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Guardiola must make City swap drama for domination

In 2012, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague published a biography on Pep Guardiola entitled “Another Way of Winning”.

Although this related to Guardiola’s celebrated time in charge of Barcelona, it is exactly what he will be tasked with when he takes the reins at Manchester City.

Speculation that the 45-year-old was bound for the Etihad Stadium ramped up in December when he announced he would leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season.

Nevertheless, this did not take away from the perversity of current City boss Manuel Pellegrini shoe-horning information into the end of a Monday press briefing that he will part company with City during the close-season.

Pellegrini did not mention Guardiola by name but, moments after he shuffled out of the media room door, City dropped news to rock the football world.

The 62-year-old Chilean , who is “fully supportive” of the Guardiola announcement according to a club statement, was away to prepare for the seemingly more mundane prospect of a match at Sunderland in the Premier League – one of four trophies he could still collect this season in a potentially golden farewell.

Charitably speaking, though, if Pellegrini achieves a trophy rush akin to the one enjoyed by Jupp Heynckes as Bayern waited for Guardiola’s arrival, he will have done so via the scenic route.

City finished top of a Champions League group for the first time despite losing twice to Juventus, reached the League Cup final with the help of an appalling linesman’s call and lie three points behind surprise leaders Leicester City in a pulsating Premier League title race, having failed to win back-to-back games since October.

A key ingredient in Leicester’s fairytale bid for glory is the regular incompetence showcased by the Premier League’s most lavishly gifted squad.

Comprehensive defeats at the hands of Tottenham, Liverpool and Stoke City this season contained worrying repetitions for Manchester City’s supporters and hierarchy – a lethargic midfield over-run by tenacious opponents who clinically punished a porous defence each time.

Such results left many wondering aloud how things might look different under Guardiola, with the talents of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero harnessed under the tactical blueprints of a well-documented footballing obsessive.

It would be ludicrous to assume a coach of Pellegrini’s deserved standing sent out teams without a coherent plan, but they have been woefully off-message at best on numerous occasions.

Last-gasp goals to seal gruelling victories over Swansea City and Watford might be part of the Premier League’s enduring appeal, but these matches and others did not suggest the dominance City’s ambitious owners desire was imminent under Pellegrini.

Under Guardiola, a man City’s former Barcelona director of football Txiki Begiristain first courted in 2012 when Roberto Mancini was at the helm, things must be different.

Supporters who subsisted for so long on a diet of gallows humour in the considerable shadow of Manchester United will for ever cherish City’s final-day title triumphs in 2011-12 and 2013-14.

But both title defences stalled terribly and City’s progress in the Champions League has, even allowing for luckless draws, been incremental.

Meanwhile, Bayern are on course for a third consecutive Bundesliga crown under Guardiola – the man whose board-sweeping at Barcelona included a pair of Champions Leagues – having dropped only five points all season.  

Their winning margins in the past two seasons were 19 points and 10 points respectively, without an “Aguero moment” in sight.

Taking near-weekly drama out of the equation while refining, improving and – as in the case of Philipp Lahm – reinventing high-class players will be Guardiola’s brief in Manchester, with mastery at home and abroad being the expected end result.

Joe Royle, City’s manager when they languished in the third tier of English football at the end of the last century, labelled the club’s capacity for self-sabotage as “Cityitis”.

Retaining a flavour of such tendencies on the path to glory over recent seasons has carried a bizarre charm not enjoyed by the Eastlands powerbrokers.

They have long seen Guardiola as the man with the vaccination, who will allow modern-day City to flourish as a major European club comfortable with their status.

Mon 1 Feb, 2016
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