Arsenal hold an advantage heading into the Community Shield over Manchester City due to the treble winner’s packed schedule during the final stretch of the last season, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
City faced a gruelling schedule season thanks to their successful runs in the Champions League and FA Cup, while Arsenal had a less busy campaign and were chasing Guardiola’s side for the Premier League title.
City, who won their first Champions League title in June, will kick off their 2023-24 season against runners-up Arsenal on Sunday in the traditional curtain-raiser to the Premier League season.
“The situation that we are in, we finished (last season) two weeks later than Arsenal and we start (this season) two weeks later. So, we are not in the best way,” the Spaniard told reporters.
“We struggle to restart every season but it’s fine, and hopefully our mentality can help us to be there and compete.”
Manager Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are looking to close the gap at the top of the league, and Guardiola believes the north London side has recruited players who could walk straight into the starting line-up.
The signings of England midfielder Declan Rice from West Ham United, Kai Havertz from rivals Chelsea and defender Jurrien Timber from Ajax Amsterdam have strengthened Arsenal’s core.
“Rice decided to go to Arsenal, I wish him all the best. He is a really nice guy, for the England team he is important. Arsenal have bought a really good player,” Guardiola said.
“They didn’t buy players to make the squad bigger, they have bought starting players. I could not expect anything different.”
Guardiola reiterated his desire to keep England defender Kyle Walker, who has a year left on his City contract, amid interest from German giants Bayern Munich.
Bernardo Silva is another one of Guardiola’s key players who is linked with a move away from the club, with LaLiga champions Barcelona reported to be potential suitors for the Portuguese midfielder.
“Kyle and Bernardo, what could I say? They are so important for us. We want them, (so) we are going to do everything (to keep them). We want (Silva) to stay because he wants to stay,” Guardiola said.
“These two players’ (situations) are difficult – we have already lost two incredible players. They scored goals in big important games. To lose Kyle and Bernardo would be so difficult. We will do everything to keep them.”
Guardiola said Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol, who is set to join City from Bundesliga club RB Leipzig, is undergoing his medical test.
“Gvardiol, what a beautiful surname he has!… Everybody knows he is here. Hopefully, we can finish the deal in the next few hours or days,” he said.