Who’s the Man: Pep Guardiola

Manchester City team manager, Pep Guardiola has been criticised for micro-managing players, sidelining exciting young Academy talent and refusing to change coaching tactics for English conditions.  But despite the murmurs of discontent, the brilliant football mind that is Guardiola has managed to up his considerable profile in his second season in charge at the Etihad.

In this a tribute to one of the finest football coaches ever to grace our shores, we take a brief look at Guardiola the player and what he’s achieved as manager so far.  So, who’s the man?  Jose Morinho no doubt thinks he is…. but with Manchester United 13 points adrift of chart topping City on the league table, Guardiola is the guy with pep in his step!

Let’s face it; the points difference is just one bone of contention in already fraught relationship between the two men.  Morinho has fired off plenty of quotable quotes featuring his nemesis, none more so than this cutting little barb:

“Up until now there was a small group of coaches who didn’t talk about referees and a larger group who did. Now with Pep’s comments we have started a new era with a third group featuring only one person, a man who criticises when he makes good decisions.  This is completely new to me.” 

Is it?  Is it really?  There’s plenty of evidence of Mourinho himself throwing all his toys out of the cot because of a good, bad or indifferent referee decision.  Football is, after all, a bit like playing Vegas games online where the ref is the dealer who holds all the cards!

Pep the Player

Drafted in as a key member of the Barcelona ‘Dream Team’ under the magician Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola was known as a hard working and creative player with a tactical awareness beyond his years.  His elegance on the pitch and composure on the ball meant he could run rings around the opposition and retain possession… even under sustained attack.

One of his outstanding strengths was his uncanny ability to read the game, a trait that would later prove to be invaluable in his management role.  A precise passing game and instinctive positional play made him one of the most formidable deep-lying playmakers of his era.  Over his 16 year playing career, Guardiola made 459 professional appearances and scored 26 goals.

Who or what did Guardiola credit his success to?  The way the Barca coach handled his players, of course, as is evident from the following quote: “This was how Johan Cruyff worked.  He was demanding a lot but when you got there and you were in his team, he was an incredible protector.  He would push and push you and then he would protect you.  He was a master at handling players.  He knew when you needed to be pushed or protected.”

Guardiola: Super Coach

Guardiola transposed his brilliance on the field to the coaches’ manual.  He joined his former ‘rock star’ club, Barcelona as manager… and promptly claimed the treble plus the record as the youngest ever manager to win the Champions League. 

His overall win percentage at Barca was an awesome 72.5% and in the words of the man himself: “Barcelona are special in the way they play.  They are a machine” … and Pep was the master machinist!

His next big challenge was German club, Bayern Munich; a challenge that was as easily dispatched as his glorious era in his native Spain.  During his three year tenure with the club, Guardiola won three consecutive Bundesliga titles, two back to back DFB Pokal competitions, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. 

He walked away with a win percentage of 75.2%…an improvement on his Barca stats.  Guardiola was the world’s SuperCoach with or without the cape!

The Premier League: No Pushover for Pep

Guardiola signed with Manchester City in July 2016.  The great man was given plenty of advice as to how to handle his new coaching position… and not all of it was positive.

Despite the doomsayers, Guardiola confirmed his commitment to City FC with these words “In Barcelona, Bayern Munich, in Spain and Germany we were able to do it.  But people say, ‘You only did it because you were in Barcelona and Bayern Munich.  You will not be able to do it in England.’  So, let’s do it.  We are going to try.”

And try he most certainly has!  But the Premier League and the way English football is played have presented problems to Guardiola, as these few quotes attest:

“The Premier League is so difficult.  What happens in the Premier League is that when they arrive in the area, they punish you.”

“It’s an unpredictable game here in England – that makes it so fascinating for the fans – because you never know what will happen.”

“I try to play in one way all my career but it is different in England.  Many times the ball is more in the air than the grass and I have to adapt.” 

Notwithstanding the teething problems, Guardiola is on track to pull off another major coup in his illustrious coaching career – the Premier League title.  Should he manage that he can add it to the litany of league titles, individual awards, decorations and trophies he has accumulated in his career thus far!  He will also earn the undying appreciation of millions of Manchester City fans across the world.

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