Pep Guardiola: A Tactical Genius Premier League Deserves

Pep Guardiola: A Genius Premier League Deserves


In the world of football, a good manager can either make or break the club and in Manchester City’s case, Pep Guardiola is on the verge of leading them to unprecedented greatness. Anytime a club starts the season on a spectacular note and goes unbeaten for quite some time, they are compared to Arsene Wenger’s legendary ‘Invincibles’. Most of the time, we all brush them off as silly predictions and more often than not, those clubs fail to live up to that benchmark. And yet, this time, even the critics are rooting for the Sky Blues to finish the season unbeaten and lift the Premier League trophy – and this is all because of Guardiola.

A man renowned for bringing about the famous tiki-taka style of play at Barcelona, Guardiola has always been respected as one of the greatest coaches of modern times. However, what he has done for Manchester City is above and beyond anything he has done at his previous clubs so far. Yes, he did influence the Catalan giants and he made a strong impact at Bayern Munich as well. But at the Etihad stadium, Guardiola seems to have found his true calling.

In fact, one might even call his success at the club multi-faceted. He has united the team, extracted the best out of under-performing players and has brought about a new sense of dynamism as far as the club’s tactics are concerned. Most managers either end up spending too much time on conceptualizing or they spend too much time on the execution. The ultimate delivery gets lost somewhere in between but Guardiola seems to be excelling on all three levels with City.

When he first took charge of the club, Guardiola made quite a few harsh decisions which did not bode well for the fans. For example, he sidelined the likes of Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart even though they were one of the senior-most voices in the dressing room. Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero were all stripped of their individual star status which often prevented City from coming together as a club. These decisions may have seemed tough at that point but now, it is evident that they were necessary.

Once he managed to unite the team to an extent, Guardiola started focusing on his tactics. The manager has always been a good reader of the game and displayed intelligence in terms of making up plays, which is exactly what he did at City as well. The way Guardiola deployed his wing-backs in his first match as manager for the Citizens itself was quite unexpected. Instead of using them as inverted full-backs, the Catalan manager fielded them closer to the centre circle. This move completely threw Sunderland off their game since David Moyes did not expect this and looked baffled, like most of the City fans.

When Guardiola splashed out astronomical amounts to land full-backs this summer, several eyebrows were raised. Whether or not they are living up to their billing is another topic but the reason why he did that was because full-backs have always been essential to his tactics. For example, he relied heavily on Philip Lahm at Bayern and at Barcelona, he had the services of Dani Alves. Hence, he needed similar personnel at City and nobody at the club was capable of patrolling that area like Guardiola wanted.

What makes them stand out from their competition is their ability at adapting their tactics depending on their opponents. In fact, in their game against Chelsea last month, City looked like they had assembled in a 4-3-3 formation but – like always – they shifted the lineup as and when the play the demanded. At times it felt like City were defending with 9 men behind the ball whereas while attacking, they looked like every player was contributing to the force. This effortless switching of tactics to suit the play truly got the best of Chelsea and a frustrated Antonio Conte was left scratching his head.

City’s general philosophy is more or less the same but those little tweaks here and there are truly helping Guardiola’s men to overcome even the most challenging teams. The essence of his tactics at City is to maintain the ball while dominating spaces. A key aspect of making this happen is an efficient full-back and when one considers it this way, Guardiola’s summer spending spree does not seem all that exorbitant.

That said, he is not a manager who ships out under-performing players to make room for new faces. He invested a lot of time and effort in the likes of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane and now all three of them have established themselves as key members of the squad. This might seem like the basic job of a manager but very few of them are actually able to push their players just the right amount to bring out the best in them. It is a very delicate balance and Guardiola seems to know just where to draw the line. And the players love him and respect him for the same.

During the initial stages of the new season, a lot of people undermined Guardiola’s work at the club. It is a fairly popular notion that if one has money in the world of football, they can win trophies. If that were true, Roberto Mancini would have perhaps still been in charge of Manchester City. It is very easy to just assume that City are achieving what they are because of money but the truth is they are at this stage simply because of one invaluable investment made by the club last year – the appointment of Pep Guardiola.




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