MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola has rejected accusations from Gary Neville that Manchester City deliberately foul when they don’t have the ball.
The Sky Sports pundit claimed “there’s a lot of the dark arts there in terms of the way they play” following City’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night.
But Guardiola said that fouls are a consequence of his side’s desire to win the ball back quickly rather than a deliberate tactical decision.
“I completely don’t agree with that,” he told a news conference ahead of the Premier League clash with Southampton on Sunday. “We are a team that try to play and, of course, when there is a counterattack sometimes there is contact, the action is a foul but as a team we don’t think about that.
“Never have my teams been focused on doing something wrong against the opponents. I completely don’t agree with those comments that we are a team that is looking for these kind of situations because it never happened in Barcelona.
“It never happened in Bayern Munich and it can never happen at City; and will never happen in the future in my career. Never.”
Former Manchester United defender Neville was hugely complimentary of Guardiola’s team — describing them as “phenomenal” after returning to the top of the table on Monday.
But he added: “It’s not just nice. Every time a team wins the ball back and counterattacks, they foul them. There’s a lot of cynicism about this team as well, which I like.”
Guardiola admitted there may have been more fouls in the win over Spurs but blamed the poor state of the Wembley pitch, which was being used just 24 hours after an NFL game.
“If you talk about the game against Spurs, you can’t discount the pitch we played on,” the City boss added. “Maybe you could see the grass so in that situation contact is maybe more common but I don’t think we are team that makes a lot of fouls.
“Normally when a team has 65 or 70 per cent of the ball we cannot kick the opponent. We can kick each other, okay, but we have the ball. Normally when for every 10 minutes you have the ball for seven of them there is less option to make fouls. I don’t think we’re a team that make a lot of fouls in games.
“But I can assure you never in my life in one meeting or one idea did I say to my players: ‘You have to do that to make problems to the opponents, to not let them be who they are.’ We take the ball to play again.”
City conceded the fewest goals in last season’s record-breaking title win and have been even meaner this campaign with just three goals conceded from their opening 10 matches.
“Without good players, we cannot do that,” Guardiola added. “Every manager has good ideas but without good players, it is impossible.
“It has happened because we have money, that is true. We needed that to compete at a high level. But the other teams spend a lot too here and in Europe, apart from Tottenham.
“This season we spent less and next year maybe we will buy one player. You can do that once every four or five years. We don’t just want to buy players who defend well.
“We want players who play as well, not just that they defend and don’t want the ball.”