(Reuters) - Manchester City will not hesitate to dump their passing style and play more direct if it leads to more clean sheets, defender Pablo Zabaleta has said.
Manager Pep Guardiola launched a staunch defence of his preferred possession-based style of play despite his back four regularly losing the ball in dangerous areas, which has led to just one clean sheet in their last nine games.
“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,” Zabaleta told British media.
”We need to respond to those situations where sometimes we need to play long 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.”
Zabaleta felt a lot of City’s defensive frailty was because they often left themselves exposed to counter attack.
“I think the main problem was we were conceding too many counter-attacks and we needed to concentrate more on those balls,” he added.
“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, who are fourth in the Premier League, seven points behind leaders Chelsea after 16 matches, host third-placed Arsenal on Sunday.
Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly