Guardiola shows sympathy for Xhaka over dispute with fans

Pep Guardiola has sympathy for beleaguered Granit Xhaka in his row with Arsenal fans.

Gunners boss Unai Emery will not select his captain this weekend after he appeared to swear at the club’s fans following his substitution against Crystal Palace last Sunday.

In a statement on Thursday, Xhaka said he had reached boiling point because of social media abuse directed at him and his family.

Pep Guardiola believes respect should be mutual between players and supporters
Pep Guardiola believes respect should be mutual between players and supporters (Martin Rickett/PA)

Manchester City manager Guardiola said: “We have to respect our supporters. It’s not easy for the players sometimes, for all of us.

“I can understand Xhaka, the emotion of that moment. I don’t know exactly what’s going on inside. Maybe I’m not the guy to say that because sometimes I lose my emotions and cannot control myself but you have to try because at the end it’s just a game, to have fun, to try to do their best.

“I’m sure that all the players, Xhaka included, do absolutely everything the best for Arsenal, for his mates. He’s the captain so it’s because he has something special in the locker room.

“Sometimes you lose control. It will be forgotten and move forward and hopefully, in future, the fans can forgive Xhaka and he can come back and show how incredible a player he is.”

Tommy Doyle got his chance to impress in the Carabao Cup
Tommy Doyle got his chance to impress in the Carabao Cup (Nick Potts/PA)

City play Southampton for the second time in five days on Saturday after a 3-1 victory in the Carabao Cup in midweek.

Guardiola will recall a number of first-team players after giving some of the club’s youngsters a chance to impress on Tuesday.

Among them was 18-year-old midfielder Tommy Doyle, whose two grandfathers both played for City.

Guardiola said: “Of course it’s important for the local players with our people, our fans, for the people who were born here.

“But it’s happened because of the quality of the players, not because you were born here you’re going to play for Man City or Man United. You have to deserve to be there.

Eric Garcia has impressed during his displays for Manchester City's first team
Eric Garcia has impressed during his displays for Manchester City’s first team (Richard Sellers/PA)

“It’s nice to watch him and he played a good level. But he’s still 18 years old, he’s so young. His position now is in the second team, play as much as possible there and be ready, like he was.

“It’s good for him and of course how important it was for his family, his grandpa.”

Phil Foden is the only teenager regularly in the squad in the Premier League, and Guardiola challenged the others to stake a claim.

He said: “Eric Garcia is closer because every time he plays at an incredible high level, he doesn’t make mistakes. Then the other ones have to work and work and work.”

City are bidding for a 10th win from their last 11 games in all competitions as they look to keep up the pressure on Liverpool.

Guardiola believes it is an advantage to be playing the same team again, adding: “Of course we take a lot from it. It’s four days ago so it’s close. But maybe he’s going to change, Ralph (Hasenhuttl), so I don’t know what’s going to happen, just to prepare.”

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