Manchester City confirmed months of speculation earlier this week when they revealed that former Barcelona boss and the man in charge of Bayern München – Pep Guardiola – will take charge of the Etihad Stadium side from next season.
A world class midfielder in his day, as a manager Guardiola is already regarded as one of the best ever, having won two UEFA Champions League titles, five league championships and 12 other cup competitions in a seven-year career, which included a 12 month hiatus from the sport. Considering Bayern’s position domestically and in Europe, a few more trophies could still be added to that haul before Guardiola makes his move to the blue side of Manchester.
The English Premier League poses different challenges than La Liga or the Bundesliga, though, and whilst the Spaniard may find life in England quite different than on the European continent, he will undoubtedly oversee a host of changes at Man City.
So what can we expect Guardiola to bring to the Etihad Stadium?
A Continental style
Although there certainly are exceptions, the tendency for English teams is to play a fast-paced, physical sort of game, often built around the team’s ability to counter-attack. It is a strategy that has seen Chelsea be crowned league champions in 2015 and that has served many a smaller side well over the years. Guardiola will have none of that. Expect City to play a more composed, possession-based game with plenty of off the ball movement, and fast pressing whenever they don’t have the ball – something which doesn’t tend to happen to Guardiola’s sides all too often.
Pep is a well-known student of Argentinean manager Marcelo Bielsa, who perhaps is more renowned for the unconventional formations his teams employ than their actual success on the pitch. Guardiola’s preferred set-up has always been the 4-3-3, but when the need arises he is more than capable of employing different tactics. Three-man backlines, six in midfield or even a lopsided 3-3-4 formation with inverted wingers have all been employed by the new City boss at some point in his relatively short managerial career. One set-up we can safely say won’t be employed often is 4-4-2.
In football, as is the case in all walks of life, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed winner. However, when one considers the amount of success the Spaniard has had during his career, coupled with a reported transfer budget in excess of £150m, Guardiola and the Citizens are as close as you are likely to get to the real McCoy. At the time of writing, he has only lost 19 of his 239 league matches in charge, winning 187 and drawing 33.
The world’s elite
Ever since the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) acquired Manchester City in 2008, the quality of players the club were able to acquire improved consistently. With huge transfer fees and lucrative wages on offer, former boss Roberto Mancini brought the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero to the Etihad, while current man in charge Manuel Pellegrini oversaw the transfers of Fernandinho, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling – all key players for City but none of them would be regarded as the best in the world. Under Guardiola, this will change. The Spaniard’s reputation – the best players want to work with him – coupled with a near-blank cheque book means any players Pep wants, Pep will get.
Rumoured transfer targets
France international Paul Pogba has already been suggested as a replacement for the aging Toure, whilst VfL Wolfsburg’s prolific left-back Ricardo Rodriguez has been linked with a move to the United Kingdom. BVB Dortmund’s midfield dynamo Ilkay Gündogan is another who could make the move, but at this stage of the season it is difficult to predict which players Guardiola would target. For all we know, even Lionel Messi might be on his way…