Written by Vince Agbu
“Success without playing the way you like to play means nothing to me”
~Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola.City-‘Zens’ Of Goal
Does Pep Guardiola have anything to prove in football? Is he really the best in the modern day football coaching elite? Guardiola’s teams have played a brand of football christened “tiki-taka”. This took European football by storm during his time in Barcelona. Guardiola’s Barcelona won three successive league titles, Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super-coppa, Champions League trophies, as well as the other assorted trinkets available to European champions; Super Cup and Club World Cup-14 trophies haul in just four seasons was phenomenal. Everybody took note.
After a year’s sabbatical in the US, Pep Guardiola inherited from Jupp Heynckes, a team that had just conquered Bundesliga and Europe, winning the coveted treble. Bayern followed a treble-winning season with the appointment of arguably the best coach in the world then.
The Bavarian side displayed utter dominance on the ground and in the air- a mean machine! Quite frankly no team stood a chance against Guardiola’s Bayern. Guardiola stuck to his philosophy though it failed to land him a European title during his three years in Bundesliga, knowing of course that this burden of expectation was there from the start.
After a flurry of offers from European top guns asking for his hand in football marriage, Guradiola chose Manchester City, which a lot of people felt it was mainly for the money, but in truth, it was because of his friend Txiki Begiristain – City’s DOF, and with the fact that he wanted to prove to us all that he can make it ‘on a cold Monday night in Stoke’
His Manchester City chapter was heralded with dancing & unrivalled joy; expectations from the City faithful as was the case at Allianz arena were huge and enormous. The City brand doubled in size overnight, social media exploded with various hashtags as the Catalan born ex-Spanish international touched down in the blue half of Manchester. If ever a job seemed like a double-edged sword this was it: especially when you add to the narrative, that a certain Manchester United wanted his signature on the dotted lines too.
With a handsome transfer kitty, and large purse strings, he managed to spend only £115m in the transfer market, as the ‘citizens’ have never been afraid of throwing money around since taking over the club. We all need “sugar daddy” owners.
The Manchurian adventure started with intensity, on the bounce they stormed to 10 consecutive wins in competitions – it was indeed the best start of any City manager in the Club’s 136-year history. 15 goals in the first five matches, averaging three per match, was great. With Guardiola promising there is much more to come, they managed to finished 3rd, after huffing and puffing along, they could not maintain the results and intensity they started with.
2017/18 is a different prospect entirely- starting from the revamping of their dressing room- designed after star wars, in a circular form, to quash any possibility of cliques developing amongst any of their squads, hydrotherapy pools, to help players recover after matches, you could say they came prepared for the season.
Swash-buckling, they have made the best start ever in premier league history- scoring 52 goals, a record for a Premier League club since the 1992-93 campaign, 3.5 goals per game ratio, and averaging 18.5 shots per game. Manchester City packs a punch, with talents that can put any opponent on the ropes; they have taken 31 points out of a possible 33 so far. 23 games unbeaten and a +33 GD goal in all competitions, the only unbeaten team in Europe’s top 5 leagues so far – indeed Pep and his rampaging hoard are developing an aura of invincibility.
Guardiola has tuned his lads into a ruthless scoring machine- Sane is playing the best football of his career, a menace to behold on the flank, so also is Sterling – goal shy and undecided before is now scoring for fun, running at defenders with a fearless intensity that makes you slow – mo your TV to reconfirm what you’re seeing – Kevin De Bruyne is out of this world, his glorious assists and ability to see what others don’t, executing to letter is outstanding.
With this plethora of players Pep Guardiola and his boys are a different proposition this term, not flattering to deceive as they march towards redemption from last season.
Surely they are narrowing the margin between the real and the ideal in football. The climax was their 2 legged crackers with the best ball-playing team currently in Europe – Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli. Scintillating encounters, that had it all- penalty save, injuries, drone speed counter attack, short one-two inter passes that left you breathless, was at display. City of course, came up trumps, sending a ‘catch me if you can’ message to the rest of Europe.
Pep had this to say on his touch down in premier league, “until my last day in England I will try to play with the ball as much as possible. I know it’s impossible for 90 minutes, but I’m sorry, I will not negotiate that. A stubborn gaffer, that believes in his tactics.
The modern game also comes with ruthlessness and intensity that he likes playing with- possession based style of football, with clinical finishing and accuracy. His style demands so much mental and physical concentration from his players, which he confirmed himself…“I have given everything and I have nothing left,” he exhaled upon stepping down at Barcelona. After seven years of maximum intensity at Barcelona & Bayern, Pep was drained, his teams were equally exhausted, and he had no more to give!
He left himself and the team completely worn out, deflated and needing a new challenge, the question now on everyone’s lips – can he sustain this intensity all season, and how far can they truly go like this? Some believe they are going to have their blip, sooner rather than later.
Steam-rolling teams are their new forte, a beauty to herald as a neutral of course, but their lofty ambitions demands trophy (ies).
As the all-conquering league leaders we thought would be given a ruckus 90 minutes at the Etihad by Arsenal, instead we all can agree that gooners were out gunned – annihilation.
Once in a blue-moon we are privileged to see a style like City in this exceptional form, but can the vision and verve be maintained in marathon themed seasons, as we do have in this modern era? Frankly if there was ever an algorithm in football, we surely are blessed to behold it, in all its glory. Still a long way to go, but Pep Guardiola and hos blue horde will really take some stopping
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