Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho do not represent a magic formula for Manchester City in the Premier League title race, Pep Guardiola insists.
The midfield trio were at the heart of City’s 100-point season last time around, with Fernandinho providing a base from which dual-playmakers Silva and De Bruyne were able to wreak havoc.
Fernandinho has proved just as pivotal this time around, particularly in light of Guardiola being unable to secure specialist holding-midfield cover during the close-season transfer window, but a pair of medial knee ligament injuries have left De Bruyne on the sidelines for the most part, and Silva has been getting back up to speed after suffering a hamstring injury in December.
Tuesday’s trip to Newcastle United was the first time Guardiola deployed his preferred central trident from the start of a Premier League game in 2018-19, but De Bruyne was substituted after an hour – having trodden close to a second yellow card – and Fernandinho gave away the penalty that allowed Matt Ritchie to seal a shock 2-1 win for Rafael Benitez’s side
Asked whether City were missing the benefit of De Bruyne operating at full tilt ahead of Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, Guardiola insisted the responsibility for hauling in Liverpool’s five-point advantage at the summit lay with the collective.
“All the players play at a high level when the team is playing good, not for one single reason,” he said.
“What we have to do is play good and when our game is good then the potential of individual players will increase.”
Silva celebrated his 33rd birthday last month and Fernandinho turns 34 in May but Guardiola does not believe their advancing years are becoming incompatible with his intensive style of play.
“It’s the same with the questions about Kevin,” he said.
“The team, the way they play – potential, individuals – I don’t change one player of 33 years old [Fernandinho] because three months later they are older.
“The team’s potential, the way we play in the individual actions…I don’t expect as a manager to take all decisions and solve our problems. Our problems must be solved collectively.”
Benjamin Mendy could become part of that process once more at the weekend.
The France left-back suffered swelling in his knee following his return from surgery against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup but is back working with Guardiola’s squad and was set to be assessed after training on Friday.
However, the manager has “no idea” when club captain Vincent Kompany will return from his latest calf setback.