Saturday, May 25, 2019

Pep Guardiola at Manchester City: Unquestionable Success?

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The arrival of new owners in 2008 meant a complete overhaul for Manchester City. From an ordinary mid-table side, they went to being the richest club in England and one of the richest in the world, who were suddenly able to sign any player that their fancy desired. As such, they promptly rose to the category of serious contenders for any trophy they competed for.

Nonetheless, it took them four years to get where their initial plan was to get, and in an incredible finish to the 2011/12 season they won the Premier League, courtesy of a late finish from Sergio Aguero in the last round against Queens Park Rangers. The man at the helm was Roberto Mancini.

The following season was always going to belong to their neighbours United as the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired with his 13th league title, the club’s 20th.

It didn’t take long for City to regain the throne. 2013/14 saw Liverpool give them a thrilling title race to the very finish, and only a Merseysiders’ unexpected home defeat to Chelsea and points subsequently dropped away to Crystal Palace enabled the team led this time by Manuel Pellegrini to claim the title again.

Having risen to the very top in terms of domestic competitions (they won the 2010/11 FA Cup under Mancini and two League Cups under Pellegrini as well), it was to be expected that their aspirations would grow and they started eyeing the Champions League. The best they could do with the Argentinian in charge was to reach the 2015/16 semifinal of UEFA’s elite club competition, and that after his departure and the appointment of Pep Guardiola at the end of the season had already been confirmed.

After the first season which was certainly one of adaptation to the Premier League ways for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, they won the 2017/18 title with an incredible amount of 100 points; 19 more than the second-place United. They are on a similar run this term, albeit with Liverpool hot on their heels again.

The race is so intense at the moment that neither team could be considered to have failed if they finish second, at least not in absolute terms, but perhaps it goes more for City than for Liverpool; City, who have established themselves as consistent league-winning material over the last decade regardless of the outcome of this particular race.

However, presuming that the idea of winning the Champions League was really behind their move to part ways with Manuel Pellegrini and bring Guardiola in, can the Catalan be considered an unquestionable success?

It can be argued that, despite the previous two managers having the same financial backing of the owners, Guardiola has lifted the level of football played at the Etihad to much greater heights. No team in the world, and that includes the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich or Juventus, would now be considered favorites when faced with this Manchester City team. The way they control games and win them often by large margins is very reminiscent of Guardiola’s days at Nou Camp when the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta made players like Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o look (and feel) redundant.

And yet, the Champions League trophy remains elusive for the Premier League defending champions. They’ve never won it in their history, and they have now been stopped in the quarterfinals for the third time in a row – which means, every season since Guardiola’s arrival. Further more, there is still a relatively large number of players that were there before him and still remain a vital part of his arguably preferred starting XI: Fernandinho, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

What does that mean in terms of the manager’s success at the club? How much has he really changed? Trophies are coming thick, superb football is being played; and yet, the trophy that was missing before his time – remains missing. How long will it be before the time runs out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on four different football blogs.

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