‘We had a strongly balanced performance’

On the assured performance against Man City…
“We had a strongly balanced performance, offensively and defensively against a good Man City side, especially in the first half. In the second half we completely took over and maybe should have scored more goals. Overall I am pleased because there is a lightness back in the team and the way we play. Everybody looks to enjoy, and play without the handbrake or any restriction. That is good to see.”

On the return of Cesc Fabregas
“It was a good team performance. I think Cesc had Denilson and Song behind him who did a good defensive job for him. That meant he could dedicate more of his energy to the offensive task.

“He likes to come deep and play the long balls. At the moment he is still in the phase where he gets to know all the aspects of the game – in defence and attack – so I use him a little bit to adjust the balance of the team. Today I felt I had the choice to put Arshavin in behind Adebayor but then I had to move one of the central midfielders wide. I just felt it was more balanced like that.”

On paying the price for early-season defeats…
“I believe if we had just won two more games where we have drawn we could [be right up there]. But maybe the other teams could say that as well. We have played 31 games today and we are 17 unbeaten but that means that in the first 14 we have lost five. To win the championship after losing five in the first 14 cannot work.

“It shows what I said since the start of the season; when a team is young like that, they can improve. They have shown that now, we go from strength to strength, and we’re not the same team that we were in August or September – that is normal. I always said I believe in them because they have mental strength, hunger and they work very hard in training. They still have room for improvement.”

On travelling to Villarreal after comprehensive victory…
“We go into this Champions League game in a good state of mind. You know as well that you must perform on the day which demands focus, belief and a high level of commitment – that is what we want. Of course if you go in without belief or confidence it is much more difficult. We know that to go to Spain you always need to be at your best to come back with a strong result.

“I believe in the quality of our side and the best way to show that is to do well in all three competitions. The first sign of quality is consistency and that’s why I am very happy that we have such a consistent run in the Premier League. You want to repeat the performance every three days and that’s the challenge we face now until the end of the season.”

On shuffling his pack for the trip to Spain…
“I don’t know [what changes I will make]. I don’t know if we lost Walcott today, I don’t believe so. We have a little opportunity to get Van Persie back, a very small one to get Nasri back. We lose Arshavin who is not eligible and we have absolutely no chance to have Diaby or Eduardo available.”

On leaving contract talk until the end of the season…

“I believe what is highly important now is to focus on what is in front of us and not talk about all the rest. The rest won’t help us to win games and that’s why I don’t want to make any comment on players leaving or contracts until the end of the season. It is a young team and it’s important that we focus just on our performances.

On moving six points clear of Aston Villa…
“We are in a good position now and that wasn’t obvious three weeks ago. We want the biggest possible distance from Aston Villa because we still have a difficult schedule; we play Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea. Three weeks ago we would have signed to be in this position.”

[Saturday, April 04, 2009]