Pep Guardiola may have more pressure on his shoulders starting this season than in any of his other managerial roles. The Catalan coach was expected to bowl into his job at Manchester City last year and walk away with the Premier League title after the success he achieved with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
However, with a team that consisted of many sub-standard players who could not meet the demands that his style of play requires, Guardiola’s City finished third, 15 points off of the champions Chelsea.
Throughout the season many ridiculed Pep for ousting Joe Hart for Claudio Bravo, who consistently made defensive errors, costing City vital goals. Many also questioned his disinterest in changing his style, instead sticking with a purely attack-minded game.
The fact that Guardiola had an underwhelming first season as the Manchester City manager comes down to his pure devotion to a possession-based style of play, built around highly technical players. He was never willing to adapt, so, therefore, it had to be the team that changed for him.
The Pep Guardiola Way
Last season there were players in his squad that did not have the required ability to play the Pep style, including those that have now departed the club such as Gaël Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Fernando and Jesus Navas.
Yet, now having spent over £200m already this summer, Pep must show his worth by getting this group of big money buys to not only compete, but to take his side to Premier League success.
Manchester City have spent big this summer to shore up the full-back spots, bringing in Kyle Walker from Tottenham (£50m) and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco (£50m), as well as Danilo from Real Madrid (£26.5m).
This is a key position in creating maximum width for Pep’s teams. By making the pitch as wide and as long as possible when in possession, the opposition have to work harder and run further to stop his side finding gaps in their defensive lines that they can then play through and cause damage.
Having the full-back positions sorted is a huge development for Pep’s journey to getting his City team to play in the way he wants them to.
A complete squad
Another signing for Pep’s side is the technician, Bernardo Silva. The 22-year-old impressed for Monaco last season with his ability to drift into pockets of space and unlock defences with his brilliant vision.
The Portuguese midfielder scored eight and assisted another nine in Ligue 1 last season. Silva should slot in on the right of Pep’s attacking three, with Leroy Sane on the opposite side and Gabriel Jesus leading the line.
In midfield, it is likely that Pep will opt for a trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva. At the back, we expect to see Walker at right-back, John Stones and Vincent Kompany in the centre and Mendy at left-back, with their new Brazilian Ederson in goal.
This would leave some high profile and talented players on the bench such as Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Ilkay Gündogan and Danilo.
However, for Pep it is crucial that his starting players can meet the physical and technical demands that his ethos needs to be a success so he will not hesitate in dropping players not quite up to it.
Feeling the pressure
If Guardiola can get it right and his players click under his guidance then, like we have seen with Barca and Bayern, Pep’s side could go on to dominate the league with ease.
If they do not succeed again in the league this season, Pep is likely to still have the backing of the City ownership as they have built a long-term plan based around the coach.
They brought in ex-Barcelona directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, as well as Guardiola, to build a future based on a specific style of play.
However, Pep must show vast improvements on last year and bring in silverware so that there is no more doubt cast over his ability to play his style in the Premier League.
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