Did you see an improvement between the first half and the second half?
Well, I certainly see a team that in the second half they kept trying they never gave up and their attitude was exceptional. It’s always tough losing at home 2-0 against the opponent that we were facing. When they were able to perform at the level that they did today collectively and individually it makes things really hard. Something that is clear is that they never gave up. Even the crowd tried to push them and we tried to fight right until the end.
How much is COVID affecting the way you prepare your squad at the moment?
It’s really challenging at the moment. We’re missing nine players, and the majority of them are big senior players. It’s what we have. We put a team out there that will probably be unprecedented in the history of this football club.
But credit to the boys how they’re trying the passion that they tried to bring to the team. They are playing with a lot of courage in this situation which is tough when you know the highlights are on you. They are trying their best but at the moment it’s not enough to win football matches.
How do you prepare now for Manchester City?
Try to give them confidence and the tools and belief that football changes really quickly. The league table is not going to be decided in August.
I don’t want to see anybody feeling sorry for themselves or for the team because that’s not going to help us. I want a team, a squad of individuals that wants to fight, that wants to face the challenge that is ahead of us because normally when you do that you get the reward. That’s what I’m going to try to do with them.
Is the booing at half time and full time a worry?
No, I saw a lot of excitement from them at the beginning. They really tried to push the team. When you’re 2-0 down at half time no one is going to be happy. We would be fooling ourselves with a club with this history that anybody is going to be happy at half time with that.
But in the second half you saw a different reaction. Every time the team was giving them something they were reacting positively towards them. The players were saying that they believe they were really good with them. At the end they have to show their frustration.
We all want things to be in a different moment right now but the context that we are facing is extremely difficult. Again we need them more than ever now.
Do you think you should have had a penalty in the first half?
Even though it went to VAR?
Are Kieran and Martinelli OK?
Yeah, they had to limp off. I don’t know KT had an issue with his quad and Gabi was cramping. With Bukayo they have not played 90 minutes for a long, long time, but we have to ask them to do that right now when they are not fully prepared. But they tried really hard the boys.
How unfair would it be to judge your team at the moment?
We cannot control that. We try to explain when we can what we are facing, but the expectation for this club is always that we have to win every single match. When that doesn’t happen it’s normal that we are going to get criticism and they are going to try to look where they want. That’s it.
Hopefully things will get better. In the moment when the players are back – and they will need some time to get back still because they have lost a lot of football – things will be completely different. Hopefully we will see a different squad and a different level in the way we can play and hopefully different results. The story can change. The good thing is the narrative in football changes really quickly.
Has Ben White got any chance for Manchester City next week?
I don’t think so no.
How fit is Pierre. Is he ready to start next time and how much are you going to need his goals in the coming weeks?
I don’t know. Auba made a real effort to be able to be on the bench today. He only trained one day. He really struggled with the illness and he was in bed for a long, long time. He wanted to be in the squad he wanted to try and help the team and I thought that he did that when he came on.
Were you tempted to go with a back three today to match them like you have in the past?
I did think about all of the options that you can imagine, but as well we were hit by COVID and the situation in the week. We have beaten those teams playing three at the back and we beat Chelsea playing with four at the back. They were better today than us.
Do you feel with circumstances that you’re playing a bit with one hand behind your back?
We are playing without nine players in our squad at the moment. I don’t know if it’s a hand but it’s a big part of the squad.
Are you hopeful that when you get the players back things can get better for you?