Manchester City Fan View: Difficult week highlights unique pressure on Pep Guardiola

دوشنبه 20 دی 1395 ساعت 13:48
Manchester City gave their manager Pep Guardiola reason to smile again at the end of what has been the Spaniard’s most difficult week since moving to England in July. His side eased past West Ham in the FA Cup third round on Friday, ending their visit to The London Stadium with a 5-0 win; the performance was as impressive as the result and the manager was glowing afterwards.

It was a welcome change to the image he put out last week. Despite victory over Burnley at weekend, the boss gave a smattering of sulky interviews that earned him a great deal of criticism that filled column inches and radio phone-in’s for days. He was in the wrong, but the reaction was over the top.
In the week since, it has transpired that Guardiola apologised to the journalists who were on the other side of the microphone, though that act of contrition wasn’t worthy of the same level of coverage. Alongside the mini-tantrum, a handful of quotes were released in which the Spaniard stated that he felt he was coming to the end of his coaching career. What later became apparent was that those quotes were taken from an interview given to NBC over a month ago; they were not representative of a manager struggling with the Premier League or cracking under the pressure. No, they merely echoed everything he has ever said before; he does not see himself coaching until he’s 60.

Guardiola faces a pressure in England that is almost entirely unique. That is not to say it is more pressure than other manager, nor am I arguing that it is unfair, but it is unique all the same. More than just being synonymous with success – he won 21 trophies in his seven seasons as a manager prior to moving to the Etihad Stadium – the City boss is associated with a particular style of play.

He is known for playing football that is based on dominating possession and utilising intelligent positional play. At Barcelona, he created a team that many regard to be the greatest club football side in history. At Bayern Munich he won the league in each of his three seasons, this with a club that had failed to defend a title for a decade. Crucially, he imposed that famed style of his on both clubs. Not only were his teams’ wildly successful, but their host counties were too. Whilst Guardiola presided over Barcelona, Spain won the World Cup with a nucleus of that Catalan team. Whilst Pep was in Munich, Germany took international football’s top prize. Guardiola’s influence was stamped all over those monumental triumphs, of that there is no question.

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With the knowledge of Guardiola’s success and his reputation for executing a very particular brand of football comes an enormous expectation, as well as a significant division amongst experts and supporters. For many, his arrival in England marks a battle between ideals. It has been posited that the manager’s slow, possession based style will not conquer the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League. The division is too quick and too physical for Pep to prosper.

On the other hand, Pep’s most rabid supporters will tell you that he is going to revolutionise English football. It is the league that will have to adapt to him, not the other way around. He will be too intelligent for the thoughtless kick-and-rush of the game on these shores.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Pep’s detractors often fail to acknowledge that the football he played in Spain and Germany were different. They were rooted in the same ideals – possession and position – but they were not the same. In Germany, he worked out that he needed to employ Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry as wide men and focus on getting the ball into the box. That required a level of direct play that he didn’t revert to so often in Spain. In his book Pep Guardiola: The Evolution, author Marti Perarnau notes that in three years with Bayern Munich, the boss employed 23 different formations. It hardly speaks of a man unable or unwilling to adapt.

When the Blues opened the season with 10 straight wins, Premier League opponents quickly realised that shutting down space in their third of the pitch and counter-attacking City’s high defensive line was a way to hurt City. Pep might not have quite worked out the best way to deal with that yet, though the effective diamond midfield employed against West Ham suggests he’s getting there. He can, of course, only be judged by what we see, but he has the thickest portfolio in football as evidence that he’ll work out the Premier League. Yes, England is unique with it’s own idiosyncrasies, but it is arrogance on behalf of the Pep sceptics to think our league is the one that he can’t crack because of some false and ignorant idea that he can’t adapt.

City have won five of their last six matches, taking in a victory win 10 men, a 5-0 away win and a triumph over title-rivals Arsenal. The signs are back that Guardiola is getting to grips with the league and the players are adapting to him. He has come out of his mo
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