Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed claims his players are tired and are being over-worked.
Spurs are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, having been beaten by Watford, Liverpool and Inter Milan, and there have been suggestions they are jaded, with Harry Kane being the subject of particular scrutiny.
Kane was one of nine men in their squad that were in Russia for the entirety of the World Cup and only returned to pre-season training a week before the Premier League kicked off.
But Pochettino insisted his players were all given 21 days off and that was more than some other Premier League stars.
“It’s normal to find the reason why when you lose,” the Argentinian, who takes his side to Brighton on Saturday tea-time, said.
“After four years, now this is the fifth, I know that the most important thing is we are so flexible and we try to provide the best for each player to feel great, with a lot of energy and have very good performance on the pitch.
“But no one complained that they were tired, wanted more days off.
“We provided all the players 21 days off. More than some teams. I think (Manchester) City, I was talking with (Mikel) Arteta because we wanted to be fair with everyone, and they gave the possibility to arrive one week before us because they played one week before in the Community Shield. They have only 15 days holidays.”
— Harry Kane (@HKane) September 21, 2018
The build-up and aftermath of Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at the San Siro this week was dominated by Pochettino’s decision to leave Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld at home, with the boss embarking on a rant at reporters after they questioned whether he regretted the decision.
Pochettino has finally revealed why Trippier was left at home, insisting he needed a full week of rest.
“We provided more time to recover after the international break to be sure he could play in a very good way against Liverpool,” Pochettino said.
“We didn’t train too much because we prioritised the rest and recovery and of course when he played and it was a tough game against Liverpool 90 minutes, to play again three days after again a big level team, again a very good player in front it wasn’t the best and the risk was massive.
“It is not because we punish players or we are going to take risks or we are gamblers.
“It is about not risking injury and we provide him a very good week of training to be ready again.
“I go back to Manchester United, remember in the second half after 70 minutes the two full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier ask to leave the pitch and they were ready again to play one week after.
“Because they were tired. It is difficult to cope in a high-level game working hard. When you see all that happened it’s an easy answer.
“But I don’t want to explain every single press conference my decisions and say, ‘No, it’s like this’.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh problems, oh punishment because we lose’. It’s different circumstances.
“When we assess the team we always try to find the right decision to win.”
The two sides met in a controversial FA Cup fourth-round tie last season in which City’s Leroy Sane suffered ankle ligament damage following a bad challenge from Cardiff’s Joe Bennett.
After the game City manager Guardiola called for referees to protect players better.
Cardiff boss Warnock has revisited the controversy ahead of this weekend’s encounter by claiming that, while agreeing with Guardiola over the Sane incident, another tackle in the same game went relatively unnoticed.
“If you watched in the 50th minute there was a tackle from Kevin De Bruyne on Jazz Richards that put him out for 17 games,” said Warnock in his pre-match press conference.
“So I would say ‘which is the worst?’ That sounds like a worse tackle than Bennett’s, but we didn’t make a song and dance about that.”
Guardiola was unwilling to speak about the comments when they were put to him at his own press conference, saying, with a smile, that he had “nice words” with Warnock after the game in January.
Guardiola said: “I’m not going to discuss a game that happened six or seven months ago, the decisions of the referee. I’m not going to play that game.”
Guardiola also does not expect Sane to be affected as he returns to the Cardiff City Stadium.
He said: “He’s forgotten it. It’s a new game. It’s months ago, a different competition, an FA Cup game. Now it’s a Premier League game.
“We’ll play our game and try to maintain the physicality. It’s happened in all the games and now we try to make a good performance.”
Guardiola has no concerns over the form of striker Gabriel Jesus, who has scored just one goal this season and struggled in Wednesday’s Champions League loss to Lyon.
He said of the 21-year-old: “He’s happy. He’s been good so far with his performances. His movement, his high pressing is the best in the world, but he’s still young and they have a gap to improve.
“We have to help in the final third, to take decisions, to find spaces. It’s the most important thing for Gabriel Jesus to know he can improve and pay attention in the training sessions.”
Guardiola is also looking forward to continuing to work with City’s record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who has agreed a contract extension to 2021.
The 30-year-old has not always seemed an obvious fit for Guardiola’s playing style, but any concerns seem to have been overcome now.
“I’m delighted he can continue here,” said Guardiola. “We know each other better, as a player and human being, and that’s the most important thing.”
The Gunners welcome Everton to the Emirates on Sunday, having won their last four matches in all competitions.
A 4-2 Europa League victory over Vorskla Poltava on Thursday added to Premier League successes against West Ham, Cardiff and Newcastle.
But, after starting life as Arsenal head coach with back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea, Emery’s side have yet to keep a clean sheet since he took charge.
They conceded a last-gasp consolation goal at Newcastle last weekend, while Europa League minnows Vorskla struck twice late on to ruin goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s debut.
Now Emery is targeting defensive improvement and the Spaniard insists everyone has a part to play in making that happen.
Asked what he will be looking for against the Toffees, Emery said: “First, the confidence with our defensive players. Second, working tactically to be more compact.
“But not only for the defensive players but for the whole team, the whole 11.
“With this process I think we also need time, but it’s our first disappointment from the first games of the season. We need to improve this.”
Emery made eight changes for the first European match of his tenure as the likes of Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette dropped out of the starting line-up.
But the 43-year-old, who won three successive Europa League titles during his time as Sevilla boss, maintains he will not have one team for the Premier League and one for continental competition.
“My first idea is to find the best performance in each match. Every competition for us is very important,” he said.
“Thursday is Europa League, Sunday is Premier League, Wednesday is Carabao Cup. I am then going to choose the best first 11.
“We need not 11, we need 20 or 22 players to find this performance. We are going to continue in thinking that each match is like the best first 11.
“We need also to do the mix for each match, changing players to give them the minutes and give them confidence, but I am thinking of the performance.”