Manchester City will define Pep Guardiola’s coaching career. It is as simple as that, as the former Barcelona player has never stepped into a coaching role as difficult as the one he currently finds himself in.
Manchester City, despite their extravagant spending, champagne football wishes and caviar dreams, aren’t the power that Barcelona or Bayern Munich were when Guardiola stepped into their dugouts. Those two European heavyweights not only had a pedigree of being two of the best clubs in world football, but they had world class players to match.
Saturday’s late 2-1 win over a poor Sunderland side should attest to that. Despite keeping 77% of the possession, according to WhoScored.com, City failed to find a way through a stubborn Sunderland defence. The Black Cats packed 10 men behind the ball, giving City’s flair players little room to manoeuvre.
When Guardiola took over Barcelona, many forget the club was just two years removed from winning a treble under Frank Rijkaard. Even though the team won only one trophy over the next two seasons, Barcelona didn’t have the crisis it has been made out to have experienced. Of course, Guardiola came in and shook things up, removing Ronaldinho and Deco from being major influences on the side, and promoting Lionel Messi into being the first name on the team sheet.
Interestingly, Guardiola has benched Joe Hart and Yaya Toure in the same vein as Ronaldinho and Deco. Hart has spent 10 years at City and Toure is a modern day club legend. Despite this, the Spanish boss has ignored their years of service to the team, which has already rubbed numerous fans the wrong way.
At Bayern, like Barcelona, Guardiola had the money and the talent behind him to convert the Bavarian side into his image of a football team. Possession based, with disciplined passing and movement, Bayern was a German version of Guardiola’s Barca.
Guardiola’s tactics brought success to the club as the Spaniard won three Bundesliga titles and two German Cups. Unlike his predecessor Jupp Heynckes. who won the Champions League just months before Guardiola took over Bayern, the current Man City boss couldn’t bring the elusive European title to the Allianz Arena.
Now at City, Guardiola doesn’t have the same quantity of world class names to call on in his team. The club has made several big money signings this summer as Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones, Nolito and Leroy Sane were all brought into the team. However, each one of them has a question mark around his name. Gundogan is a fantastic midfielder, but he has rarely stayed healthy for an entire season. Stones is still young and raw, as several shortcomings appeared in his game during the tail end of the last term with Everton.
Nolito could turn out to be much like teammate Jesus Navas, and never fully take flight as a top player with the Blues. Finally, 20-year-old Sane is young and exuberant, but inconsistent.
Inconsistent is actually a good description for several of City’s stars. Last summer’s £44 million transfer signing Raheem Sterling may have scored six goals and added two assists last term, according to WhoScored.com, but his play was erratic and frustrating at times. Under Guardiola, perhaps Sterling can find that form he showed at Liverpool, but his talent is still far from what the former Barca manager had at disposal at his previous clubs.
In fact, it is arguable that Manchester City lack world class players outside of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. The rest are solid, extremely talented professionals, yet the Sky Blues lack the quality that Manchester United do possess this season. Though the Red Devils have spent mightily to acquire it.
Guardiola’s time at City will define his coaching career. For once, he has gone into a club that doesn’t have the same talent or aura as his previous teams. His work is cut out for him, and anything less than a domestic trophy in his first year may spoil many preconceived notions about him as a coach.