Pep Guardiola provided further justification for Manchester City’s signing of Jack Grealish, while also observing improvements in one of his existing senior players.
Man City are back in Champions League action on Tuesday evening, when they visit Club Brugge. After beating RB Leipzig on matchday one but losing to Paris Saint-Germain on matchday two, Guardiola’s men are aiming to get back to winning ways on the continent.
They go into the match on the back of a 2-0 win over Burnley in the Premier League. Switching the focus to European duties is never easy and a tough challenge will await, even if City are favourites to win.
One man who could have a role to play is Jack Grealish, who became City’s record signing in the summer. He scored on his Champions League debut against Leipzig, but is yet to find the net for his club since.
Guardiola thinks he has been an “excellent” addition, though, even if he is still working out his best role.
On how he is adapting to playing multiple times a week, Guardiola said at a press conference for the Club Brugge game: “We spoke about that, about what he has to live when he’s not here with eating, resting, sleeping, living 24 hours for his profession. He has been excellent so far.
“Every game except Burnley last game at a good level. I’m sure he will improve. I have to find his best position.
“The games he played, he played well. If he’s focussed in the game, on and off the pitch, he’s strong.”
City were already blessed with an abundance of attacking options, but Guardiola felt the addition of Grealish made sense.
Explaining why he signed him in more detail, he said: “The quality in the final third, to attract many opponents, to find his mates, to score goals to win games. The quality in the final third.
“We add another one because we have many competitions. He’s a perfect age. The clubs when you are on top of the competitions many years, the squad must be removed a little bit otherwise is more difficult. Everyone has to feel pressure from the new ones.
“We have to do it, all the big clubs move the players, everyone is a quality, running, defensively depends on it. The quality comes for themselves. This is what we want from Jack and all the players we sign.”
Another player who, over time, could put pressure on those already established at the club is Cole Palmer.
The academy product had a memorable day on Saturday when he came on against Burnley in the Premier League and then scored a hat-trick against Leicester for the under-23s later that day.
Guardiola is confident that Palmer can help City in a variety of roles after learning his trade over the past couple of years.
The City boss said: “Step by step, but he’s already two seasons train with us, completely involved in the dynamic of how we play.
“He extends his contract because we believe in him. We know his attributes. It’s not easy to play because of the players we have. Sooner or later, the young lads to train and play with us then go to the youth team.
“His development with and without the ball. He can play in five positions up front, wingers, attacking midfielders, striker. He has a sense of goal, happy to have him and he’s growing. Every training session he’s growing as a football player.”
Someone more senior that Guardiola is hoping to develop is midfielder Rodri, who he has seen improvements in.
He said: “The seasons are so long, 11 months, there are highs and lows. For a holding midfielder has to be steady, 7 or 8 out of 10. Now is so stable.
“He’s learning, always pay attention, realised what we’re looking for. We are more than satisfied.
“We knew it when we wanted him from Atletico. He’s growing, hopefully he can be better, open his mind to understand what we have to do. He has a margin to be a better player.”
Guardiola looks at Club Brugge clash
Guardiola will have plenty of decisions to make about how to combat Club Brugge, whom he described as a physical side.
“Top side, what we have seen the physicality, they know what to do, incredibly aggressive. Lots of quality up front.
“We go there, four games left, 12 points to fight to qualify for the last 16. Tomorrow we try to win the next three.
“We have a plan, the mentality will be the same. Adjust them, the way we play let them adjust as much as possible. Control the game and try to get a result.”
City could welcome back Brazilians Ederson and Gabriel Jesus after they flew straight to Belgium after international duty.
Guardiola said: “We see the protocols, they couldn’t land here unless they isolate 10 days.
“We join them tonight in the hotel. Tomorrow they do the preparations, maybe play, maybe not. They come back with us to Manchester for the routine daily life.
“Both, with Gabriel and Eddy we are together 4-5 years, we don’t need anything special to be ready. We talk to them, how they feel. They train a day or two there with our physios. We see tonight how they feel.”
Speaking alongside Guardiola at the press conference was Kevin De Bruyne, whom the manager confirmed is getting back towards full sharpness.
“He’s getting better. We know the best Kevin, he had some injuries in the ankle in the face, he’s getting better. Every game is better than before.
“The goals, the dynamic, the pace only has been given if you play regularly. Kevin needs to be fit to be the best. His potential is the movement, attacking space, how to do it. He’s getting better and it’s a good sign for us.”