BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola leaped to the defence of Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger on Sunday after the Frenchman’s side suffered an 8-2 demolition at the hands of English Premier League rivals Manchester United.
Guardiola, whose team knocked Arsenal out of the European Champions League last season and lured their captain Cesc Fabregas back to the Catalan capital this month, said it was hard to believe another manager could do as much for Arsenal as Wenger had over the years.
The 40-year-old former Barca and Spain midfielder also noted that the Arsenal squad that travelled to Manchester was severely depleted by injury and the loss of Fabregas as well as France international Samir Nasri who has joined Manchester City.
“We have to remember what he (Wenger) has done for football in general, Arsenal is a great team,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Barca’s opening La Liga game of the season against Villarreal on Monday.
“Of course you can always go to Manchester, who have so many good players, and Arsenal with so many injuries these things can happen,” he added.
“It’s not just the departure of Nasri and Cesc but also (Jack) Wilshere’s injury that means he can’t play and all the other injuries across the squad.”
Guardiola praised Wenger’s record in the Champions League, which Barca won for the second time in three years last season.
“They have always progressed far and been competitive over the past decade, always with a very characteristic style of football,” he said.
“Arsenal has always been a team that has played very nice football. In sport there are many good things that have nothing to do with winning or losing.”
United’s big-spending local rivals Manchester City also produced a fine performance on Sunday to rout Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 in north London.
Asked about City’s chances of competing in Europe, Guardiola said they were quite capable of causing an upset.
“If you see the players and their manager they can do it,” he said.
”If you see these names they are awesome. All of them, they are top, top, top players.
“It’s one of the top teams in Europe. But you have to wait as it’s the beginning of the season and anything can happen but they have everything to compete.”