Sergio: Arsenal v Man City and the European football landscape
Before the World Cup you spoke about how this season would be like no other, because of Qatar 2022. Since it resumed, it is fair to say that some of the stars in the World Cup have struggled to get going again. Would you say this is a reason why mid-season World Cups should not be repeated?
Never before has a World Cup been held in November-December.
I supposed in advance that it was going to bring some complications.
First, and often unconsciously, the player takes care of himself before such an important competition.
Some of that was seen before the World Cup. And then you have to return to the local league and resume the work that had been interrupted with the team.
It is not easy for anyone. Neither for the clubs nor for the players.
It has been seen that some found it difficult to return.
And few did it like before the World Cup. And it is logical that this happens. Others also returned very well, encouraged by having had a good World Cup.
In short, it can be a burden for those who did not do well and was surely a motivation for those who did have a good break.
There were even players who missed the World Cup due to previous injuries and others who were unable to return to their clubs due to injuries during the competition in Qatar.
The case of Gabriel Jesus, for example. It is true that this was even for everyone and the rules of the game were known in advance.
And regarding repeating on those dates, it should be better evaluated but a priority it seems more logical to play when the local competitions end.
Your old club Manchester City have not played with their usual freedom and fluency - what do you put that down to?
I don't think it is that way. It is necessary to understand that the rivals play and many are being very consistent.
And lowering even a little the level City had been having is taken advantage of by others. We'll see how this goes. There is still a lot of the league left.
Gary Neville was commentating during the defeat to Tottenham and said something is just not right within City at the moment. Cancelo being sold after falling out with Pep, and then Pep dropping De Bruyne for that match. Are you concerned there are problems behind the scenes?
I am not aware that there are internal problems, I am not in the day to day.
And from outside you cannot comment.
If I can say that in many clubs there were movements of players that one thought would not leave but finally left.
There are many cases. Jorginho is one, Cancelo is another.
Regarding what you ask me about Kevin's substitution in that game, I can tell you that Pep usually rotates the team and adapts it to the rival.
And more with such a demanding schedule.
What happens is that in view of the result, many wondered why he was not a starter.
But in other games the same thing has happened and there were no questions because they won.
One thing that has been evident in the last month is the amount of runs Erling Haaland makes in behind that are just not being spotted by his team-mates. How frustrating is it for a striker when you make good runs and you are not being picked out?
We all have to adapt to how the team works and the team also has to find a way to better find its goal scorers.
But it is not a process that occurs from one day to the next.
Let's think that if we take out the World Cup period, it will be just over five months since Haaland joined City.
And he has already scored 25 goals... They haven't found him so little, have they?
I understand that a lot is demanded of City, for a reason they won 4 of the last 5 Premier League title.
But sometimes it takes a while to settle things.
They have had some defensive injuries like Dias first and then Stones. Foden also missed several games due to injury.
Akanji, an addition, has had a lot of minutes and has performed very well.
The appearance of Rico Lewis is very interesting, Grealish is being important with assists and goals and Julián always brings sacrifice, pressure and goals.
City seem intent on passing the ball between the lines and patiently, instead of hitting Haaland with passes in behind the defence. Is that an ideology issue from the manager, which the team and Pep must change?
As I was saying, it is a mutual adaptation.
I believe, and in fact it is happening, that both options are being given.
I think it's about time, getting to know each other better and everything will become more fluid within the field.
One thing that looks a potential issue from the outside is the midfield - Gundogan, De Bruyne, Bernardo - they are all the wrong side of being young players. Have we seen the best of them as a unit, and is that where City need to change going into next season?
City have one of the best midfields in the Premier League.
Players with great criteria with the ball and who are very clear about Pep's style.
They are multifunctional and that to upset the rival is very important.
Kevin can play lying to the right or left and assist...
Or show up in the middle and arrive with his great punch.
Bernardo can even play further back and Gundogan reaches the opposite area a lot and scores a goal.
If we add to that Grealish who goes down to receive, Foden who is unbalancing and can also play as an organizer, we see that there are different alternatives to always form a talented and creative midfield.
By now you will have seen the news about the 100 Premier League charges against City, and clearly there’s a lot of legal things on that which need to be sorted out. But there is potential for City to be stripped of some league titles - how would you feel if you were ordered to return a Premier League winners medal you won on the pitch?
I have read the statement from City and they have made their position clear and surely everything will become clear.
It already happened in the past.
What is clear is that all the titles City won were on the pitch and through their own merit.
Do you think City are unfairly singled out by opposition managers? Jurgen Klopp, Mourinho, Barca and Real Madrid have all spoken out about them in the past?
It's always talked about in football. Looking to get some advantage.
But I take it as part of football folklore. Not much else to say.
I insist on what I said before.
There is no need to speculate on this matter. It is a process that is just beginning and I believe that everything will be clarified in due course.
Enzo Fernandez is now the most expensive player in the history of British football. Now clearly he has shown he is a good player - but the pressure is on to match up to that fee. Can he cope with that pressure? And what makes you think he will have the game and personality to succeed?
Enzo has shown time and time again, both in his first club River Plate and in the Argentina national team and Benfica, that he does not feel pressure and assumes his responsibility on the pitch naturally.
And he no longer has to do with how much he paid for it.
We saw it in his Chelsea debut. He made the team play and almost reached the goal. And it was his first game.
In the second he put in a masterful assist for Joao Félix's goal. He will surely have a very important progression in the Premier League.
City face a crucial trip to the Emirates this week, what’s your prediction for the match?
It will be a difficult game for both teams.
It was already seen in the previous one for the FA Cup.
It was a very intense game, very tactical. Pep and Arteta know each other very well.
For me it was an interesting duel.
The difference now is that it will be a league game and City with the need to win to get closer.
Perhaps a draw will suit Arsenal better so we will have to see how the game unfolds.
I have no doubt that, as always, City will fight until the end, so I am optimistic that they will get a good result and if so, there will be a lot still to play for.
Arsenal have a very consistent starting line-up whereas Pep likes to change his eleven from game to game, what do you think we can expect from both sides from a tactical point of view?
I don't think it's very different from what was seen when they played for the FA Cup.
What varies in this case is that it's for the League and they play twice, with City's need to cut the difference between one and the other.
That makes it a different game because of the load it entails.
Although in football I think that both will try to prevail, press and make a difference.
Oleksandr Zinchenko has received a huge amount of praise since he joined Arsenal, and he obviously won many titles at City, what did you make of him when he arrived as a young player and could you see the leadership skills in him that he is now showing for the Gunners?
Zinchenko is a great boy who already at City showed his passion for football and his desire to win.
And now at Arsenal he shows it with more leadership.
I think the experience he had at City allows him to play an important role in his team.
Because he plays in different positions, sometimes even a little further up the field.
We’ve seen enough since the World Cup now to see that Chelsea and Liverpool continue to struggle. So we’re going to put you on the spot - who do you think will finish in the top four places, and who will miss out?
The great teams never give up.
And also with such outstanding establishments. It is true that this season Liverpool is not at the level of the previous ones.
I think the issue of so many injuries hurt their performance.
The faster you can get them back, the better chance you have of putting up a fight.
Chelsea is in a replacement process.
It will depend on how long they take to understand the new additions -which were many- so that they begin to get their best game.
They have a great coach and although some figures left, with the new ones they make up a great squad.
Perhaps in this sense, Chelsea is the one with the most options to enter the top positions.
Are you fearful of the emergence of Newcastle as a powerful club so quickly? Can they make Champions League football?
They have had a very good start to the season, surprising everyone, with a consistent game and great defence.
It is very difficult for them to score against them, and they have a goal threat.
But the Premier League is long and very competitive.
It's not just about being up there for a moment but staying in the fight.
Right - the Champions League is finally back, and at a time when some of the usual big sides are really struggling for form. Liverpool face Real Madrid - how do you see that going?
I always say that there are no easy games in the Champions League.
It is true that it is a key that is not seen that often in these instances.
They are teams that in recent years have been finalists and won the competition.
And not always the form of the teams makes them more or less dangerous. It is true that Liverpool is not at its best.
But it is Liverpool and it is Anfield.
And we already know what Madrid is in these instances. It will be a nice game to watch.
PSG and your old friend come up against Bayern. Who will come through that match?
Another clash that could have happened later in the competition.
And it happens now... Either!
It will be necessary to see how Mbappe arrives from the injury.
He is a decisive player. But there is Leo and also Neymar.
It is a powerful team, with great players and experience in the Champions League.
And Bayern is always the protagonist. It will be another great series.
Are you expecting there to be any surprises in the Round of 16? Maybe Club Brugge can continue to defy the odds?
What has been said: in the Champions League there are no easy games and some teams that a priority were not considered candidates always go to the round of 16.
Today everything is much more even and anything can happen.
There is just as a big a tie in the Europa League where your old club Barca come up against a Manchester United side in hot form. Who comes out on top, and why?
From what they are showing in La Liga, Barcelona managed to establish itself as a team and have a very consistent game.
They managed to close their goal, they concede very little, and they have unbalancing players up front.
United have managed to get back into consideration and seem to have left behind the irregularity of the recent past.
Another clash worth seeing, even, but I think that Barca, and I hope it will be like that, will be the one that prevails.