Pep Guardiola: Football’s Most Overrated Coach?
Pep Guardiola has won 31 trophies in the 12 seasons he has so far spent in management and he will go on to win many more, at Manchester City and wherever else he decides to go. That said, I believe Guardiola to be the most overrated manager of all time. That may on first viewing appear a grandiose statement, but let’s look at some of the statement’s made by some of Football’s best known voices which have contributed to why I have reached this conclusion. Statement’s that I believe to be just as grandiose and certainly more ridiculous.
First you have Ex-Barcelona player and fan Gary Lineker declare on twitter that Pep has had “the most positive influence of anyone ever on our game.” He followed up this blood boiling statement by saying that Guardiola has changed the way we play the game in this country from an obsession with direct football to total football. Before Pep’s arrival in the country in 2016 we clearly here in England had never even heard of Johan Cruyff, and were forced to endure Wenger’s route one football before Pep taught us all the 5-yard pass.
He went on to say that though Arsene had been influential ofcourse when arriving in England, it was not to the same levels of transformation as Pep. Arsène Wenger who came into the country in 1996, a time when top Premier League player’s diets still included a regular intake of chips, beers and chocolate bars. A league where one of the top clubs in it, and the club Wenger was talking the reigns of, Arsenal were captained by an actual alcoholic. Wenger’s total transformation of player’s diet and training regime were influential ofcourse, but not transformative to the level of Pep say erm.. getting keepers to play out from the back. And if what Arsenal were playing with Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Henry and later Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie wasn’t total football…
Maybe outdoing Lineker on the ridiculousness-scale, you then had Gary Neville declare Pep “the greatest manager of all time”. When did he say this, you ask? After Pep had won his 4th successive Champions League with Manchester City perhaps, trouncing Real Madrid 3-0 in the final? No, after a 1-0 win in the Carabao Cup against famous trophy-haters Tottenham Hotspur, whose manager was taking charge of his second match ever. It was a fourth successive Carabao Cup rather than Champions League that convinced Neville that Pep had now toppled all those who had come before him.
Above for example his manager of 19 years at Manchester United, Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex who began his managerial career at East Stirlingshire (a club who didn’t even have a goalkeeper when he joined) and went on to make Manchester United, perennial underachievers since the 1960′s, the most successful club in Europe during his time there, winning 13 league titles, more than twice as many as anyone else has ever won in England. His last 5 league titles were won whilst being heavily outspent by one and later two clubs after the Glazer takeover at Manchester United, and Roman Abramovich and The Abu Dhabi United Group bought Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
Ferguson had not forgotten how to punch well above his weight having managed Aberdeen to 3 Scottish League titles, as well as 6 other domestic cups and 2 European honours with the Cup Winners Cup (won by virtue of beating Bayern Munich in the Quarter-Finals and Real Madrid in the final) and the UEFA Super Cup beating European Champions Hamburg. 11 honours in 8 seasons. With Aberdeen.
Fergie is the last manager to win the league in Scotland with a club outside of Celtic and Rangers and that may remain forever the case. To win a European final against Real Madrid as the manager of Aberdeen..there’s an argument for having Fergie above Pep before you even consider his dynasty at United. No other manager in English football history has won 3 league titles in a row, Fergie has done it twice. Also, considering people like to talk down Ferguson for his record in Europe, he has won 7 European honours, no one has won more.
The Forgotten Men
Pep is known as an innovator and a serial trophy winner, but looking at some of the manager’s who we have produced on these shores in the past, Gary Neville’s claim appears ludicrous without even needing to look abroad. Can Pep really be considered more of an innovator than Herbert Chapman say, who began coaching in football at a time when tactics and an organisational structure with victory in mind wasn’t yet a thing? Chapman implemented a highly organised system, set up to counter-attack opponents and when arriving at Huddersfield Town took charge of the first, second and third teams in order to have them all playing the same way, so promoted players could slot into his first-team immediately.
After an FA Cup and 2 League titles back to back with Huddersfield Town, Chapman then moved to Arsenal and in 1930 won the FA Cup, the clubs first major honour. He followed this up with 2 league titles in 1931 and 1933. The foundations he laid at the beginning of the decade allowed Arsenal to go on to be England’s most successful club of the 1930′s, winning 5 league titles. Chapman had a clear idea of how to produce successful football with fast counter-attacking after sitting deep and allowing harmless possession in their half, with a strong emphasis on defence and making players fitter than anyone else’s. His methods were far too advanced for the rest of the league who still plied on with slow, methodical passing.
Before Ferguson, United had one other great Scottish manager, Sir Matt Busby. Matt Busby with his strategy of developing players from the youth side which was not a common thing at the time won 3 league titles before the Munich Air Disaster and 2 after. 8 of the ‘Busby Babes’ died in the plane crash, 2 were unable to play football again and Busby himself lay in hospital for nine weeks and twice was read his last rites. Sir Matt rebuilt Manchester United and exactly 10 years on from tragedy, he led United to become the first English club to win the European Cup, with a 4-1 win over Eusebio’s Benfica at Wembley.
Sir Matt was far from the only great Scottish manager of the 1960′s. Jock Stein who managed Glasgow Celtic between 1965 and 1978 won 10 Scottish titles and 20 other domestic cups, as well as managing them to become Britain’s first European Cup winners. In 1967 Celtic won every competition they entered: the League, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup, Glasgow Cup and the European Cup beating Inter Milan in the final. This was achieved with a team all born within 30 miles of Glasgow.
Bill Shankly went from at one stage of his career performing all the administrative duties such as answering the phone and answering letters on an old typewriter whilst managing Third Division North side Workington to setting Liverpool on a path to become one of the biggest and best clubs in the world. When he took over at Anfield, Liverpool had been in the second division for five years and had just been knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Worcester City. Shankly took Liverpool to 3 First Division league titles as well as their first-ever FA cup. His biggest contributions to the club came through in the relationship he cultivated with the supporters, showing the importance and belief he had in the impact home fans could have over a result and as well the foundations he put in place for Liverpool to go on shortly after to have resounding success at home and abroad.
Bob Paisley was originally reluctant to take the Liverpool job, but following his role as Shankly’s assistant as part of Liverpool’s infamous ‘boot room’ the club was confident he could continue on from Shankly’s work. They probably did not however expect him to win 20 trophies in 9 seasons including 6 league titles and 3 European Cups.
When Brian Clough took charge of Derby County they’d been in the second division for a decade. 5 years later he had made them Champions of England for the one and only time in their history. Clough later returned to the second division to take the Nottingham Forest job and they became the first team to become Champions of England the very first season after being promoted. This is a record that is likely to stand forever and as with Derby, it is the club’s one and only ever league title. In 1979 and 1980 Clough won and then retained the European Cup with Nottingham Forest beating Malmo and then Hamburg.
Chapman, Busby, Stein, Shankly, Paisley, Clough, Ferguson. It appears the thing to do in the media is to overhype what’s happening today and downplay or ignore altogether the past, because looking at the feats of these managers I really struggle to see how Pep can be called the Greatest manager we’ve seen coaching here in Britain, let alone the World.
Looking overseas at the Game’s great innovators there is Victor Maslov who invented the 4-4-2 formation and was the first to look at nutrition and implement pressing. Maslov’s work really signified the birth of the modern game, with the requirement for fitness and speed making football look more like the game we see today. Another Dynamo Kiev manager Valeriy Lobanovskyi was likely the most scientifc manager ever. Believing Football could be calculated and broken down to the minutest detail, Lobanovskyi typified the Soviet approach to life and used it to extraordinary effect in Football.
Under him Dynamo Kiev became the first Soviet side to win a European trophy, winning the Cup Winners Cup followed by the UEFA Super Cup. He would later win the Cup Winners Cup for a second time in 1986 beating Luis Aragones’ Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the final, with their football being described as “Football of the 21st Century”. In 3 managerial spells with Kiev Lobanovskyi won 13 league titles (8 Soviet and later 5 Ukrainian) and reached the European Cup semi-finals across 3 decades, his first in 1977 and last in 1999. He also had spells managing the Soviet Union national team and in 1988 reached the final of the Euros.
Lobanovskyi’s level of methodical and analytical thought surely surmounted even that of Pep’s, he was certainly the first to bring such meticulousness to his coaching that his players could at times play as though programmed to perform certain tactical ideas.
Other important innovators include Nereo Rocco, one of the most famed proponents of the Catenaccio system, with which he won 5 European honours including 2 European Cups with AC Milan. There was Helenio Herrera, for whom the concept of the Superstar Coach was first formed. Before him, almost all credit and attention went to the players alone, but by winning league titles with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, and later winning Inter Milan’s first 2 European Cups, came the birth as Coaches as headline grabbers in their own right. So to Herrera, Pep must now be eternally grateful.
Herrera was the first manager to implement psychological tactics in football, with motivational pep-talks and slogans. He obtained more control and discipline of his players than was common in the 1960′s, banning smoking and drinking which went on largely unchecked everywhere else. He also introduced the pre-match retreat of getting the players together for overnight stays before away games to properly mentally prepare.
Ernst Happel was one of the first to opt for a 3-man midfield and one of those early pursuers of Total Football. He won the European Cup with Feyenoord, reached the final with Club Brugge and then won it again with Hamburg. He also reached the final of the 1978 World Cup as manager of the Netherlands. The other advocate for Total Football at the time was Rinus Michels who implemented it to win 3 successive European Cups with Ajax and to reach the 1974 World Cup final as manager of the Dutch National side. He would return as Netherlands manager years later to win the 1988 European Championships.
As well as a similar opinion on how Football should be played, Happel and Michels had a player in common. That player of course being Johan Cruyff, who as a player was already a coach practically in his own right, such was his knowledge and already strongly formed views on the game. After retiring as one of the game’s greatest ever players, Cruyff went on to become one of its greatest and most influential ever managers. As well as winning 4 successive league titles with Barcelona, he also won the club its first-ever European Cup in 1992. Pep Guardiola was under Cruyff’s tutelage at the time, and it is to him and as well Michels and Happel that much of Pep’s much-heralded innovation should be attributed to.
Before Pep, though it was Arrigo Sachi who took the concept of Total Football to its highest highs. His AC Milan team featuring the Dutch trio of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard with the strong defensive quartet of Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta and Tasotti elevated the level Football could be played at to a never seen before level. Sachi’s sides produced fluid, winning football that looked so natural and near-perfect, but only for the coaches obsessive attention to detail which demanded plays to be perfected and memorised so to be implemented in matches.
Maslov, Lobanovskyi, Rocco, Herrera, Happel, Cruyff, Michels, Sacchi. Looking at these men’s contributions to the evolution of football, I’m left with 2 questions: Has Pep really innovated the game more than any of these men? and has he really done something different to what has been done before?
After a season managing Barcelona B in the fourth tier of Spanish football, Guardiola was promoted to manage the senior team in the summer of 2008. Just a couple of years prior Frank Rijkaard had led Barcelona to lift the Champions League and back to back league titles, but despite a Champions League semi-final the season before Pep taking the job, his time at Barca had run its course as evidenced by a third-place finish in the league.
Pep promoted Sergio Busquets who he had coached with the B team, signed former Barca youth player Gerard Pique from Manchester United and Dani Alves from Sevilla. 2 stars of the 2006 Champions League winning-side Deco and Ronaldinho was let go. Adding those 3 players to his squad, Pep now had a squad for his first season that other managers would have to build towards for years and still never reach. A midfield of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta. An attack of Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o, two of the greatest strikers the game has known and Lionel Messi, a prestigious 21-year old talent.
Though this front 3 almost never happened when Guardiola insulted Eto’o on his very first summer tour by giving Henry his shirt number to wear, making clear Eto’o was free to leave, not the most respectful of moves towards a player who had achieved so much already for Barcelona. Later that summer, an offer from Uzbekistan was received for Eto’o, which Pep encouraged the striker to take. Eto’o replied, “I am the player who is going to make you win, but you will apologise to me.”
Eto’o claims he and Pep spoke just twice during their only season together, once when he asked Samuel to speak to Yaya Toure on his behalf, who also said he wanted nothing to do with Pep, and another time on the training ground when he wanted to give Eto’o a demonstration on how strikers should move, to which Eto’o simply replied: “you’re not normal.”
Eto’o was Barcelona’s top scorer in the league that season and only Diego Forlan netted more than his 30 goals. Those goals were a big part of Barcelona winning the La Liga title, 9 points ahead of Juande Ramos’ Real Madrid. Barcelona hit at least 5 goals in the league on 7 occasions, including a 6-2 away win at the Bernabeu where Messi in a new false 9 role worked to devastating effect for the team. After securing the double with a 4-1 Kings Cup final win against Bilbao, Barcelona met Ferguson’s United in the Champions League Final, but only after a magnificent Andres Iniesta goal in the 93rd minute of their semi-final against Chelsea saved them from being knocked out with seconds to spare.
Fans of Pep like to talk about how he got the better of Ferguson in these finals, but Fergie had John O’Shea in his defence, going up against Henry and Anderson in his midfield going up against the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. It wasn’t much of a fair fight. Eto’o gave Barcelona the lead in his final game for the club and Messi sealed the win with a sensational header from the 5 foot 7 Argentine. And with that, the treble was secured in Pep’s highly impressive debut season at the top level of management.
Unsurprisingly, the summer of 2009 saw Eto’o moved on to Inter Milan, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving the opposite way, with 46M Euros going to Inter to sweeten the deal. The relationship between striker and manager would quickly deteriorate when Zlatan found himself regularly on the bench without explanation, despite scoring 11 in his first 14 league games. Barcelona retained the title though this time they were pushed hard by Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Madrid who finished 3 points behind the Catalans with 96 points. The Uefa Super Cup and World Club Cup were won in extra-time against Shakhtar Donetsk and Estudiantes to make Barcelona at one time holders of a staggering six trophies, but the Copa Del Rey nor the Champions League could be retained.
It was Zlatan’s former club and Eto’o’s current club which denied them a place in the Champions League final. Despite being down to 10 men for over an hour, Inter Milan held on to the aggregate lead they had established in the first leg and Eto’o went on to win his second Champions League in a row. His replacement Zlatan angrily confronted Pep after the game, screaming in the dressing room that Pep was “without balls” and could “go to hell.”
By 10-11 Pep had his ideal squad. Big characters like Yaya, Henry and Zlatan were moved on and in came humbler characters such as Mascherano, Pedro from the B team and David Villa from Valencia. Barca won La Liga for the third successive season, over the third different Real Madrid manager, this time Jose Mourinho. Pep was able to take some revenge for being knocked out of the Champions League against his foe, with his team destroying Real Madrid 5-0 in Jose’s first Clasico.
Though Real Madrid beat them in the Copa Del Rey final, Pep this time got the better of Mourinho as they met in the Champions League semi-final once more. A magnificent solo goal from Leo Messi (who somehow seemed to be getting better month by month) as good as settled the tie in the first leg, a 2-0 win at the Bernabeu. Pep met Fergie and United again in the Champions League final, and again his side was victorious.
Xavi, Iniesta and Messi were imperious as one of the greatest club teams of all time produced one of the all-time great Champions League final displays comfortably outclassing a United that was no match for them. Pep had his second CL in 3 years and with one of the best players ever in Leo Messi and two of the best midfielders ever in Xavi and Iniesta he had cultivated a side that was undoubtedly one of the most difficult to beat teams of all time, playing at an extraordinarily high level that opponents could not live with. The speed of the passing, movement and pressing left teams chasing shadows and unable to retain possession long enough to catch their breath.
That said there had been some luck along the way after Arsenal had equalised at the Nou Camp to take the lead once more on aggregate, just 2 minutes later Van Persie was sent off in one of the worst red card decisions ever seen. Competing against the best team in the world, it would have been hard enough for Arsenal to see the tie out for the remaining 35 minutes, but a player down who was also one of their best players left them with no chance.
Pep and Barca were unable to retain their La Liga crown for the fourth year running, with Mourinho’s Madrid coming out on top. Madrid picked up a record 100 points, they set record after record that season and Barcelona could not match them, finishing 9 points behind despite Messi’s 50 league goals. Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez were brought in to make the side on paper even stronger, but on the pitch, the success of the previous year could not be repeated. Though the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and World Club Cup were picked up, the Champions League was again failed to be retained with Barcelona falling again in the semi-finals and again being unable to turn over a first-leg deficit in the second leg at the Nou Camp. Despite Chelsea’s captain John Terry being sent off after 37 minutes, Barca lost a 2-0 lead on the night and 2-1 on aggregate to draw the second leg 2-2. Pep’s 247th and final game as Barcelona manager saw him pick up his 14th trophy in the 2012 King’s Cup final as they beat Bilbao 3-0 with Messi getting his 73rd goal of the season. Yes, 73rd.
Pep had achieved excellent feats in his 4 years coaching Barcelona to 3 league titles, 2 Champions Leagues, a host of other cups and a level of football regularly closing in on perfection. But it had taken a lot out of him. The weekly psychological battles with Jose Mourinho, as well as the on-field battles against his excellent Real Madrid team, had left Pep drained physically and mentally. The rivalry between the two was deeply personal, with the men disagreeing on everything related to football and Mourinho’s outlandish remarks seemed to have no limit. From conspiracy theories accusing Barcelona of winning by scandals to claiming Pep’s hair loss was the result of him not enjoying football: “when you enjoy what you do, you don’t lose your hair and Guardiola is bald. He doesn’t enjoy football.”
Because Pep achieved so much at Barcelona and had memorable wins over Jose’s Madrid such as the 5-0 at the Nou Camp and 2-0 Champions League semi-final win at the Bernabeu, it can often be remembered as Pep dominating Mourinho during their time in Spain together, and he did lead him 5-2 head to head with 4 draws. Though during their two seasons competing against each other, each man won 1 league title, Barcelona getting 96 points to Real’s 92 in Jose’s first season but Real Madrid getting 100 to Barca’s 91 in Pep’s final season, with both teams recording astonishing goal difference numbers. Real scored 121 and conceded 32 and Barca scored 114 and conceded 29. Jose handed Pep his first final defeat in the Copa Del Rey, though Pep got the better of him in the Champions League, knocking him out on his way to winning, whereas Jose was unable to reach the CL final with Madrid.
Pep decided to take a year sabbatical from Football, spending the time in New York. His replacement was his assistant at Barcelona, Tito Vilanova. The league season was a great one for Barca, as they matched Real’s 100 points of the previous season for their highest ever points total, leaving Mourinho and Real 15 points in their wake. Though a 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the CL semi-finals, 4-0 away and 3-0 at home seemed to signal a changing of the guard and Bayern becoming the new team to beat in Europe. Barcelona had to manage around 3 months of the season without Tito on the bench, his dream of managing his beloved Barcelona sadly impacted by his cancer returning. In 2013 Vilanova was in New York for his cancer treatment and he was disappointed not to be visited by Guardiola who was of course living in the city at the time. Tito said, “He’s my friend and I needed him, but he wasn’t there for me.” Tito felt it necessary to step down at the end of the season due to his health and sadly succumbed to cancer aged just 45 in April of 2014 leaving behind two daughters.
With Mourinho and Tito getting 100 points, Pep 99 and Pellegrini 96, it had been a very strong time for Barcelona and Real Madrid with both teams pushing each other to new heights. After a year out of the game, Pep was ready to step back in and took the job of Bayern Munich, who had won the treble the previous season, losing just 1 Bundesliga game with 98 scored and 18 conceded, finishing 25 points ahead of their CL final opponents Borussia Dortmund. It was hard to know what Pep could do to top the work of Jupp Heynckes, but such was Guardiola’s reputation Bayern believed him to be the man to make them Europe’s dominant team and take them closer to Real Madrid’s Champions League tally. At the time of him taking the job, Bayern had 5 and Real Madrid 9.
Pep’s first game in charge of Bayern saw the European Champions beaten 4-2 in the German Supercup by Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund. The UEFA Super Cup was won on penalties against Europa League holders Chelsea and as well the World Club Cup and domestic double was added. In the German Cup final, Dortmund was defeated in extra-time and Bayern won the league with 1 less point and 1 more defeat than the previous season. In the Champions League they came up against 3 English teams: Manchester City who they finished above in the Group Stage on goal difference, Arsenal who they beat 3-1 on aggregate, helped by Arsenal’s goalkeeper being dismissed in the 1st half of the first leg at the Emirates and David Moyes’ Manchester United in the Quarter-Finals, who they tied 2-2 on aggregate until the 68th minute of the second leg when they took the lead for the first time in the tie.
In the semi-finals, they met Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. After a 1-0 loss at the Bernabeu, Bayern must have been quietly confident of turning the tie around but they went 3-0 down inside the first 34 minutes at the Allianz Arena. Bayern was unable to salvage any pride as they were humiliated 5-0 on aggregate, and Pep lost the holders crown he had inherited upon taking the job. It was Ancelotti rather than he who went on to lift his 3rd European Cup with his 2nd different club. Pep called the game “the biggest mistake of my life as a coach, a complete fuck up.”
Pep had originally planned to stick with the 3-4-3 he had used at the Bernabeu which had produced a good performance but on the plane, home decided to switch to a 4-2-3-1. But by the time the match arrived he had changed his mind again, now opting for an even more attacking 4-2-4. This backfired spectacularly and Pep was left to rue his decision saying “(I) spend the whole season refusing to use a 4-2-4. The whole season. And I decide to do it tonight, the most important night of the year.” Pep had not used this formation since his first game in charge when they had shipped 4 in the Super Cup against Dortmund and they shipped 4 once more. With all Pep’s focus on attack, Real Madrid’s pacy and devastating forwards Di Maria, Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo were able to run riot.
Pep’s 2nd season was even more disappointing than his first. Despite finishing in 7th place and spending some of the season in the bottom half, Dortmund beat Bayern once more in the Super Cup and knocked them out of the German Cup in the semis. The Bundesliga was retained by finishing 10 points above VFL Wolfsburg but it was the only trophy Bayern won that season. In the Champions League Quarters, Bayern emphatically overturned a 1-3 defeat away in Porto with a 6-1 home win but the warning signs were already there in the first leg ahead of their semi-final clash with FC Barcelona.
It was an unhappy return to the Nou Camp for Guardiola, despite the game being level for 77 minutes, Barca won 3-0 with Lionel Messi running riot against his former manager with 2 fantastic goals. Bayern failed to register a shot on target in the match for the first time since 2009. Bayern at one stage trailed 1-5 on aggregate, but was able to win the second leg 3-2 ending their 4-game losing streak, though still 3 goals short of what they needed to get through to the final. Luis Enrique in his first season as Barcelona manager was able to mimic Pep’s debut success by also winning the treble. Though due to the front 3 of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, most of the media plaudits went to them and not the manager in this case.
For the third season straight Bayern was beaten in the German Super Cup, a late equaliser from Nicklas Bendtner forcing penalties which Wolfsburg won. The domestic double was done with Bayern finishing 10 clear of Dortmund who they then beat on penalties in the German Cup final after a 0-0 draw. For the third season running though they were unable to reach the Champions League final. After it had already been announced by Manchester City that Pep would be their new manager for the 16/17 season, Bayern was playing the semi-finals with a manager they knew was leaving, as were City who were in the other semi-final with Pellegrini.
There would be no final meeting between Pep and his next employer though as both teams were knocked out by sides from Spain’s capital. After a 1-0 first-leg defeat away to Atletico at the Vicente Calderon, Bayern must have felt confident of finally reaching the final hurdle under Pep when in the second leg they went ahead on the night and level on aggregate. Bayern was then awarded a penalty which Muller missed and this was made worse when Griezmann equalised for Atletico. Lewandowski restored Bayern’s lead on the night but despite a missed penalty from Fernando Torres, Atleti held on to reach the final on away goals. This was Diego Simeone’s second CL final with Atletico in the time Pep had been at Bayern, who had been unable to reach one.
Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich were 2 big signings made for Bayern during Guardiola’s time at the club, but overall Pep’s stay at Bayern had not been a particularly happy one. Despite domestic success, it was difficult to look past his failure to reach a Champions League final in 3 years whilst working with players like Neuer, Boateng, Lahm, Alaba, Thiago, Ribery, Robben, Muller, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Lewandowski, Alonso and Martinez. A big problem during his time had been the number of injuries picked up by his players. A supposed dressing room mole is reported to have leaked to the press that Guardiola was at one point so furious with his medical staff for the slow return of players from injuries that they almost came to blows after one match, and it came to a head when four of Bayern’s medical staff resigned feeling as though they were being blamed for bad results.
Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt who had worked at Bayern Munich since 1977 and was regarded as one of the top sport’s doctors in the world having worked with clientele such as Usain Bolt resigned from Bayern in 2015 due to Pep’s interfering in medical matters and “(Pep) knowing everything better than I did.” The doctor went on to say “I had been at Bayern for 38 years without any problems and suddenly a coach joins, someone who has not walked this earth for much longer than I had been Bayern team doc, someone who knows everything, who suddenly puts pressure on and accuses me that an injury layoff after a severe ligament injury takes six to seven weeks to heal rather than four weeks like in Spain. Thiago Alcantara once returned from Spain after four weeks, seemingly fit. But when I examined him, I said: ‘Stop! The injury has not healed completely, even though you are pain-free. Guardiola still allowed him to train. Thiago got injured again and went on to miss a full year.”
Pep arrived at Manchester City and in his first window with the club spent more net than in 3 years at Bayern. This was the manager they’d wanted for 4 years and now they had him, the Abu Dhabi United Group was certainly prepared to give him whatever he wanted in the market. 6 new first-teamers were signed with a further player added in January and Pep made a strong start, winning his first 10 games with City quickly exemplifying the way he wants his sides to play. But after the first defeat at Spurs, things started to go wrong. 3 consecutive 1-1 home draws followed against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough. After a home defeat to Chelsea (whose manager Antonio Conte was also managing for his first season in English football and would go on to win the title with 93 points with the side who’d finished 10th the season before), City went 4-0 down to Leicester conceding twice in the first 5 minutes and despite pulling 2 goals back, serious questions were now being asked of the manager.
Things began to look really bad after a 4-0 mauling away at Everton, though just 1 league defeat in their final 17 secured a third-place finish, though 8 points off Spurs in 2nd. The League Cup was exited early with defeat at Old Trafford and in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup, City squandered a 1-0 lead to lose to Arsenal. In the Champions League City toiled, winning just 2 of their 6 group matches, and losing 4-0 away at the Nou Camp with Messi hitting a hattrick. In the round of 16, City scored 5 in the home leg against Monaco, but that still wasn’t enough for them to progress as a 1-3 defeat away in the 2nd leg saw a goal difference exit.
Pep’s side became the first to be eliminated from the Champions League after scoring 5 in the first leg as City failed to muster a single shot in the first half in Monaco, the first time that had happened to them in their sixth Champions League campaign. Pep loaded his attack with Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane and Aguero and left Fernandinho with far too much defensive work to do alone against the youth and fearlessness of a Monaco side who out hungered them from the start. It was a selection error from Pep which cost his side dearly. With Yaya Toure left sitting on the bench for the whole game, Pep made just 1 sub with minutes remaining, replacing a defender for an attacker with 1 last desperate throw of the dice, but even after a terrible first-half showing it hadn’t sprung him into action to make much-needed changes to system and personnel.
Following his first-ever trophyless season, Pep spent £210.35M in the summer window to bring in 3 full-backs, Bernardo Silva from the Monaco team that knocked him out and Ederson, his second first-choice goalkeeper purchase already after last seasons signing Claudio Bravo were deemed only fit for the bench after failing to impress. City won 20 of their first 22 league matches, but the first defeat of the season, a 4-3 loss at Anfield in January alerted Guardiola that the defence was still not good enough for him just yet and Laporte was brought in for £57M despite City being well clear at the top. They also strangely heavily pursued Arsenal attacker Alexis Sanchez despite already having far more attacking talent than anyone else in the country, evidenced by them scoring plenty more goals, but in the end, they were unsuccessful as he instead joined hated rivals United. City failed to secure the title against Alexis’ new club, throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at the Etihad, but the title was confirmed a week later when United lost at home to West Brom. City in the end set an English football record with 100 points.
Pep’s first trophy in English football came with the League Cup after coming through Bristol City and Arsenal in the last two rounds, but the FA Cup once more eluded him after an embarrassing 1-0 loss to League One Wigan Athletic on a bad night for Guardiola as he angrily confronted Wigan boss Paul Cook at half-time in scenes that team staff had to keep from escalating further.
After beating Basel to reach his first Champions League Quarter-Final with City, Pep faced Liverpool who he would go on to finish 25 points clear of in the league that season. Though you wouldn’t have thought it watching these 2 legs as Liverpool raced 3 up in the opening 31 minutes at Anfield and completed the job at the Etihad for a 5-1 aggregate win.
The damage was done in the first leg, where questions were again asked about Pep’s selection. Laporte was moved from centre-back where he is comfortable, to an unfamiliar full-back position where he was run ragged by Mo Salah, the best winger in the world at that time. Rather than playing Zinchenko at full-back and pairing Laporte with Kompany, instead, the hapless Otamendi came in and was terrorised. Another surprising call was to leave out Raheem Sterling who was in scintillating form and instead play with an added central midfielder, this cautious move made City much easier to contain.
City legend Yaya Toure, whose problems with Guardiola were well known since his Barcelona days left the club that summer citing that “Pep has a problem with African players wherever he has been”. Yaya’s agent called Pep “a worthless person and nasty” for his appointment being announced whilst Pellegrini was still in the job and went on to predict “African Shamans will not let Pep win the Champions League. An African curse will be on Guardiola.”
Riyad Mahrez who City had also publicly pursued since the previous January became City’s record signing adding to their 100-point team and that season, Pep’s third, they won every domestic trophy on offer, beating Chelsea in the Community Shield and the League Cup final on penalties and Watford 6-0 in his first FA Cup final. This time there was an actual title race as City were pushed to the final day by Liverpool, who only lost 1 game all season and earned 97 points, the most a second-place team has ever earned in England and surely virtually anywhere else.
City lost 4 games from 8 over the winter period but finished extraordinary well winning their last 14 league games. The decisive game being a 2-1 win over Liverpool at the Etihad, Liverpool’s sole defeat of the season with Leroy Sane scoring the winner and Liverpool having the ball cleared off the line, with the ball partly, but not completely over the line. It was an unbelievable league campaign from both clubs, with a run of 4 draws from 6 costing Liverpool.
After a 7-0 home win and 10-2 aggregate win for City over Schalke in the CL RO16, City were most people’s favourites in the Champions League when they came up against Spurs in the Quarters. Aguero had the chance to get the away leg off to the ideal start but missed a penalty and Son scored the only goal of the game for Spurs. An incredible 2nd leg with Spurs playing without star striker Harry Kane saw 4 goals scored in the opening 11 minutes, City taking 4 minutes to take the lead, but by the 11th minute, their goal was an equaliser after 2 Son goals. Sterling put them ahead on the night in the 21st minute, but they still trailed on away goals until Aguero made it 4-2 just shy of the hour mark. With City well on top now, it was they who seemed likely to go on and score yet more but Fernando Llorente, a striker with just 2 goals in 36 Premier League appearances for Spurs then scored with a corner deflecting in off his hip.
There was to be extraordinary late drama when Sterling hit his hattrick and looked sure to have put City into the semis, but the goal was ruled out for Aguero being judged to be in an offside position. It was a rollercoaster finish for everyone, not least Guardiola. The same as last year, City had let themselves down in the 1st leg, playing poorly at Spurs and failing to get a vital away goal. Again it was an iffy selection from Pep, with De Bruyne left on the bench until the 89th minute whilst Mahrez failed to deliver. The All-English Champions League final would not involve his team as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool triumphed over Spurs by 2 goals to 0.
After breaking their transfer record again to sign midfielder Rodri and adding another full-back for 60M in Cancelo, City began the 19/20 season with a penalty shootout win over Liverpool in the Community Shield, but Pep was unable to do what he had done at his two previous clubs and win 3 league titles on the spin. City had an up and down league campaign, hitting 4 goals in 11 matches, totalling over 100 goals, but losing twice to Wolves, suffering defeats to Norwich and Southampton, as well as rivals Liverpool, Manchester United home and away, Spurs and Chelsea giving them 9 league defeats, by far the most Pep has suffered in his career to date.
City was still able to finish comfortably ahead of United in 3rd but trailed Liverpool who picked up 99 points by 18. City won the League Cup final 2-1 against Aston Villa shortly before Coronavirus caused the season to be delayed for 3 months. When football returned it was to empty stadiums as City for the second time under Pep lost a FA Cup Semi-Final against Arsenal. This time by 2 goals to 0 and against his former assistant at City, Mikel Arteta.
Things looked more promising in the Champions League however after a 1st leg away win at the Santiago Bernabeu. 2 weeks prior they had received a 2-year Champions League ban from UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play but in the 5 months that passed between the first and second leg, the ban was subsequently overturned by the courts. The second leg outcome was the same as the first as City won 2-1 again, for a relatively comfortable 4-2 aggregate win. For the Quarters and Semis, the competition switched to a one-legged format on neutral territory due to Covid and City met Lyon in Portugal.
Lyon was 7th in Ligue 1 when the league season was halted there, 16 points behind 2nd place Marseille with 11 wins and 10 defeats. It should have been as straightforward a Champions League Quarter as could possibly be, but it turned out to be anything but. Pep yet again got his tactics and team wrong for a Champions League game and was now getting a reputation for massively overthinking his selections. Instead of just doing the things that worked for him domestically, he started Fernandinho, Rodri and Gundogan. With 3 centre-backs and 2 wing-backs, it seemed overly cautious against a pretty average side, with just Sterling, De Bruyne and Jesus as attacking players.
Lyon took a 24th-minute lead which they kept until the 69th minute when De Bruyne, City’s only exemplary performer on the night equalised. City was now in the ascendancy, but failed to take their chances and was caught as they were for the first goal, on the counter-attack as Lyon punished a ragged City defence. City should have levelled for a second time in the 86th minute if not for an astonishing miss from Raheem Sterling, who somehow skied what should have been a certain goal with only the simplest of tap-ins required. Precisely 60 seconds later the ball was in the net, but for Lyon’s 3rd of the evening as they sealed the win after an Ederson error.
For the fourth season Pep had failed to get beyond the Quarter-Final with City and against a team 7th in the French league, this was the worst of the lot. Pep’s former side Bayern Munich went on to win the Champions League with Robert Lewandowski netting 15 in 10 Champions League games.
A further 102M was spent on the defence for Pep’s first-ever fifth season in charge of the same club. Ruben Dias came in for 62.8M and Nathan Ake 40M. This took Pep’s spending to £387.4M for defenders alone, having now brought 8 to the football club. After a slow start, City didn’t reach the top at the end of a game week until week 20. Once there though, a run of 15 straight wins ensured the top spot was gonna be there’s until the end of the season. Though picking up just 5 more points than the previous season, a dreadful campaign for Liverpool meant that whereas in 19/20 when 81 points were enough to finish 18 points behind Liverpool, 86 was this time enough to finish 8 points clear of second-place United, though the gap had been even bigger for much of the second half of the season.
Pep had won his 3rd league title at his 3rd different club, though it had taken him a year longer than at Barca and 2 years longer than at Bayern. The League Cup was also won for a fourth straight year and at one point the quadruple looked on for City. That was until they lost a third FA Cup semi-final under Pep, again to a London club, this time Chelsea. But after beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 home and away in the Quarters, then PSG 4-1 in the semi-finals, it seemed as though City had finally found a way to perform in Europe, and it looked highly likely to be their year. In the final, they met Chelsea, who had finished with 19 fewer points than them in the Premier League.
New manager Thomas Tuchel had already beaten Pep two times in a row going into the final, once in the FA Cup and once in the Premier League, but it seemed unlikely to happen three times in a row in a third different competition, in such a short space of time. Going into the Champions League final, Chelsea had lost 3 of their last 4 games, including the FA Cup Final against Leicester and 2 important league games whilst they were chasing 4th place.
However yet again Pep messed up in the Champions League, going without a holding midfielder and instead of bringing in Raheem Sterling, who had been badly out of form for a long while, having had a poor personal season. Gundogan, City’s top scorer with 17 goals was instead expected to do the work Rodri or Fernandinho should have been asked to do.
Fernandinho was introduced early in the second half but by that time City were already trailing. With De Bruyne injured, Pep then turned to a striker but not City’s all-time leading goalscorer Kun Aguero for his last ever game, but the highly unpopular Gabriel Jesus. Aguero was City’s final chance, but was given significantly less time than Jesus to make an impact. The late nature of Aguero’s introduction was especially surprising given the week before Pep had been in tears whilst being interviewed about Aguero after his final home game for the club. These tears were later dismissed by Aguero’s brother and father as “fake.”
City was unable to force an equaliser and never looked that likely to, the best player on the night being Chelsea’s holding midfielder N’Golo Kante, shining a light on Pep’s rather bizarre decision to omit his from the starting 11. City managed just 1 shot on target in 90 minutes, given they had waited so long to get there, having endured many hugely disappointing losses in recent years trying to reach the final for the big one, it seemed a pretty unforgivable wasted opportunity against a side that had finished 3 places below them domestically.
Barcelona won a Champions League a couple of years before Pep arrived and another a few years after he’d left, either side of the couple Pep won in his 4 years in charge. It may be a little harsh, but you could argue that Barca under Pep should have retained their title in that time and perhaps won 3 in a row. It’s a big ask but then Barcelona were the best side in the world for 3 years, and Zidane’s Madrid was able to do it with a side that was the world’s best for maybe 1 of those years.
Especially with Inter being down to 10 men for over an hour, a 2-0 win perhaps should have been achieved but that said Mourinho was the best defensive coach in the world at that time and on that occasion was just able to get the better of the best attacking coach in the world at the time.
Pep won 3 La Liga’s in 4 years and in the years since he left Barca won 5 of the next 7 until Barcelona’s presidency made such a complete mess of running the club. That is with the additional rival in Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone who was only in Spain for Pep’s last 6 months with Barca. With the most consistently great footballer of all time Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Luis Suarez, Barcelona were always going to win many trophies.
The team never quite reached the heights of Pep’s Barca for Football played, but the front 3 of Messi, Neymar and Suarez still conjured some magical stuff under Luis Enrique with those 3 dividing the goals between each other at an incredible rate. Their intensity of press wasn’t what it was under Pep, but the reliance on Messi’s goals wasn’t quite as high with Neymar and Suarez next to him as it had been under Pep who had enjoyed some years of Messi’s peak speed and freshness before Leo became as essential to Barcelona for the creating of goals as he was for the scoring of them.
Pep’s time at Bayern Munich was I believe a disappointment. Bayern won the Bundesliga the season before he arrived and have for 5 years straight since he left, making for a total of 9 in a row. They have won the Bundesliga with managers who weren’t considered very good or successful and were let go after a season, so I don’t know how much credit he can be given for winning 3 Bundesliga’s given the strength of his team against the rest of the leagues.
The main takeaway from his 3 years there has to be that he wasn’t able to win even 1 of the 3 semi-finals he had against 3 different Spanish teams. They were 3 very strong opponents, but he had a very strong team himself and for the manager, he’s made out to be, he should have got the better of either Ancelotti, Enrique or Simeone once. Bayern has since won the Champions League without him, whereas he hasn’t won it since he left.
The treble was won by them the season before he arrived and again a few years after he’d left, one with a manager they were happy to push out the door to get Pep in and the second with a manager who hadn’t managed for 14 years up to taking the job the same season he won the treble.
Robert Lewandowski scored 67 goals in 100 games under Guardiola aged between 26 and 28, in his last 2 seasons having entered his 30s he has scored 103 goals in 87 games. This stat doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on Pep, but just as someone who gets a lot of credit for the improvement players make under him, it goes to show that maybe it isn’t always the manager who’s most responsible for that improvement and maybe it’s often mostly down to the player themselves.
Pep has had some formidable league campaigns with City, picking up 198 points in the 17-18 & 18-19 seasons to win back to back Premier League’s, clearly his best achievement so far with the club. Klopp’s 196 points in 18-19 & 19-20 resulted in only 1 league title for him but he did also win the Champions League alongside Liverpool’s 97 point second-place finish. These 2 sides have been amongst the best English Football has seen but they have benefited from the Premier League being the poorest it’s been for a while.
Chelsea, England’s most consistent trophy winners since being bought by Billionaire ownership in 2003 have finished a combined 108 points off the top over the last 4 seasons. Manchester United, the most consistent side from Europe’s top 5 leagues for 20 years under Ferguson have gone 4 years without a trophy and have only won 3 major ones in the 8 years since Fergie left and Arsenal’s (who had 20 years in the top 4 under Wenger) decline has coincided with Pep’s arrival in English Football.
The decline of the Premier League was highlighted particularly in Pep’s third title win with City losing 6 games but still winning by 12 points, United winning just 21 out of 38 but coming in second, Liverpool losing 6 home games in a row and going 8 without a win there but still coming third, Spurs sacking their manager mid-season for the second season in a row and Arsenal finishing below David Moyes’ relegation tipped West Ham.
Pep has won 4 League Cups on the bounce, a competition which due to the amount of matches teams play in the season is used by the Premier League clubs for squad rotation. This goes some way to explain why Bristol City and Burton Albion were City’s semi-final opponents in back to back years, Burton going down 9-0 at the Etihad.
Not only do City have by far the most strength in depth in the country, but they also appear to rotate for the early rounds and games against smaller sides less than the other top teams. Whether that is the case or just appears to be because it’s impossible for City to field a weak side or even a few weak players even when they do make changes I’m not certain. But a 3rd round tie away at Preston in 2019 saw them field David Silva, Bernardo, Gundogan, Foden, Sterling and Jesus. And this is the norm for Pep’s League Cup selections. Due to some of the other top 6 clubs being happy to let that one go in order to give first-teamers much-needed rest and hand opportunities to future prospects, the path for City is usually fairly clear. Other teams need to rotate in the League Cup, because they can’t do so in the Premier League and still win games, whereas City can due to their immense strength in depth. So unlike the others, they don’t need to see it as just the cup you rest players in.
The path is usually less clear in the FA Cup, which due to its prestige and history as England’s premier cup competition, managers can’t afford to pass up so easily. In 5 years Pep has only been able to reach one FA Cup Final when the path to the final was Rotherham H, Burnley H, Newport County A, Swansea A, Brighton in the semi-final and then a final which saw Watford routed 6-0.
Pep’s biggest failure at City has been of course the same as it was at Bayern, not being able to win the Champions League. Having spent just short of £800M and having had 5 go’s at it, for such a highly rated manager it’s the failure of a spectacular nature. Especially given the exits have not come against great Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich teams but Monaco and Lyon and as well 3 English teams, who City finished way clear of in the Premier League each season they faced them.
Pep Guardiola is the most praised and credited coach in the history of football. Aside from the huge statements from Gary Lineker and Gary Neville, I have seen countless examples in the media of teams and managers from different sports being compared to Pep and his teams. A Dutch hockey team called “The Manchester City of Hockey” Mo Farah’s coach called “the Pep Guardiola of Athletics” etc. etc. and I find it very strange for a coach who hasn’t won the Champions League for 10 years and has reached just one final in that time. It’s always the Pep of Rugby or whatever it happens to be, not the Jurgen Klopp, or the Diego Simeone, or the Zinedine Zidane. All of whom have arguably matched or bettered Pep’s accomplishments since he left Barcelona.
Jurgen Klopp began his managerial career in the 3rd division with Mainz 05, two promotions brought them to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history. Operating on the smallest budget in the league, Klopp secured 11th place finishes twice. In 2008 he took the Borussia Dortmund job, the Black and Yellows having finished 13th the year prior. In 2011 they won the Bundesliga with the youngest side to ever win it, before retaining it the following season for just the second time in their history, as well as securing their first-ever domestic double. The following year they reached just their second ever Champions League final, losing to Bayern Munich.
In 2015 he took charge of his third club Liverpool, and after finishing runner-up in the Europa League and Champions League, he made it back to the Champions League final the following year to win his first honour at Liverpool. Plenty would follow the next year, the main one being the Premier League, Liverpool’s first league title for 30 years. This was achieved with 99 points, the second-most ever in English football history, the season after finishing second with 97.
Atletico Madrid finished 9th and 7th in the two seasons prior to Simeone’s arrival and was 11th in the league in December when Simeone arrived. In the game, prior to him taking the job Atletico had been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey at home against a third division side. After winning the Europa League 5 months into the job, Simeone then won the UEFA Super Cup thrashing Champions League winners Chelsea 4-1 and the Copa Del Rey winning 2-1 against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. In just his second full season, he won Atleti’s first La Liga for 18 years, doing it against Messi, Neymar and Iniesta at Barcelona and Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema at Real Madrid.
Whilst his cross-city rivals had broken the world record transfer fee twice to sign 2 players for a combined 165 million, Simeone spent just 36 million in his first 2 and a half years at the club, making a 46M profit in that time. As well as winning the League, Atletico also reached the Champions League final and was seconds away from a 1-0 victory before conceding an equaliser and going on to lose in extra time. They were back in the final 2 years later, against the same opponents Real Madrid, this time going all the way to penalties where one missed kick cost them.
Simeone won his second La Liga crown in 2021 with just one player still remaining from his side that won in 2014. Due to the demand across Europe for his players, Simeone had to rebuild a whole new side and he did so whilst still having a net spend of just 46M in 9 and a half years. He has now racked up 8 trophies in that time, Atletico won 8 major trophies in 34 years prior to his arrival.
Zinedine Zidane’s tenure at Real Madrid is for my money one of the most underappreciated managerial stints I can recall. In his first El Clasico, Zidane won at the Nou Camp to end Barcelona’s 39 games unbeaten run and won the Champions League in just his 27th game in charge. In his first full season he matched the Spanish record set by Pep’s Barca of 16 consecutive league wins and later that season he overtook Luis Enrique’s Barca’s unbeaten record of 39 games, the run which he ended, by going 40 unbeaten in all competitions. Alongside Real winning their first league title for 5 years, they became the first side to retain the Champions League since its changed format in 1992 and were the first Real Madrid side to win the league and Champions League double since 1957.
Zidane won his 7th trophy as Real Madrid manager in August 2017, meaning at that stage he had as many trophies won as matches lost during his tenure. After winning his 9th trophy in 2 and a half seasons with a third European Cup in a row (making Real Madrid the first club to achieve this since Bayern Munich in the 1970′s and Zidane the first manager to win 3 in consecutive seasons) Zidane resigned but returned just 10 months later and in his first full season back won his 2nd league title, as Real recorded their best defensive record in 30 years. In just 4 full seasons with the club, Zidane won 11 trophies, but for some reason, he has never really received the credit he was due.
When Manchester City win and perform it seems much of the credit goes to Guardiola, when a player he has gets better that also goes down to the manager. It’s true that many players have got better since working with Pep, but most seemed to already be verging on world-class like De Bruyne. There seems to be a certain type of player he makes better and those are the players already at a very high level. Here he differs from Klopp for example, under whom Sadio Mane went from scoring 25 goals in 2 seasons for Southampton into one of the best wingers in the world at Liverpool.
I think Pep’s strengths as a manager lie in his intensity, his ability to keep his players from ever switching off. He’s the only manager around who could have won the 18/19 title over Liverpool, as he was able to push his team to become machine-like in the way they closed out that season.
They appeared seemingly devoid of feeling pressure, as they went into every game needing to win and managed it in a straightforward fashion. This intensity leads his players to reach astonishing levels of consistency, but I think it comes at a price. Few if any managers around would have got Raheem Sterling to hit the heights he did for those couple of seasons, but he was run into the ground and he has not recovered since.
There have been a few stronger 11′s than Pep has at City, but I’m not sure if there’s ever been a stronger squad. Being able to swap out 3 or 4 top players for another 3 or 4 top players every 2 or 3 games gives him a luxury of rotation that no other manager has had. The best example of the extraordinary depth to the options Pep has come a few months ago when he started 0 strikers away at PSG, instead opting for a front three of Foden, De Bruyne and Mahrez then a few days later for a Premier League game in between the first and second leg, he started three forwards whom he was able to bring in: Aguero, Jesus and Torres. Raheem Sterling also came into the side, who can also be classed as a forward.
At the back, only £60M Cancelo appeared in both games, £57M Laporte and £41M Ake came in for £50M Stones and £62M Dias at Centre-Back, and £52M Mendy came in at full-back for £50M Walker. It has reached the stage where Pep has a mind-boggling amount of options you usually only see on a football computer game. For the conversations about Pep and innovation, the only thing I can see that he has done for the first time which no one before him has is being able to buy whoever he wants and not even have to let the person they’re replacing go, they can be kept to strengthen the bench.
The amount of money Pep has spent is honestly obscene. And people will say Manchester United for example have spent a lot, but they haven’t come close to winning a league title for 8 years, they have to spend big to try and find a way back. Did they sign Harry Maguire for 85M? well, they were desperate, they conceded 54 league goals the previous season. City won the domestic treble and then went out that summer and spent over 120M on two players. It’s become excessive, pointless spending that makes the manager look worse when he continually falls short in Europe. Having so much personnel to select from is good for League campaigns, but doesn’t appear to be for one-off big games in the Champions League. With so many top players, there are so many, seemingly too many options available to Guardiola in his mind for which personnel and system to select, and he has for a long time now proven incapable of selecting the right ones.
Pep’s reputation as the Superstar, Mastermind Genius coach has I think often do more harm than good to him and his teams. The media have come to expect tactical wizardry, for him to do things the rest of us can’t see and would never think of. Messi as false 9 for example worked famously, but since then it seems like Pep is feeling the pressure to make decisions the rest of us wouldn’t take, in order to do something that stands out as ‘different’ and therefore only something Pep would do.
This maybe has contributed to some of Pep’s more bizarre recent decisions, such as bringing on Jesus ahead of Aguero in the Champions League final. Just doing what would be the norm in that situation isn’t intriguing enough. Pep is perhaps trying to win in a way that looks as though it was only possible with him at the helm, but instead, he has made the complete opposite look the case, as though losing some of these Champions League ties that City have lost has only been possible because of the tactical blunders of the manager.