Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is largely credited for turning around the fortunes of a number of his pupil. One of the oldest remaining in the business, the French manager has seen a plethora of players polish their skills and flourish under him. Ahead of Arsenal’s meeting with Manchester City in the finals of the Carabao Cup, Wenger revealed how he got a chance to sign rival manager Pep Guardiola but he turned down the opportunity. Wenger also downplayed the Spaniard’s influence on modern football and said the game has become more about players and less about the managerial tactics.
Wenger and Guardiola will meet at the Wembley when their respective sides take the field in the first major cup final of the season. Arsenal and City have two back to back clash lined up, one in the League Cup followed by a Premier League battle. Well, if the Arsenal manager’s latest revelations are anything to go by then the Carabao Cup final could have been a mentor vs mentee clash. Wenger admitted that he was approached by Guardiola when the Spaniard left Barcelona and was hunting for a new club but due to his age Wenger didn’t opt to sign him.
Wenger reckoned that he the Guardiola after his stint with Barcelona wanted to play in the English Premier League and had identified Arsenal as the club he wanted to play for but for Wenger, he well past an age and has seen out his best time in Spain already. A 30-year-old Guardiola was rejected by Wenger in 2001. “He was over the top of his career already, and I had top-class players in these positions,” Wenger said but added that he admired Guardiola as a player. “Yes. It was the quality of his decision making, the quality of his distribution, and he played a very quick passing game, which is always our DNA.”
Guardiola after not being accepted by Arsenal joined Brescia before joining Roma in 2002. In his 263 appearances for Barcelona across 11 seasons, Guardiola had only six goals to his name. But those stats didn’t justify his creativity as a player. However, when it came to a managerial role, Guardiola defined consistency and delivered spectacularly in his four-year reign at Barcelona. He won three La Liga titles and lifted two Champions Leagues with Barca and announced himself as a tactical genius to the world. He has already pocketed the Premier League this season, which is his second in charge of City and looks set on course of his first silverware in form of the Carabao Cup.
Wenger admitted that Guardiola was a ‘great’ manager but didn’t feel that he has changed the way modern football is played and has raised the bar for other managers. “No, because you look at Barcelona, they are still the best team in Europe,” Wenger said. “You have to accept that the modern game has changed because there is a regrouping of the best players in a short number of clubs.
“And we as managers maybe we impart our philosophy, but I think this game belongs to the players. Because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before, because you have a regrouping of the best players in a very small number of [teams],” Wenger was quoted as saying by ESPN.
Guardiola after scripting history with Barcelona took charge of Bayern Munich and led them to three successive Bundesliga triumphs. He has mastered his Manchester City side perfectly and has made them look ruthless across Europe. They were dumped out of the FA Cup recently by Wigan but that should not affect Guardiola’s near flawless Premier League record which has set the tone for his first success in English football. Whether or not he will be able to put one on Wenger in the Carabao Cup finals, the Arsenal manager will aim to capitalise on City’s embarrassing FA Cup elimination. Wenger knows how to win a major and his team has been able to win at least a trophy every year which suggests that Arsenal’s pedigree will be no less than of City’s.
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