It’s a curious crossover and yet simultaneously, a glorious contrast. Pep Guardiola brings with him some cracking jumpers and a barrel-full of ideology.
The former certainly isn’t an indictment and the latter’s compatibility with a club who’ve typically spent more money than attention to their own evolving mantra is being tested. We haven’t seen the last of that conflict – but maybe it’s not relevant.
Someone mentioned the other day that Pep only had five seasons at Barcelona. Maybe it’s the nature of a legacy that elongates a successful period in the mind.
Maybe it’s the fact that Messi is unapologetically timeless, or maybe it’s the fact that Barca barely lost the ball in those five campaigns. Either way, the evolution of the 46-year-old has been interesting to watch.
Despite overseeing the best run of any club side ever, there were question marks. With a lack of media pressure and big-name signings, it seemed that the Catalonia native fell into workable environments – especially landing in Bavaria when he departed Barcelona.
The point remained – Munich had an underage system where they could fill out a squad when injuries hit. They were well drilled in the Bayern way, much the same as the Barcelona youth ranks could. There’s also a considerable amount of people that consider Guardiola’s Munich to be far less exciting and efficient than Jupp Heynckes’ charges were the previous year.
While City have undoubtedly produced top class talent in the past, the focus on results that comes hand-in-hand with lofty investment meant that youth development wasn’t in the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.
However, despite 2016-17 seeing City being beaten out by fifteen points to a fellow first-year manager in the Premier League, Chelsea didn’t have the distractions of Europe. This clearly had a profound effect on results, when you consider how many points Guardiola’s boys threw away during the busiest stages of the season.
The real test was always going to be this year, and they knew it.
The one thing Guardiola is, is a very good coach. If he can limit his weaknesses and just do exactly that – coach – he’ll be hard to beat this year. The less media breakdowns and snarky comments to other managers, the better.
He’ll avoid both of those by being able to take the high ground. You can do that when you win. So far? So good.
Everton at home was the only minor blip, but in their last three league games, City have scored sixteen times and kept three clean sheets. City truly have a Pep in their step, but the Manchester shootout for Premier League honours will come down to how these sides do in games where they’re faced with coaches of similar calibre, if not similar ilk.
The truth is that nobody’s exactly like Guardiola. His almost blinding focus on the tiny details of the game are to be applauded, and players will pay attention once they’re seeing rewards.
A big start was crucial in that regard – he has it. They travel to Stamford Bridge this weekend and that will reveal a lot more.
The Premier League titles attributed to Mancini and Pellegrini can’t be taken away.
However, neither had enough of an aura to weather any potential pressure put on them by a board who focus solely on results.
Now, there’s more pressure on results than ever before. However, for the first time in Man City’s new era, the board have to contend with someone who is regarded as the best at what they do.
Where would you go from here? Guardiola will be a success. If he’s not, City may need to look at more than just their dugout.