For now, at least, the future of Pep Guardiola is secure.
The Manchester City manager has signed a new two-year contract that will keep him at the Etihad Stadium until 2023.
There is no denying Guardiola has brought spectacular success to City, but few would deny there have been some concerning signs in the early stages of the 2020-21 season.
So, is his new deal the right decision?
There’s “unfinished business” says Pep
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 19, 2020
GUARDIOLA HAS MADE CITY HISTORY – THEY CAN’T RISK HIM GOING ELSEWHERE
By John Skilbeck
If City ever seriously considered a future without Guardiola, then a glance across town should have given them pause for thought: if you’ve got a proven winner, cling to him for dear life.
Alex Ferguson’s long-dreaded retirement in 2013 gave Manchester United a headache for which they are still seeking a cure. Pfizer and Moderna would have struggled to find a remedy for the Red Devils, and City desperately did not want to find themselves in a similar spiral to that which has essentially neutralised the threat of their neighbours.
Which leads us to Thursday’s declaration that Guardiola is staying sky blue for another two seasons, despite last term’s failure to win either the Premier League or Champions League.
That failure is a loose definition of what many would consider immense success: second in the Premier League, quarter-finals in Europe and an EFL Cup win would not amount to anything approaching disappointment for most teams, but the standards at City have been set sky high.
Long gone are the days of praying for a miracle under Frank Clark and Joe Royle, of the club falling for the diminishing charms of King Kev and Sven. It is A-list that City want and A-list they have throughout their ranks: in Guardiola they have a coach – a talisman – they dare not lose.
Who would they target if Guardiola left? Mauricio Pochettino, who improved Tottenham without taking them to a trophy before losing all momentum? That sounds like an Old Trafford appointment.
Julian Nagelsmann? Nuno Espirito Santo? Brendan Rodgers? Bookmakers have Patrick Vieira high on their list. Send a doctor; I’m convulsing here.
City remain set up to conquer England and Europe under Guardiola, alongside wingmen Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano, and now the team have to go out and achieve that, this season and in the next two.
Is Guardiola untouchable? No, but City are in the midst of the most successful era in their 140-year history. Why risk losing the man still held up by some as the world’s best coach? Why risk somebody else having him?
5 – The top five Premier League managers of the 2010s, based on points per game (50+ matches):
Josep Guardiola – 2.37
Alex Ferguson – 2.27
Jürgen Klopp – 2.15
Antonio Conte – 2.14
Roberto Mancini – 2.04
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 30, 2019
CITY ARE DECLINING AND GUARDIOLA ISN’T STOPPING IT
By Joe Wright
“I have everything I could possibly want,” said Guardiola of his new two-year deal. If only City could say the same.
Before anyone keels over from righteous anger, no, I do not think Guardiola has done a bad job at City. Nobody who started watching football before 2019 could make that argument; even then, they came second and won the EFL Cup.
It needed an unprecedented level of transfer spending, but under Guardiola, City have smashed English football records, won a historic domestic treble and played with a style unlike any other seen on those shores.
But he has not delivered the Champions League. He has not even made a semi-final. And his team – slightly, gradually, but irrefutably – are declining.
The proof was there in last term’s title-surrender to Liverpool and it’s there in this season’s numbers. They lost 5-2 at home to Leicester City, the first time in 686 matches that a Guardiola team had conceded five in a single game. They won only three of their seven league matches.
12 – Manchester City’s tally of 12 points after seven league games in 2020/21 is the fewest ever collected by a team led by Pep Guardiola at this stage of a season. Renewed. #ManCity
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 19, 2020
Their expected goals (xG) rating, compared to last season, has almost halved; their shooting has dropped by an average of five attempts per match. This is their worst start to a league season since 2008-09, and Guardiola’s lowest points (12) return after seven games in his 12 years as a manager.
City spent around £51million on centre-back Ruben Dias but still do not look impregnable – they also bolstered their defence by bringing in Nathan Ake from relegated Bournemouth. David Silva has not been replaced, Sergio Aguero has been fit for just three games, and their win rate drops to just 40 per cent when Rodri partners Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
Those are more than minor concerns about the spine of Guardiola’s team and, while they have the financial clout to fix them, there must come a time when City bosses wonder whether the treasure chest should be left in another manager’s hands.
If they don’t wrestle back their Premier League crown, if they falter again in Europe, questions will be asked whether Guardiola is the right man to motivate these players or oversee another expensive squad overhaul made far tougher post-pandemic. Allowing his deal to run out in June 2021 would have given all parties the option of a peaceful (and cheap) parting of the ways; now, they must back him or sack him if things turn sour.
Perhaps Guardiola will win the Champions League. Perhaps he’ll even sign Lionel Messi – a move which may well have come to fruition before the start of the season had the Argentine not agreed to see out his contract at Barcelona. Or perhaps, for the first time at a club in his managerial career, he will outstay his welcome.
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