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Pep Guardiola's Evolution in Manchester City

Thu 27 May 2021 | 10:30

Pep Guardiola is one of the brains in the coaching world, but he has come a long way to reach this current character. This section, will review Pep Guardiola's Evolution in Manchester City to learn more about this exciting journey.

At the press conference of Pep Guardiola as Barcelona's new manager, Juan Laporta made a brief conclusion about the Spanish mastermind, which was interesting in its own way: "Pep has the enthusiasm, knowledge, and confidence needed to revive the club." True, time proved that appointment was the best decision in the history of Blaugrana. Guardiola had a consistent way of preparing for the game during his early years as coach. It did not matter which team the opponent was from; he spent hours watching the video of their game and finding their weaknesses. The body was in one place, and the mind was another.

Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City says: "Guardiola and City's sporting director Tixi Bergstein spend a lot of time together. Guardiola is a great storyteller as when he rests and drinks wine; he jokes a lot about himself and football." Former Argentina coach Luis Menotti once said: "Pep is like football. I have always said that a revolutionist either wins or dies. Pep is always trusting in his ideas. Ideas that will never change. He likes the possession of the ball. He also wants to dominate time so that he is always ahead of the rest."

Javier Mascherano says the 2011 Champions League final happened exactly as Guardiola had predicted. Guardiola's obsession with football has sometimes even caused him to feel guilty and ashamed of his loved ones, especially his family. When he was the coach of

Barcelona

, he once forgot to go to the concert where his daughter plays the instrument because he was watching the DVD of the games of their next opponent, Getafe.

How Pep Guardiola's Evolution Started

Pep has the character of being a manager who can only win at big clubs, with world-class players and massive transfer budgets. Many believes

Pep Guardiola's evolution

in Manchester City started here, while there is some truth to that now, it is often overlooked that Pep’s first job in management was in the Spanish fourth division.

At Barcelona B, Pep won only one of his first three matches in charge, and things, for a moment, looked threatening. However, Barcelona B kept faith in Pep’s playing field, with Tito Vilanova as his assistant; the team subsequently won their Tercera Division group and qualified for the 2008 Segunda Division B playoffs, which the team won, thereby achieving promotion.

Over a four-year period where Barcelona won 14 out of a possible 19 trophies, Pep’s Barcelona revolutionized football. Fabio Capello said in ‘Take the Ball, Pass the ball,’ a documentary recounting Pep’s historic Barca team: "There have been three special eras in football history, first Cruyff at Ajax, then Sacchi at

AC Milan

, a project that I continued. And then Guardiola, and he created something beautiful.

The two UEFA Champions League final victories over Manchester United in 2009 and 2011 were things of beauty – the best European side of this century combining aesthetics with efficiency and results. 

The perfect marriage of coach and players. With a core of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Puyol,

Gerard Pique

, Alves, and goalkeeper Valdes, the team was constructed with arguably the best players in their respective positions in the world at that time. Sir Alex Ferguson confessed after the 2011 final that: "No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.

The footballing world became obsessed with possession, pressing-based football, and it’s no coincidence that the Spanish national team, centered around a core of Barcelona players, made their case for the greatest international side in history between 2008-2012 winning, two European Cups, and a FIFA World cup.

The Journey of Pep Guardiola’s Evolution

Pep Guardiola's evolution

is rooted in the modern academy of Barcelona, La Masia, founded by Johan Cruyff in the late 1980s. This Dutch football legend, who has always had a special interest in the Catalans, should, in fact, be considered the creator of the "position-oriented" football philosophy, which is called "Juego d Position" in Spanish and "PositieSpiel" in Dutch.

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, Luis van Gaal, has long been seen as another prominent representative of such a footballing philosophy. Asking his team to play boring games in Munich. The Dutch general was not very successful in Munich due to his bias towards the layout and system. Still, Pep Guardiola, the next Bayern Munich coach who is himself a more modern representative of Cruyff's football class, spread such an idea of football in Bayern Munich, has taken it to a newer and higher level.

For Pep Guardiola, position-oriented play in the first place means that his team must be able to occupy part of the football field in any situation. What part of the football field should be occupied by his team depends on the ball's position? Because the ball is always in motion in a football game, the team must also move constantly as a unit.

Ideally, in Guardiola's system, there are two players - with whom he can form a triangle or three players (with whom he can form a rhombus - around the player who owns the ball to pass and play. In such a system, there should never be more than three players in the horizontal direction and more than two players in the vertical direction at the same time.

Thus Guardiola's idea moves away from the linear and direct game system that many football teams have. The Bundesliga and even the European are preferred. In this way, Munich became automatically unpredictable with such a system. In addition, with such a group tactic, Guardiola could change his team system based on how the opponent plays and dictate his authority to the opponent with long and continuous passes.

But Pep Guardiola does not like the term Tiki-Taka, because in his opinion, such a term in football is more related to the dead possession of the ball. In the book of this Spanish coach named "Mr. Guardiola," he is quoted in this regard: "Tiki-Taka's aimless possession and pass are exactly what I hate. This idea of football has no positive consequences. The team must hold the ball with a specific intention, for example, to approach the opponent's goal to create danger.

In fact, Pep Guardiola's evolution means he considers Tiki-Taka not a goal but a decisive tool to reach the goal, which is to get closer to the opponent's goal. In fact, taking possession of the ball without reaching more free spaces does not affect the end. It can only become a strategy for the defensive teams, in which case it becomes "Tikinaccio," which is a combination of Tiki-Taka and Catenaccio.

Bayern Munich

had been testing various systems under Pep Guardiola for more than two years and finally claimed that they have achieved an optimal system for approaching the opponent's goal. For example, Munich used the 4-1-2-3 system at the beginning of the game. In such an arrangement, Jerome Boateng started as a left-back. Still, the defender usually cannot exert more influence due to the pressure of the opposing players and the preservation of the precautionary aspects - David Alaba as the left-back. In that case, there are plenty of opportunities for Boateng to pass.

Pep Guardiola's aggressive philosophy may be understood differently by others. Still, more than anything else, he devotes training sessions to the defense, and this is how it works: Before the 2015-16 winter break, Bayern Munich scored only 49 goals and kept 50 clean sheets in 85 Bundesliga games. "Attacking is more about innate talent, but defending depends on your training and your work," he said. "If I want to attack a lot, a defense strategy necessary.

Pep Guardiola's position-oriented philosophy is, in fact, an extension of Johan Cruyff's ideas of football, in which each attack has its own unique conditions for the Spanish coach. In other parts of the world this kind of tactic’s, need deep analysis.

All about Pep Guardiola's Evolution in Manchester City

In his early days on the Bayern Munich coaching staff, Guardiola showed the world that he wanted to use the 4-1-4-1 system to play, a lineup that faced many ups and downs and many pros and cons. They started talking about this way of playing. Bayern Munich's performance in recruiting and transferring its players provides an important keyword as a clue about the coach's ideas: "Floating lineup."

Guardiola has proved his creativity in Barcelona by using

Lionel Messi

in the false number 9 position and has shown that he can make the best possible use of his available tools. And, of course, the coach himself knows that modernist ideas in football today are emerging more rapidly.

That great coaches find other ways to overcome it. It may not be an exaggeration to say that his tool in Bayern is far more powerful than when he was in Barcelona. "Floating lineup" is a combination that, given the tools, he has at Bayern, wants to implement his new ideas of using 11 versatile players in the team.  This means that the team can have the highest efficiency with the slightest change or substitution according to the players on the field and the bench and their capabilities.

They change tactics quickly - even faster than Jupp Heynckes' Bayern Munich - switch places. Pep Guardiola has earned respect not only for his admirable time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich but also for his instinctive and spectator-friendly football and injecting such an identity into his teams. When Manchester City put Guardiola in office last summer, the team's success was far from over but Promised a new identity. In Barcelona, Guardiola made a name for himself and built one of the best teams in history, relying on the principles of work there: a 4-3-3 system and proprietary football. At Bayern Munich, however, his approach was different, and we saw a more flexible Guardiola. 

He did not emphasize the principles he had brought from Barcelona and instead tried to tailor the line-up to his players, which led him to become more of an experienced coach.

So the biggest question for Guardiola at Manchester City is how he will adapt to Manchester City's identity while bringing in his work style. Of course, he implemented his principles from the beginning: recruiting a goalkeeper with the ability to play with a good foot, using the playmaker's central defenders, using midfielders leaning towards the midfield, and employing three creative midfielders in the heart of the midfield. However, Guardiola slowly abandoned these methods and made his team more like the team Manuel Pellegrini had at

Manchester City

.

After all, Pep needs to show his motivation. As Pep Guardiola said in one of his interviews, "After three or four years at a team, you can say that you have experienced everything in that team and done everything possible. You should always react differently to new issues and keep the excitement and stress both for yourself and the players. Otherwise, everything will be boring. You need an enemy to progress."

4 Things Pep Guardiola did differently at Manchester City

Rome was not built in a day, and this is the story of

Pep Guardiola’s evolution

in Manchester City. In 2016 when Pep accepted to lead Man City, the team was far from the ideal form. Satisfaction, happiness, and self-confidence are some of the reasons why a football coach always thinks of winning. No other coach can compete with Pep in this meaning.

In fact, the main goal of the Citizen leader is nothing but victory, and this thought is etched in his mind.  Pep, who has been acclaimed for his "endless knowledge" and has won countless titles over the past eight years, is only interested in winning. If anyone thinks otherwise, he is sorely mistaken. Guardiola wants only the victory every moment. It is no secret that the great Johan Cruyff inspired Pep Guardiola's philosophy and understanding of football.

We have often heard quotes from the Spanish philosopher who considered Cruyff as the greatest "model" and "master" and always had a special respect for this Dutchman. Now let's take a look at 4 Things Pep Guardiola did differently at Manchester City and take a closer look at Guardiola's evolution.

Signing Goalkeeper

Guardiola's most expected change at Manchester City was the signing of another goalkeeper. Joe Hart had gone through a difficult period by then, but it was expected that Hart would be able to return to his good times under Guardiola. Hart was sold for his inability to play as a sweeper goalkeeper and was replaced by Claudio Bravo.

Bravo showed a perfect example of a goalkeeper-defender in his first game for the Citizens against Manchester United; On that day, he often passed with his own players outside the home area and even despite the high pressure of the opponent. He made a mistake on

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

and scored twice, but that was what Guardiola wanted.

However, it turned out that Bravo is not a good goalkeeper in traditional fields. He conceded six goals from six shots on target at one point in the season, but perhaps the most surprising part of the job was where he gave up playing and became a traditional goalkeeper. Meanwhile, his performances were so bad that he sat on the bench from January 21 to April 8 and was replaced by Caballero. Guardiola eventually decided to sign Ederson Moraes from

Benfica

for a substantial fee, and from that year onwards, Ederson has become the team's number one goalkeeper.

Revolution for Full-backs

At Bayern Munich, we saw Guardiola's unfamiliar expectations of his full-backs; Instead of going forward, Guardiola asked them to lean toward the middle of the pitch. In fact, he wanted the defenders to follow half-space tactics. Philipp Lahm was responsible for implementing such an idea; while blocking the opponent's counter-attacks, he gave the Bayern Munich wingers good space on the sidelines.

At Manchester City, Pep made such a request of Bacary Sanya and Gael Clichy in the first few games of his team, especially against Sunderland. This method was not very efficient as the mentioned players did not have the technical ability and intelligence of Lahm and

David Alaba

. But in any case, it was an offensive and attractive method; What we expect from Guardiola.

That's why Guardiola informed the directors that he needs effective full-backs. The acquisitions of Benjamin Mandy,

Kyle Walker

, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Joao Cancelo were in line. These four fullbacks were able to multiply Guardiola's team's attacking power. Guardiola was also allowed to use the Reverse-Fullback tactic easily. From

Pep Guardiola's evolution

in Manchester City, the fullbacks played an important role.

Playmaker Center-backs

John Stones was Pep's favorite player in this position: a young and intelligent player who needed to know how to defend. That was great; Stones could have strengthened the Citizens' possession game and become the leader in his team's defense. But Stones had a tumultuous season, and his abilities as a classical center-back were questioned.

Although his playmaking worked in many places, he often made mistakes that were not acceptable on a high-end team, and that was not just in his passing but in the game against Everton when he tried to pass the ball. It wasn't easy to see progress in him here. At the start of the next season, Guardiola asked directors to sign Laporte, a defender with high-quality build-up ability. Laporte's biggest problem was being an injury-prone player, so Pep needed a strong man.

Guardiola analyzed many names and stood on

Ruben Dias

' name. Dias was bought from Benfica and, in the 2020-2021 season, was a wonderful and worldwide class player. Ruben Dias had the responsibility of taking one-on-ones and stopping forwards. He did it in an absolute way.

If the absence of Ake has left City unaffected, the presence of Dias has been transformative. He has probably been the most influential Premier League signing since Virgil van Dijk has had a similar effect. There is an important historical point about the rarity of top center-halves and another chance to Guardiola’s football.

Midfielders

Guardiola's midfield was initially decorated with a 4-3-3 formation featuring Fernandinho, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne. Fernandinho stood back and sometimes even joined his team's defense, with Silva and De Bruyne moving forward instead. This technique, which used a box-to-box midfielder running behind the pitch and two No. 10 midfielders to No. 8 was very technical and courageous.

But the lack of internal conclusions with this arrangement deprived Guardiola of his faith in it. He switched to 4-2-3-1, playing more on the flanks than De Bruyne and often using Fernandinho alongside center-back. This was another step backward, and given the injury of Ilkay Gundogan, it should be noted that the absence of a player who suffers a lot of injuries should not change the whole routine of the team.

But Guardiola stated that he needs a midfielder like Bernardo Silva and Rodri, so the directors took action and signed these two stars for Pep. Guardiola inserted Bernardo Silva and Rodri alongside

Kevin De Bruyne

so that Manchester City became a powerhouse and frightening club.

Stability and Pep Guardiola's Evolution in the near future

Naturally, answering this question is very easy. Pep Guardiola has firmly built a strong Manchester City foundation and does not seem to collapse easily. Especially since Manchester City have reached the 2021-2020 Champions League final and will probably try to sign Harry Kane in the summer of 2021.

There has been a significant change in that area too. Man City are the first English champions to play without a recognized center-forward, but it is indicative of Guardiola’s influence that isn’t even a point of debate anymore. It just illustrates his ability to adapt and create a team that can kill you in an instant without having a ‘killer’ of a goalscorer.

At the time of securing the title, City’s top scorer in the league was Gundogan, with 12 goals. That was the lowest for a champion in Premier League history, and he was one of only two City players with 10 or more. Guardiola's range of attackers is emphasized by the fact Raheem Sterling is now a mere stand-in and not a guaranteed starter. Guardiola won’t have that same necessity.

Next season won’t have the same rigors. There will be a hangover from this campaign, of course, but it will be something closer to normal - as symbolized by the return of fans. Guardiola loves to talk about football. This is a process that he follows in every training session from the first time he meets his players. Guardiola typically spends two hours a day discussing the details of what he wants from players.

He also changes what he says, and this was not based on psychological programs but only to express exactly what he feels inside. Guardiola plans everything. He is crazy about football and may even have his team plan for the next five years in mind. This is what made Pep Guardiola progress.

He knew that the defensive line was his biggest weakness, so he tried to change his favorite tactics based on paying special attention to the structure of the defensive line, and players. Guardiola is made for accurate analysis of pre-game opponents. He watches the previous six matches of the rivals, examines the important moments of the game purposefully, and finally reaches the desired result. "This is the moment when my effort really makes sense," Guardiola said.

Pep Guardiola's Evolution in terms of achievements

Although two Champions League titles with Barcelona with a 4-3-3 system or the evolution of Bayern Munich are important, another important task remains: winning the Champions League with Manchester City and giving the club its identity. Because money is not everything, but using it properly (without breaking the transfer record) is an idea that will make you successful. Guardiola is sometimes considered an expensive coach by some people, but those who do not know that signing the right player is an art in itself. 

Since 2017, he has invested in defenders and fullbacks; he always knows how to make the best out of his resources and footballers and teach them to develop as individuals in a "team eventually."

His Man City is not like Bayern and Barca. But Pep's nature is still alive as usual. He increases each player's quality, helps them make better decisions by understanding the game and space, and analyzes and minimizes the opponent's strengths. Pep has been criticized for many things, but it is easy to say that

Pep Guardiola's evolution

in Manchester City is something that we will not see soon.

Guardiola is part of that expenditure. He is one of the best-paid coaches globally and gets to manage the wealthiest clubs for a reason. City have just paid for his genius, too. And he has more than shown that genius, even beyond the alterations to this team this season.

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