Pep Guardiola is adamant Manchester City will not sway from their passing philosophy but veteran full-back Pablo Zabaleta said the Premier League title hopefuls are willing to play more direct when needed.
Amid City’s struggles following back-to-back defeats prior to Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Watford in the Premier League, Guardiola had stood firm over his reluctance to change his tactics, which served him well at Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
The arrivals of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and John Stones have shown a clear emphasis on playing out from the back, but City’s defence has been their Achilles heel this season.
However, Zabaleta – who was among the goalscorers as City kept their first clean sheet in nine matches – said the Manchester club are prepare to go long.
“We played direct when it was needed and we played out from the back when there was a good chance to play from Claudio Bravo,” he said.
“We need to respond to those situations where sometimes we need to play long balls and go for the second balls as well. In this league you need this, it is so physical. You need to be strong as a defender and you must be so solid.
“We have been talking the last few days that we needed to improve defensively. We kept a clean sheet, we were solid at the back and that is a big difference.
“I think the main problem was we were conceding too many counter-attacks and we needed to concentrate more on those balls. I thought we were very concentrated during the whole game against Watford, winning the long balls, being very aggressive at the back, winning all the duels.
“That is what you need as a defender, and as a team you need that determination and that desire to win the duels and the tackles. You must be prepared for this and we’ve got the players that have the aggression to cope with this.”
City – fourth in the table – are at home to third-placed Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.