Search icon


22nd Sep 2021

Pep Guardiola renews calls for U23 sides in lower leagues after win over Wycombe Wanderers

Daniel Brown

“Maybe one day, the big bosses, the big clever guys, will explain to me why”

Pep Guardiola has once again called for U23 sides to be allowed to play in the lower leagues of English football, after a number of his youth team players featured against Wycombe Wanderers.

Although City had to come from behind after Brandon Hanlan’s tap-in gave Wycombe a shock lead in the 22nd minute, Guardiola’s men secured a dominant 6-1 victory in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night.

Goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden gave the home side a comfortable lead at the break, before Ferran Torres, Mahrez once again and Cole Palmer completed the rout.

Despite putting on another spectacle at the Etihad – albeit against lower opposition – the City boss was annoyed about the lack of opportunities that youth-team players get to play against professional men’s teams, using a portion of his post-match press conference to once again call for U23 sides to be allowed to feature in lower leagues.

It is a topic that Guardiola has been vocal about before, previously suggesting that the level of U23 football in this country is not ideal for making real progression.

Whilst the Spaniard accepts that many of City’s youngsters – some of whom featured against Wycombe – are able to quickly adapt to the physicality and pressure of the professional game, thanks to the calibre of players they are training with on a daily basis, he also believes that there are better way to help them progress.

“They can have this freedom because they train with us. Otherwise, they could not play,” said Guardiola in his post-match press conference.

“But the better would be if every week they could play against Wycombe.

“If every weekend they could play against this legend striker from Wycombe [Adebayo Akinfenwa], that would be the best development for these players – not just training with us against the defenders, against Jack, against Phill, Gabriel and Riyad, against these type of players.

“They should every day against teams from the Championship or League One, that will be the best ever for English football.

“For the English football that would be the best, not playing against 17, 18 or 19-year-olds where they win 4-0, 5-0, 6-0 or 7-0 every single day.

“We cannot educate them, that is not good for them.”

The 50-year-old then went on to discuss the current situation regarding substitutions, questioning why English sides are not able to use five substitutes in all competitions this season, unlike the rest of Europe.

Earlier this season, the majority of Premier League clubs voted against the five-sub rule that was put into play in the 2019/20 campaign following ‘Project Restart’.

However, Guardiola suggested that it is ‘ridiculous’ to only allow teams to make three substitutions when the rest of Europe allows their clubs to make five.

“I’m not here to change anything of this country,” he added. “So when all around the world we have five substitutions, we still have three and in this calendar, I’m sorry guys this is ridiculous.

“That’s why many injuries. Why? Because we cannot make five substitutions, when all around the world they pay attention about our players to be healthy, to use them better.

“Now, here, every three days games, every three days games, we have no preparation, no pre-season without anything, just three substitutions when everybody else has five

“Maybe one day, the big bosses, the big clever guys will explain to me why.”

Whilst it is unlikely that Guardiola will ever receive his desired explanation, the decision to revert to the three substitutions rule was voted for by the majority of Premier League clubs – meaning that the City manager is part of the minority who actually want the change to happen.

With games coming thick and fast for the Sky Blues, it will be interesting to see if the Spaniard continues to use his youngsters, with more than enough Premier League and Champions League fixtures to go around.

Related links: