Pep Guardiola: Reinventing Premier League Title Winners

A year ago, Pep Guardiola arrived at a pivotal moment with Manchester City. It was a crossroads he had experienced before. Having won 14 trophies in four seasons with Barcelona, he had become the best...

Guillem Balague's BBC Sport column

A year ago, Pep Guardiola arrived at a pivotal moment with Manchester City. It was a crossroads he had experienced before. Having won 14 trophies in four seasons with Barcelona, he had become the best club side in the world. But cracks were beginning to show. Seeking guidance, he spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez, who advised him to stick to his beliefs, renew the squad, and stay. However, Guardiola chose to disregard their advice once again.

After leaving Barcelona and spending a sabbatical year in the United States, Guardiola arrived at Bayern Munich. Despite winning numerous titles, he felt that the club didn't fully understand his vision. And so, he made the move to Manchester City.

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the 2019-20 season, Guardiola faced a decision about his contract. The words of Benitez and Ferguson began to make sense. Ultimately, Guardiola signed a new contract with City, marking his fifth year with the club and leading them to their third Premier League title.

Did Guardiola consider leaving Man City?

Contrary to rumors, Guardiola never considered offers from Paris St-Germain. His loyalty to City and their owners, the Abu Dhabi group, made a move to PSG unthinkable. Instead, Guardiola signed a contract extension, showing his commitment to the club.

Reinvented Style and Renewed Squad

For Guardiola, renewing the squad was an obligation after last season. With the arrival of players like Ferran Torres and Ruben Dias, the team underwent minor changes. But it was the methods that received the most significant overhaul.

A 1-1 draw with West Brom on December 15th forced Guardiola to reflect on the team's performance. He realized that the players seemed bored and lacked the required enthusiasm. Drawing from his experiences with Barcelona and Bayern, Guardiola decided to give his assistant coaches more responsibility and allowed the players to have more contact with them.

With Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling positioned as wingers, spaces were created inside, enabling players like Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne to dominate the midfield. Guardiola also emphasized the importance of getting more bodies into the box. As a result, Gundogan started scoring regularly, and Foden's performances surpassed David Silva's in his first season in England.

An Obsession with Counters

Guardiola's new approach also had to address the threat of counter-attacks. In his first year at City, they struggled when losing possession and conceded several goals on the counter. Guardiola became obsessed with finding a solution.

This season, he implemented a defensive structure that included a line of four defenders behind the ball. This approach has significantly minimized the threat of rapid transitions after losing possession.

Where Will Guardiola Strengthen Next?

Guardiola has achieved domestic dominance with three Premier League titles in five years, and this season marked his first Champions League semi-final with City. Although some argue that his success is solely due to the significant investment in players, the truth is that Guardiola has maximized and improved the assets available to him.

Looking ahead, City will focus on reinforcing their squad. With Sergio Aguero leaving the club and some players struggling in front of goal, City is in search of a quality striker who can convert the multitude of chances created by the team. Lionel Messi remains a dream signing, but the club's priority is to find a young striker who can contribute for the next five or six years.

Erling Braut Haaland is one of the possibilities that City is exploring. Guardiola continues to lead the biggest rebuild of his career, shaping a team that reflects his vision on the pitch.

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