Pep Guardiola arrived to England as one of the most successful football managers of the modern era.
The man who revolutionised Barcelona and made them one of the fiercest forces in world football was expected to make an instant impact in the Premier League.
The Spaniard took Frank Rijkaard’s 4-3-3 formation, adapted it with a high defensive line with full-back pushing forward whereas he also transformed the approach into a daunting 3-4-3 system at Camp Nou which resulted in 14 trophies in four years in charge.
The Bayern Munich era turned out to be trophy-laden as well despite the sour taste in the mouth upon his seemingly premature departure.
The call of the Premier League was too irresistible for Guardiola who wanted to see whether he ‘can do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke’.
Pep Guardiola signed for Manchester City on 1 February 2016. The Spaniard arrived to England for the beginning of the 2016/17 season which turned out to be his only trophyless season thus far.
Guardiola inherited an aging squad with players who did not fully fit in his style of football.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart was the first one to pay the price as Guardiola pushed him out of the team by bringing in former Barcelona shot stopper Claudio Bravo.
As Guardiola went on to stamp his early footprint in England, Manchester City had won all of their first 10 matches by the end of September, including a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho in a Manchester derby.
It all looked great for the Citizens but the reality of the Premier League football quickly caught up with Guardiola as the Spaniard went without a win in six games in all competitions only month later.
The worst run in his managerial career put plenty of pressure on Guardiola and things went from bad to worse with City getting eliminated in the last 16 of the Champions League.
With Chelsea lifting the title Manchester City finished the season behind Tottenham in third. But Guardiola rolled up his sleeves determined to change things, together with a wholehearted support from the Manchester City owners.
The New Beginning
The 46-year-old tactician decided to shake things up at Etihad and first got rid of dead wood.
Joe Hart was sent out on another loan after his spell in Serie A with Torino, whereas Samir Nasri, Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernando, Nolito, Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho were all sold out during summer.
Willy Caballero left the club on a free transfer, together with Jesus Navas, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy.
On the opposite end, Guardiola welcomed left-back Benjamin Mendy, right backs Kyle Walker and Danilo, winger Bernardo Silva and goalkeeper Ederson as the Spaniard revamped his side and defensive line in particular.
With Kyle Walker hugging the right-hand touchline and this season’s biggest surprise Fabian Delph on the left, Guardiola got all the players he needed to replicate the incredible Barcelona style.
“We showed that this kind of football can be played in England. People say it can only be played in Spain, but we showed it is possible to have the courage to play.
“I knew that last season. I always believed we could do it. Everybody can play however they want.”, Guardiola said after the 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford this weekend.
In a fantastic match which turned out to be the greatest testament to Guardiola’s vision and idea as a coach, Manchester City put in a motivated performance which went against the commonplace perception of English football Guardiola is here to change.
The Spaniard takes his team to venues around the country not to running down the clock during 90 minutes but to play football, to entertain. Now that he has the squad capable of playing the style he wants, sky is the limit for Manchester City.
Following the Old Trafford heroics Manchester City stand top of the league with an 11-point gap in front of Red Devils and with one hand on the Premier League trophy. The Citizens are pushing hard in the Champions League as well and stand at 9/2 betting odds as one of the favourites to lift the European trophy.
As a side that scored 48 goals in 16 matches domestically – while conceding only 11 – the Citizens are a force to be reckoned with. They are fit for purpose and boast plenty of character, self-belief and team confidence to go the distance and fulfil their manager’s ambition.
Can anyone doubt they will succeed?
With Pep Guardiola holding a firm grip on the reigns, reinventing his squad and his tactics, there’s little room for reservation on the notion that Manchester City boss has announced the new dawn of the Premier League football.
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