The Pep Episodes XXVIII
This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes is created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
Some will say he’s already practicing for his new job.
On Sunday, Pep Guardiola stood on the sidelines, calmly enduring the cold rain while watching his team beat TSG Hoffenheim comfortably, 2-0. Standing in the rain is exactly what will happen a lot after he takes over Manchester City in the Summer.
On Monday, the worst-kept secret in world football was finally confirmed: Manuel Pellegrini announced in a press conference that he will terminate his contract in June. Immediately after, Manchester City issued an official statement saying that Guardiola will succeed the Chilean.
Guardiola signed a three-year deal to start his next project, one he has wished for a long time ago. Working in the English Premier League has always been a dream for Guardiola, he said so himself on various occasions.
On transfer deadline day, the Sky Blues landed by far the biggest coup – even if it wasn’t the signing of a player. The hiring of Guardiola wasn’t a surprise, but the announcement on the last day of a usually crazy (even if not necessarily this time) transfer period sure was. For a couple of hours, even City’s website was down. Everybody wanted to read the club’s statement. With pride, City announced that the “negotiations were a re-commencement of discussions that were curtailed in 2012.” They wanted to let everybody know that they fought long and hard to get the most sought after beauty in the game as their next manager. Accordingly, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s headline ran: “Manchester City gets Pep”. Like the Catalan chose them, not the other way round, as it is the usual case when a club hires a new coach.
And what City is getting is pretty clear to many: A tactical mastermind who’s going to take the Premier League by storm. “Pep signing for City has really messed up my day. His records at Barça & Bayern are unreal,” former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand declared via Twitter, while die-hard Arsenal fan Piers Morgan predicts: “Watch City fly.” That’s what many are expecting now.
“We will have to see how he brings to life his ideas in a country in which his gameplan is uncommon,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said on Tuesday, “but I am sure he will connect it to success. He loves challenges and I am sure that this will be a great era for his next club. These seasons will be great to watch.”
“Some have the abilities for real Pep-football,” says FAZ. Aguero, Sterling, De Bruyne and, of course, David Silva, to name a few. And he’ll be able to bring in other players for his preferred style of play. With a combined attraction of City’s money and Guardiola as a coach, they have become an even more attractive destination for the best players.
Because City are already partly successful – even if only in domestic terms, winning two Premier League titles in the last four years – and they continue to spend big on the transfer market, Guardiola’s move to the Sky Blues is considered an “easy step” for him. Looking at how shaky the team still is and their constant failure to even reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League, I’m not sure it’s an entirely easy job. Constantin Eckner puts it nicely on Die Zeit: “Manchester City has become the symbol of English football: Expensive and talented football players playing outdated football.”
City have only shown consistency in being fickle and patchy. Sometimes they thrash inferior opponents at home with ease and good, quick football – sometimes they are just a mediocre side, lacking a real gameplan and cohesion. Despite having some of the most talented and expensive players, there’s much room for improvement because City has somewhat worked like Real Madrid of England: Plenty of great soloists, but not a full fledged team. Guardiola has some work to do to reach a higher level. His time at the Etihad Stadium will be an interesting one, many are expecting him to rebuild the squad, especially in midfield and defense.
The character everybody is pointing at these days is Yaya Touré. Guardiola has formerly worked with the Ivorian international at Barca, and Touré was a key figure before a certain Sergio Busquets came from La Masia and took his place. Touré was used as a pure holding midfielder protecting the back line, and a few times, when needed, even as a centre back. Now, it’s said that Touré will be the first one to be sold when Guardiola arrives. Although it would be interesting to see how the Ivorian would fare as a ball playing, smart centre back.
“I think Yaya will leave the club. But before leaving, I hope he will again win the league and all the cups,” Touré’s agent Dimitry Seluk already revealed. “It’s not a question of whether Pep likes him or not. It’s life, you know.” Let’s see what life brings to players like Kolarov, Zabaleta and Sagna…
MCFC surely need further smart addition in the center of the pitch, not only with the impending departure of Touré. Gündogan and Pogba quickly come to mind here, Delph could play a bigger role as he’s technically gifted and quick.
For his possession style of play, Guardiola needs versatile players with a high football IQ and a good technique, at least. For Pep’s father Valenti, Guardiola will implement his specific footballing ideas like he did in Bavaria and Catalonia. “He will look to carry on the football of his Barcelona and Bayern teams. He has this attitude to football: Not just to win, but to win in a distinctive way that entertains the public,” the senior Guardiola explained, “I think he will be happy [in England] – he wouldn’t be leaving if not. Right now in Germany, he is held in very high esteem,” he added.
Well, that’s not entirely true, as regular readers of this column would know. Kicker’s headline in their Monday issue showed just that: “A win against disturbances,” ran the magazine’s title after the three points against Hoffenheim. As reported, it’s said that the mood in the locker room isn’t the best (the coach disagrees though), while Guardiola is not happy with the shape of some players and displeased with a “mole” in his team who leaked internal matters to the media.
“What’s the problem?” an annoyed Guardiola asked the press on Friday six times (!), while saying all is fine with the team. “He’s hurt that internals became public,” kicker stated afterwards, adding this bit of criticism: “Exceedingly long training sessions played a part.”
Guardiola has been careless, the magazine is implying, because lack of discipline went unpunished for quite some time. They called out Arturo Vidal (who else, one might say), who repeatedly attracts attention for the wrong reasons. It’s said he has been one of the players who returned from the Christmas holidays with overweight. On Wednesday, SportBild reported that the Chilean international left the training camp in Qatar several times without permission and returned with the smell of alcohol in his breath. Against Hoffenheim, the former Juventus man sat on the bench again.
Aside from disciplinary issues, Guardiola faces the already well-known injury problems. After successful surgery in Barcelona, Javi Martinez will be out for four weeks, Bayern confirmed. So on Monday’s deadline day, despite previously saying otherwise, the German champion made a last-minute purchase and loaned out center back Serdar Tasci from Spartak Moscow with an option to buy in the summer. A much-needed panic buy for the decimated defense. Some are again saying Tasci’s addition to the roster didn’t happen at Guardiola’s request – just as it was the case with Vidal. It is to be expected that Guardiola’s next employer will gladly fulfill all his wishes.
The Pep Episodes is a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.