Is Manchester City's Pep Guardiola the real "Special One"?
Since Josep “Pep” Guardiola Sala announced his departure from Bayern Munich back in December 2015, he was arguably the most sought after Manager in many a year. What followed was a mad scrap with many of Europe’s finest trying to persuade the former Barcelona boss to pitch up at their club. The likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal were heavily linked.
However, there was only ever truly one destination when Manchester City showed their interest. Txiki Begiristain is a close friend of Guardiola, following their time together at the Nou Camp and it didn’t take much to tempt the Spanish coach to complete the switch from the Allianz Arena to the Etihad. Txiki Begiristain was instrumental in the club successfully luring Pep to the Etihad. It is no secret the Man City hierarchy have been almost obsessed with Guardiola, he embodies everything that the powers that be had been searching for since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in August 2008. One look at his managerial record and you can see why they were desperate to get him on board.
Guardiola; known for his “tiki-taka” style of football, has already started to implement his philosophy. The former Barcelona captain is consumed by the desire to play what the dutch used to call “total football”, you just need to study City’s transfer policy to see what he is trying to accomplish – Claudio Bravo (£17.1 million – Barcelona), Ilkay Gundogan (£21 million – Dortmund), Nolito (£13.8 million – Celta Vigo), Leroy Sane (£37 million – Schalke) and John Stones (£47.5 million – Everton).
It is easy to say they are just splashing the money, they are simply taking advantage of the lucrative league they find themselves in. In Guardiola, they have the perfect man to mold those players into a real attacking force of nature.
Early signs are positive for City fans, he seems to have integrated his marquee signings with the already impressive squad he inherited from Manuel Pellegrini. Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne have hit the ground running this season, Raheem Sterling looks a completely different player. New signings Leroy Sane, John Stones and Nolito have all looked very good additions, there was also a very encouraging debut from Ilkay Gundogan against Borussia Monchengladbach last night in a 4-0 win.
Although Guardiola has been one of the most privileged coaches of our time, both Barcelona and Bayern aren’t exactly struggling financially, but Pep has a reputation of nurturing youthful talent something that the current crop at the Nou Camp should be incredibly thankful for. So, expect to see Kelechi Iheanacho get a good amount of games underneath his belt this season.
Guardiola has already made a huge impression on his new squad, there is already a desire to play out from the back which has seen him the target of some criticism, not that he pays much attention to that. New signing Claudio Bravo looked jittery, to say the least at Old Trafford last Saturday and was at fault for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal, it must not be forgotten he has only had the best part of three training sessions with his team-mates, it is early days.
Goalkeeping clangers aside, an under-strength Man City due to the absence of Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany looked commanding, bossing the first 40 minutes. The first-half display was outstanding and something that many had not expected against a Jose Mourinho side. One thing that was expected was Guardiola operating a high-pressing game, the home side just could not live with it.
Man City were well worth the three points and under Guardiola, they are the only Premier League side with a 100% record after just four games. The Citizens are currently short of the free-scoring sides he has coached in the past but with the personnel he has at his disposal, it may only be just around the corner.
World class pedigree
Many say it is too early to judge whether Guardiola’s time at the Etihad will herald their desired success. Of course, they are right. However, it would not be a massive surprise were he to take the Premier League title and go a considerable distance in the Uefa Champions League. he has done it before.
The former Bayern coach has a remarkable record in both La Liga and the Bundesliga, winning six league titles (three in each division) and becoming a double Champions League winner with Catalan giants Barcelona. The heaviest criticism levelled at him is that he has not achieved without money, but his achievements are more than that, especially in Barcelona.
The season before Guardiola took his post (2007-08) they finished third behind Real Madrid and Villarreal, having to enter the Champions League at the qualifying stage, almost unheard of for the Spanish giants, there was clearly work to do, he passed with flying colours and the rest is history.
What will beckon this season? Premier league title success is a must, anything less will be seen as a failure by Guardiola and Manchester City on the whole. The competition will be as high as it has been for a very long time. Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho will be expected to prove themselves at their clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Arsenal is always in the mix, Pochettino’s Tottenham will be expected to challenge for the top four after a very good season last time out as well as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool being a serious threat.
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