football

Three Things We Have Learned During Pep’s First Seven Months

December 06, 2016

- Grant Whittington

When Pep Guardiola took over at the Etihad at the beginning of June, City fans could have been forgiving for pinching themselves. After all, it was 10 years ago that the club completed only a fifth consecutive season in the Premiership, as they finished 14th place having lost 18 of their 38 league games. One billion pound investment and two league titles later, the Citizens appeared to have secured the final piece of the jigsaw in the quest to be Europe’s dominant club side.

It has been far from plain sailing for City so far, however, as despite a blistering start and a famous 3-1 win at home against Barcelona in the Champions League, the club has failed to convince and recently slumped to fourth in the table. On the back of a damaging, 3-1 defeat at home against league leaders Chelsea, it seems the ideal time to appraise Pep’s seven months in charge and look at how he has performed so far.

While Pep Has Improved City On The Ball, There Is Much Work To Do Defensively

Pep obviously has a unique and instantly recognisable style of play, while he is also known as an exacting and meticulous manager. These factors have all been evident during his seven months in charge at City, with the Citizens having worked tirelessly to adapt to the Spaniard’s possession-based game and high defensive line.

While they have successfully implemented Guardiola’s passing game (aided by the dexterity and movement of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne), they have struggled to press effectively and hold a secure defensive line. This has left them vulnerable to the threat of counter-attack, with the space behind their back line ruthlessly exposed in the defeat against Chelsea.

This is an area that Guardiola must address quickly, particularly given the ultra-competitive nature of the EPL and ability of teams to break at pace.

The Jury Remains Out On Pep’s Signings

Before a ball was kicked in August, Manchester City’s title odds were shorter than any of their rivals. These have been impacted by Pep’s contentious transfer dealings, however, which have seen fans’ favourite Joe Hart replaced by the unconvincing Claudio Bravo and the talented but raw John Stones signed for more than £47 million.

Not only have both Bravo and Stones made several individual mistakes that have cost their team, but they have also played a pivotal role in the defensive struggles that have plagued the side.

The most interesting aspect of this is that both of these players were signed to help implement Pep’s unique playing style, with Bravo a renowned ‘sweeper-keeper’ and Stones courageous when bringing the ball out from the back. These signings may represent an example of Guardiola’s pride and ego coming before a fall, however, unless Bravo and Stones can adapt and perform the basics of their roles more effectively.

Pep Is An Immensely Talented Manager, But He Is Not A Miracle Worker

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Pep’s first seven months is that we have seen a true and realistic version of the man behind the burgeoning legend. After winning a staggering 14 trophies in just four seasons at Barcelona, his failure to win the Champions League (or even reach the final) with Bayern Munich cast his talents in a more realistic light, and this trend has continued during his tenure at the Etihad so far.

So while Guardiola remains an immensely talented coach who is sure to win at least some silverware at Manchester City, the scale of his challenge and his limitations in a competitive league are becoming abundantly clear. It will be interesting to see whether or not Guardiola can adapt and compromise his style in order to negate the threat on the break posed by better teams, as this will be key to determining his levels of success at the Etihad.

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