Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola concerned by players’ fitness ahead of Arsenal test

Pep Guardiola claims Premier League players have not been given long enough to prepare for Project Restart and fears a spate of injuries when football kicks back in.

James Robson Manchester City face Arsenal at the Etihad on Wednesday night – a rescheduling of the first match in England to be postponed due to coronavirus.

And a three-month lay off has left the authorities trying to cram the remaining fixtures into a hectic schedule to minimise the impact on next season.

City’s players were given individual training programmes to work on at home, with equipment such as exercise bikes sent out by the club. But they have only been able to take part in full contact training for less than three weeks.

Guardiola said: “They (the players) came back really well so we don’t have any complaints. But the way we are right now, I think like other clubs, is we don’t know.

“You ask me how is the team? I don’t know. Tomorrow we will see the level of the team and from then we will see how we will do better.

“We were worried with these three weeks, not like in Spain or Germany they have five or six. We know it is not enough, but it is what is. All the people with their businesses and shops they have to adapt and we have to adapt. I don’t know how many minutes will be in the high level.”

Guardiola added: “I think we are ready to play one game, but three days after, another one and then four days after that, another one. We are not ready.

“Not just Man City, all the teams. But that’s why we have to rotate and use absolutely all the players.

“The players’ whose natural physical conditions are better can sustain more time. You can play a game after three weeks of holidays, but we were two weeks of holidays lying on the sofa, doing nothing much, and that’s why I think the players are not fully, fully fit.

“But we have to start and we have to finish the season because the damage economically to all the clubs must be as little as possible.”

Guardiola will go head-to-head with his former assistant Mikel Arteta for the first time as a manager. The pair are still in regular contact and City’s manager reveal he messaged his Arsenal counterpart on Tuesday afternoon.

“It was about the wine we are going to drink if social distance allows it,” he said. “I am so excited to see him again. One of the nicest people I ever met so it was a joy for me to work with him and the feeling I have is he is happy there and doing an incredible job.

“He knows secrets (about City) as much as I do, but he does not play and I do not play. I can suggest things, but at the end the players make it so if we are better we will win.

“We know each other. He knows everything about us because it is the same at the moment as it was when he was here and he was an incredible, important part of our success in his years. He helped us to be who we are and who we are. He knows it and we are delighted he is back.”

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