Manchester Evening News 12/4/2020
Pep Guardiola has full confidence in every Manchester City star but will not hesitate to drop anyone who doesn't perform.
The Blues have endured a difficult start to their league campaign where they are yet to win consecutive games. But with the injury situation and fitness levels greatly improved, the manager has started to demand more from the players to generate more competition for places.
With a 0-0 draw at Porto boxing off their first achievement of the season in securing top spot in their Champions League group, the next challenge is to climb the Premier League table and ensure they are in a position to challenge for the title later in the year.
Instead, as everyone returns to their best they have to demand more of themselves. That is why John Stones has started recently ahead of Aymeric Laporte, and that is why Riyad Mahrez will return to the team against Fulham.
"We know after what we’ve done in the past to raise standards that nothing is perfect, everything can be better. Starting from myself then to individuals, the group, the staff, the club, everyone," said Guardiola. "We have to fight to do it better. And we can only do that by demanding more and more of ourselves. It’s the only way.
"They have to feel that there are six or seven incredible players who don’t play and who are waiting [for their chance]. And when these guys go on the pitch and play good, they have more chance to play in the future. During 11 months you can drop a little bit, it’s normal, but they have to compete, they have to do a good performance like they’ve done in the last two games, Burnley and Porto - this is the level from which we have to build something important this season.
"What next? I need the strikers to score goals. Riyad Mahrez scored three goals against Burnley and tomorrow he’s going to play. Because he scored a lot of goals. The guys who score goals are going to have more chance to play. The guys who don’t make mistakes behind are going to play. This is about the performance, not about the quality. The quality we know they have, they are top players but it’s about performance. The performance has to be better and better than the day before."
While Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne were left behind when the Blues travelled to Olympiacos last week, Guardiola railed against the idea that any players not involved in subsequent Champions League games could be considered rested and took a full-strength squad to Porto.
The manager will continue to make changes in games as he has throughout his City career, but stressed the need for his players to feel the pressure of competition from their teammates all the time.
"There is a misunderstanding about the word rotation. Rotation looks like 'I’m a bigger star and now I don’t play this game because I’m going to play the next important game.' This is a huge mistake for the players to have in their heads," he said.
"Rotation is because I want everyone fit and ready when we need it and the best way is playing games. Against Porto, Bernardo was exceptional, the best game he has played this season and the game before he didn’t play. Is it because I lose confidence in Bernardo? Absolutely not at all. You know my opinion of him. It’s just I want everyone to be involved and part of the team and everyone feel they have to be ready.
"I put the best team I can out every game, not because I’m just giving time for other players who don't play. The guys who don't play have to understand that if I don’t play them because of rotation they have to do more to play in this team. That’s the only way to get close to the biggest teams in Europe and the biggest team in the Premier League."