successive league defeats for Chelsea, after their 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, so much will look so different.

“That is why we love England,” Clichy says. “We are not here to say it is the best league in Europe but in terms of the challenge you cannot just think ‘the next game we are playing them and we can rest some players.’

“Of course everybody can lose games and the aim for us is to win game after game and get the points on board. England is probably the place where in the past years it isn't finished until it is finished, we have a fair-few games left and a fair chance of doing something good this year.”