English goalkeeper Joe Hart / AFP PHOTO / Anthony Devlin
Pep Guardiola has tried to play down talk of Joe Hart’s Manchester City future, despite previous indications that the goalkeeper is set to leave at the end of the season.
Hart told the BBC on Thursday that he is “surplus to requirements” at the Etihad and does not expect to play for City again, having joined Italian Serie A club Torino on a season’s loan last August.
The England international was effectively frozen out because, in the view of Guardiola, he is not suited to a possession-based style of football.
Claudio Bravo was brought in from Barcelona for £17.1million ($20.8 million, 19.5 million euros) as Hart’s replacement, but the Chile international has been unconvincing, losing his place to Willy Caballero, the veteran back-up goalkeeper.
Guardiola said at the end of February that he would be happy to go into next season with Caballero and Bravo as his two senior goalkeepers, and it is widely expected that Hart will be sold at he end of the current campaign, for a fee of around £20 million.
Yet asked to respond to Hart’s comments, the City manager told a news conference on Friday: “I said many times we will explain at the end of the season about all the cases.
“There are the cases of the players that are here, the players that are happy or unhappy and the players that are loan.
“Joe is a player for Manchester City and we are going to decide that at the end of the season.”
– Attack better, defend better –
Guardiola is happier that his team’s defensive record has improved of late, with four clean sheets in their last six matches in all competitions.
City struggled defensively earlier in the season, keeping just one clean sheet in 17 matches between mid-September and mid-December.
“I’ve said many times before as well that football is not a game where now it is defending and now it is attacking,” Guardiola explained.
“When you attack better, you defend better, When you defend better, you attack better,” the Spaniard added.
“But of course, it’s important for us to concede as few goals as possible, and as few chances as possible.
“I think the average is quite similar for the whole season. We didn’t concede too many chances to opponents during the games, but in the past, they would arrive two or three times, and every time it was a goal.
“In the last game, Stoke arrived for the first time and they didn’t score a goal. The important thing is that they don’t create too many chances.”
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Guardiola, meanwhile, has declared that one of his ambitions as City manager is to lead the club out at Wembley, a venue he describes as “beautiful”.
A victory over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Saturday would secure a semi-final place at Wembley in April.
Failing that, Guardiola will aim to take City there next season, and rekindle the fond memories of Wembley he has from his time as both a player and manager at Barcelona.
Guardiola won the European Cup as a player at Wembley in 1992, and the Champions League at the London venue as Barca’s manager in 2011.
“It’s so beautiful and that’s why I’d like to be there,” Guardiola said.
“As a football player I won our first Champions League in Wembley, the old Wembley, and as a manager I won my second Champions League there. So of course Wembley is special for me.
“When I was a kid seeing English football played at Wembley in all competitions, important games, the tradition there with the two managers going out, I loved that,” he added.