Has stubborn Pep Guardiola turned the corner at City?

Written by Carl Walker

Last night the travelling Manchester City fans will have made the long journey back home extremely happy, not just because of the result itself but also because the performance was truly devastating at the Olympic Stadium. In the end, it was a comfortable 4-0 win for Manchester City, they blew West Ham away and there are signs that the once stubborn Pep has finally seen the change that was needed, has been implied.

In the early stage of the season, Manchester City was simply scintillating, ploughing through anything before them however it came to a halt when Pep, the revolutionary, experimented with formations he had previously used at both Bayern and Barcelona but it left Manchester City badly exposed.

Players such as Zabaleta playing centre midfield and Kolarov at centre half didn’t fill fans and pundits alike with great hope and it showed. City put in some woeful performances and Pep was asking players to perform duties that they simply couldn’t do. and have dropped in the table and are currently fifth in the Premier League.

The manager has come in for criticism for this and in my opinion rightly so, however as previously mentioned the stubbornness seems to have subsided and Pep has graciously admitted that the Premier League is tougher than first expected.

The last few performances have shown that they may have turned a corner. Pep Guardiola has realised the need for change, albeit slightly later than Manchester City fans would have liked as they have dropped some big points in December.

Pep has settled on a formation of 4-1-4-1 and is playing players in their correct position. Sounds simple but it is effective. Yaya Toure is the holding midfielder with the attacking five in front of him causing havoc for defences as we saw last night against West Ham.

 

 

Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have struggled to find consistency but look to have finally settled and last night they both terrorised Sam Byram and Aaron Creswell respectively. Leroy Sane completed more take on’s than anyone else on the pitch last night (4/8) and completed 86.2% percent of passes. He also set up David Silva for City’s second goal.

Raheem Sterling was equally menacing on the right. Pass completion of 88.6% and completed his one and only take on successfully and also chipped in with an assist for new signing Gabriel Jesus, who’s selection raised a few eyebrows in itself.

His selection was justified though Gabriel Jesus was a thorn in the West Ham’s defence all evening. 77.1% pass completion, an assist and a goal rounded off a very impressive night for himself and Manchester City.

Pep has not completely torn up his principles and changed everything, the high energy and the high pressing game he demands are still very much in effect and this would show with the front three and probably why Gabriel Jesus started over Aguero, due to the Brazilians work rate.

The formation itself is more rigid for the demands of the Premier League. The 4-1-4-1, when in possession becomes the more accustomed 4-3-3 we are used to seeing from Manchester City in previous seasons. This formation has served them well in the past.

 

The formation also allows for the team to play out from the back, something which all Pep Guardiola teams always have done. Sagna and Kolarov split and give the keeper the angle and Yaya drops in to receive the ball. The passing stats back this up.

Yaya Toure attempted and completed more passes than anyone on the pitch. The next two players with the highest pass completion are both defenders. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. Only one West Ham player completed more passes that Will Caballero last night which shows this formation is working and the top five pass completion players are all from the team in blue.

 

The fans were also given a glimpse of the future of the club last night. Raheem Sterling (22), Leroy Sane (21) and Gabriel Jesus (19) are all young players that are way off their peak years, while Kevin De Bruyne (25) and Ilkay Gundogan (26) are about to hit those peak years. Going forward looks exciting for Manchester City.

There are some major issues that Pep will need to address with regards to the back five, which at times has shown its vulnerability this season and this is not something that Pep has inherited, he has also contributed to it.

credit Global Panorama

John Stones is only 22 and has seen his development slow down slightly this season, he will get there, though, especially when he is playing at the top level, a settled partner at the heart of the defence would not go a miss to helping that development. Vincent Kompany’s days look to be numbered and with his reoccurring injury problems, it may be time to move on. Nicolas Otamendi blows hot and cold and gets found out against more physical opponents so in the summer you would assume a centre half of the highest quality is on the shopping list.

All four of City’s full backs are over 30 and none have really impressed this season, although some have been played out of position on occasion this season. At least one right back and one left back will also be a high priority on the shopping list this summer.

The biggest problem Pep faces this summer, is one he has created himself really. Joe Hart. England number one was sent out on loan after seemingly being told he is not needed at the club and Claudio Bravo was brought in as his replacement.

credit Corey-Adam Crowley

Claudio Bravo has had a torrid time so far in England, he fits the mantra of ball playing goalkeeper that can help start attacks but when it comes to shot stopping he is nowhere near the calibre of Hart. In the Premier League and with the way Pep plays the keeper will always have work to do and Bravo is not up to standard, this again has been realised, finally as Caballero started last night’s game at the Olympic Stadium.

If Pep sells Joe Hart in the summer, with Liverpool and apparently Chelsea interested then we may see another goalkeeper arrive although Manchester City does have the exciting Angus Gunn in the reserves who is earmarked as a real future England star and biting at the heels of the current number one and two respectively.

It has has been a real roller-coaster ride so far in his first six months in charge, Pep Guardiola has had his fair share of criticism from plenty of people including myself and it has been warranted, but I am glad that he has stuck to the majority of his philosophies that he believes in but equally glad he has seen the need for change.

Manchester City currently sit way off the pace in the Premier League but on their day they can blow anyone away. Don’t write Pep off just yet, there is more to come from this team.

What have you made of Guardiola’s City tenure so far? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by Omnium Cultural