Pep Guardiola licensed CC ASA 3.0 Unported
How Great Is Pep, really?
With Manchester City crashing out of the Champions League in the last 16 to Monaco, a lot has been said about their manager, Pep Guardiola. A lot of people have been quick to label him a fraud, brand him as arrogant, and much of this has been his own doing.
When Manchester City hired him as their manager, they would not have envisaged being dismissed at such an early stage of the Champions League. It was for this specific tournament that he was targeted. Aside from having reached the semi finals last season, where they were eliminated by eventual winners Real Madrid, they have failed to make it past the last 16 stage of the competition. The appointment of Pep was to bring the knowledge, tactical awareness, and experience to compete with the very best in Europe.
The loss to Monaco has now raised a lot of questions. Monaco may not be Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich, but after the 5-3 win at the Etihad, it should be known that they come out the traps flying. They want the result quickly. 84 league goals in 29 league games, with an average of 2.9 goals per game, and sitting 3 points clear in Ligue 1, shows this isn’t a team to be taken lightly. They beat league rivals Tottenham twice in the group stage, twice 2-1, and their home game could have been a lot more comprehensive. 2-1 was a very flattering result for Tottenham at the Stade Louis II.
So the first question is why start with such an offensive formation? Why start Clichy and Kolarov, when Otamendi is a natural centre back and is fit enough to play? Why leave Fernadinho as the only defensive midfielder with 5 attacking players ahead of him when you already carry a two goal cushion?
I’d argue that had Mourinho been given the 18 players in the Manchester City squad that he wouldn’t have been as naive in his selections. He may have brought in the experience and natural positioning of the likes of Otamendi, Yaya Toure, and Zabaleta
Prior to the game Leonardo Jardim said his team would have to score a minimum of 3 goals if they wanted to make the next stage. It can be said that Man City are not blessed with great defensive talent, but an option could have been to bulk up their midfield, and make it difficult for Monaco to break them down.
Instead it was a stubbornness to stick to his ideologies that has cost him a spot in the last 8.
It’s been the same story for the majority of the season for Peps side. In 3 seasons at Bayern Munich he lost 9 league games, and 11 games in his 4 seasons at Barcelona, this season Manchester City have lost 5 league games in 27 games so far this season, and they aren’t a team openly feared in the league. Struggling Leicester but 4 past them, Chelsea put 3 past them at the Etihad, and they were ruthlessly picked apart at Goodison when Everton battered them 4-0 at Goodison Park.
This was always going to be Peps biggest challenge. He has risked his reputation as one of the greatest managers in the game, simply because he hasn’t taken the reins at a complete team.
When he took over at Barcelona, he took on a very talented squad. boasting Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Puyol, and a 19 year old Lionel Messi who was very quickly becoming a superstar. Barcelona became a better team, the tools were there, but Pep applied the tweaks the squad needed.
Fortunately for Pep, he has never been far from a transfer budget. With over €80m spent in his first season as a manager, he was able to go out and buy who he needed to win the treble. The following season he was handed a further €89m for recruitments, and in his final season he spent over €70m on players. His trophy haul cannot be questioned, but it did cost him over €240million euros to achieve the feats he did at Barcelona. Where there was a lot of homegrown talent, there was also a lot of investment.
Money has always been where he has gone.
When he took over at Bayern Munich, he took one of the best footballing sides Germany had ever seen. Having won the Bundesliga, DFB Poktal, DFL Supercup and the Champions League in Jupp Heynckes. The 2012-2013 team set records for fun, picking up most points in a single season with 91, the biggest gap between 1st and 2nd with 25 points, fastest team to win a league with 28 matchdays. They were a fantastic team, a dream to take over.
Boasting the talents of Neuer, Lahm, Alaba, Ribery, Robben, Miller, Mandzukic, Gomez, Kroos. This was a team that didn’t need tinkering, the quality spoke for itself.
In a team looking almost impossible to improve, Pep targetted players, and in his first summer at Bayern he was able to raid his former club Barcelona for Thiago for a reported €25m, as well as Mario Gotze from Dortmund for a further €37m.
He wasted no time in implementing his own style of play, believing firmly in his philosophies, right or wrong. He wanted to bring the Barcelona tika taka approach to the Allianz, and although each season he managed Bayern he retained the Bundesliga, he couldn’t match his previous highs, and wasn’t able to match the feats of Heynckes, and add a further Champions League trophy to his achievements.
He may have added the qualities of Lewandowski, Vidal, Douglas Costa, Gotze, and Thiago to his squad, but the semi final is as far as his Bayern team would go, before announcing he would be taking over Manchester City. He left Bayern a figure divided by opinion, with some fans that loved his approach, and some critical of his approach to their club.
Since signing for City he has spent close to £100million on talent. With recent claims saying that he is only interested in buying for the future, but Pep isn’t a manager looking to build a dynasty. He hasn’t looked at Manchester United and thought ‘I want to be the next Sir Alex’, he has already said he does not want to be in the game for a long period of time, saying he won’t be on the bench when he is 60 years old.
The Premier League is not the Bundesliga or La Liga, Manchester City will not bowl through teams in the same way Barca or Bayern could, you can’t afford to rest your big players at the weekend if you have a Champions League game on Tuesday. Every game will be a battle, and you’re walking a tight rope from day one.
Pep has lived a blessed life so far, he will be given more money come July and he will heavily invest in his squad.
But if he wants to be successful he will have to change his approach. You can’t expect to play out from the back in every situation, you have to learn to go long sometimes. You can’t expect to be tactically aggressive in every match, sometimes you have to load up your midfield.
He has time on his side, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was to pack his bags by the end of next season. This isn’t a tailor made squad, this is his first great challenge.