Pep needs to adapt quickly
The US Network, NBC broadcast a documentary over the weekend "Inside The Mind of Pep". The programme was to understand how the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager's mind works now that he's at Man City. Sadly, the broadcast was ill timed as it came just after City had lost at Liverpool. It was City's 3rd defeat in 10 league matches and one that could see them drop out of the CL places depending on results elsewhere later this weekend.
In that documentary Pep Guardiola at one point complained about how windy it is to play football in England. His interviewer tried to be relaxed saying "wind is good for you Pep". The City manager did not see the funny side and replied "wind is good for those who like chasing after the ball perhaps".
When Guardiola accepted the City job I believed it was going to be his hardest job in football thus far. I still believe so. The man believes in his way of playing football and as he has reminded journalists in England, he has the trophies to prove his way works. For this way to work at City and in the climate of the Premier League, Guardiola has to adapt to the premier league and very quickly too.
Last season as I watched Bayern Munich with the pretty patterns they weave and sometimes lack of a natural centre backs I remarked to a friend of mine that Guardiola had better not think he will get away with such in England. The frantic pace of the league, the volume of crosses into the box and the desire to go long from back to front quickly and in the air requires the need for natural centre backs.
A few weeks ago Guardiola was speaking in a press conference and confessed that they do not work on tackling and ball recovery in training. I heard him and I smiled. I thought: you are sadly mistaken or you are needlessly arrogant for this is not a two team league like in your last two jobs.
It might sound ridiculous but there are shades of Louis van Gaal here with Guardiola. Men who believe so strongly in their own ways that they expect the league to change for them rather than finding ways to adapt their teams to cope better in the league.
When Jose Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea one of his first acts was to tell Scot Parker that he won't be a regular for him because of his size. The Portuguese said the PL was too physical for him to have Parker and Makalele starting often.
Guardiola's defenders in the press and in the stands will point to the lack of quality in the current City side. That falls flat when one recalls that he had known for a while he was getting the job so could have done more to regenerate the squad. Money is not a problem as we all know.
David Silva, Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany have their best years behind them. They are not capable of being consistently good over the course of this season. Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones are young or do not have sufficient top level quality to compensate for the old guard. The rest of the squad are frankly average at best.
The case against Guardiola is the one that says he's had the best players in the leagues that he's managed. He had Messi at Barcelona plus the not inconsiderable talents of Gérard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. And he only really competed against Real Madrid. Luis Enrique did nothing at Celta Vigo and AS Roma but has been winning the lot at Barcelona.
In Germany, Bayern destroyed the opposition by buying all their best players; so in truth it was never a contest as soon as Jurgen Klopp lost his way at Dortmund.
This - his critics will insist - is his one true challenge to show that he is as good as his successes say. I like Guardiola's approach to the game, the way he sets his teams out with the triangles and squares they operate in. Really lovely to watch. However, he needs to be ready to adapt his teams to the demands of this league. And very quickly too as this season is in danger of running away from him.
Finally, let me use this opportunity to wish all our readers wherever you are a happy New Year. May your dreams and aspirations come to fruition in this 2017. I appreciate the time you take to read and to even make comments. Never taken for granted.