Arsene Wenger has fired the first shots ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final, saying Manchester City’s success is not about Pep Guardiola’s brilliance but how much he spends.
Speaking ahead of their Wembley showdown, Wenger dismissed the notion Guardiola has taken football to new heights at moneyed City this season.
“No. Because look at Barcelona, they are still the best team in Europe,” he said.
“You have to accept that the modern game has changed, with the recruitment of the best players by a small number of clubs.
“As managers, maybe we can impart our philosophy on our teams. But this game now belongs to the players, their importance has become bigger than ever before.”
The veteran Frenchman also claimed referee Craig Pawson must ignore Guardiola’s call for ‘extra protection’ from bad tackles.
“Extra protection? I don’t know what that means.
“Protection, yes. But we just want the referees to protect the rule book.
“You want the refs to make the right decision, that is all.
“We know to beat them we will have to be at a different level — and I don’t want to speculate on City’s weakness.
“They have so many top players you think you have to stop, it is better to focus on the team plan rather than on any individual.”
Victory over City Sunday will see Wenger join an elite group of managers – including Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho – to win the English treble of League, Cup and League Cup.