On Sunday April 23rd history was made. It became the first season in ten years when a team managed by Pep Guardiola would not win a trophy.
While this was extremely good news for a manager whose time at Arsenal may be coming to an end the opposite was true for the man whose first season in charge at the Etihad has been one of under-performance and disappointment.
When City’s owners installed Guardiola at the start of the season their motivations were obvious – to do as much as they possibly could to ensure that the trophy cabinet would soon be overflowing with silverware. The logic, obviously, was that the man who had done so much for Bayern Munich and Barcelona before that would soon be weaving his magic for them.
It seems that this is going to be a longer-term project than anticipated as, even now, anyone betting on the Premier League would agree Chelsea’s stranglehold on the Premiership means that ship has sailed long ago and that a place in the 2017-18 Champions League is by no means guaranteed.
No-one could deny that the season started off well enough with an unbeaten run lasting the first six games against, admittedly, some of the weaker teams in the league. But poor results including the 4-2 defeat by Leicester City and January’s 4-0 drubbing by Everton started to suggest that some of the problems may be in the defensive line-up. There have been similar questions asked about Claudio Bravo’s suitability as a goalkeeper in the top flight and, with Guardiola’s seeming reluctance to play Joe Hart, he will sure be looking for at least one replacement keeper when the transfer window opens at the end of the season.
Questions have also been asked about why Guardiola enjoyed so much success in Spain and Germany but has, so far, failed to recreate it in this country. In the case of Barcelona many put have put this down to the presence of one man in the squad and Pep expressed it very succinctly when he said “At Barça, my tactics consisted of getting the ball to Messi”.
In terms of his time at Bayern he may have managed them into a position of total dominance over the Bundesliga, or rather maintained that position, but in European championships he was by no means so successful. There were even signs of some of the tactical and selection mistakes that many have accused him of making at Manchester City. For example in the 2016 Champions League Semi Final against Atletico Madrid he kept arguably his best player, Tomas Muller, on the bench for 70 minutes of the first leg.
So if Guardiola is to achieve the aims of the owners next season he will have to take a long, hard look at which players he picks as well as the positions he plays them in. With a number of the squad, including Kompany, Touré and Agüero, with probably their best years behind them new blood is certainly needed if the squad are going to be winners next year.
As to how long Pep will be given to start bringing home the results, only time will tell. But the serious investment that the club has made in him suggests that he may have rather more leeway than most managers enjoy.