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Why Pep Guardiola And Manchester City Are Perfect For Each Other

Emblazoned across the wall at one of the Manchester City training gyms is the slogan “CREATE THE FUTURE.” With their massive outlay on player transfer fees, as well as over £200m spent on the Etihad Campus, a training and academy facility, the Citizens are hell-bent on global domination.

Funded by the seemingly limitless wealth of the Abu Dhabi United Group, the Sky Blues have become a dominant force in English football, winning the Premier League title twice in the last four years.

The next step for City? According to respected Spanish radio station Cadenza COPE, it’s luring the world’s greatest manager, Pep Guardiola, to the northwest of England.

Some say it'll never happen. They scoff at the notion of Guardiola trading Bavaria for Manchester. However, with a stated desire to one day manage in the Premier League and the opportunity to massively influence the direction of one of the world's fastest growing clubs, is the rumor all that far-fetched?

Pep Guardiola to Manchester City: Why Not?

Pep Guardiola is a romantic. He managed Barcelona with his heart on his sleeve. At his first training session he declared, “Above all I love the club. I would never make a decision that would harm or go against the club. Everything I am going to do is based on my love for FC Barcelona.” 

He recognized the special bond between Catalans and their club. He voted on Catalan Independence and literally coached himself to exhaustion, demanding that his players give everything to the shirt. According to Barcelona legend Xavi, "He's a passionate perfectionist. So if he believes something is white and you think it is black, you will end up believing that it is white." 

Pep Guardiola Manchester City Quote

Photo: @CoacherSports | Twitter

A product of La Masia, Guardiola could only be enticed to return to coaching at FC Bayern Munich, the most successful German club of all-time and five-time European Cup winners.

Guardiola is a perfectionist. He replaced Jupp Heynckes at Bayern after they’d just become the first German club to complete the treble. Guardiola was convinced that he could improve what Franz Beckenbaur called “the best Bayern team ever.” 

After Bayern demolished Arsenal 5-1 in the Champions League, Guardiola admitted, "What I want, my desire, is to have 100% possession." While this is entirely impossible at the game's highest level, it's not difficult to envision Guardiola losing sleep over his endless pursuit of this fanatic dream. 

Above all, Guardiola is a deviser. He manipulated the Barcelona midfield during his playing days as their number four. As Barcelona manger, he brought to fruition an embodiment of the Barcelona philosophy that reached impeccable heights. He practiced German for five hours a day while on sabbatical, preparing for his role as Bayern manager.

Now, Guardiola is rumored to be concocting his most colossal move yet: the enormous task of turning Manchester City into the global power that Sheikh Mansour envisions.  

Guardiola’s reputation as an architect, as a man driven to cement his legacy by striving towards the seemingly unachievable, is exactly what gives credible sense to this move.

The fact that this rumor has been met with equal measures of derision and disbelief, that so many people would question Guardiola’s ability to succeed at City, gives it all a measure of validity. Suddenly, those who are acting quickest to quash the speculation have given the story legs and feeling.

Pep Guardiola to Manchester City: What It Would Mean

Could there be a more fascinating proposal in world soccer? The Louis van Gaal and Jurgen Klopp experiments, by comparison, are simply Pep light. 

When Pep Guardiola was originally unveiled as the next manager of FC Barcelona, he declared, “Fasten your seat belts, because we are going for a ride.” 14 trophies later, including three La Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League trophies, the ride would conclude after four remarkable seasons at the helm. 

Employing a possession-based style while maniacally pressing without the ball, Guardiola introduced tiki-taka, False 9s, positional universality and defending with the ball to a global audience.

While Guardiola didn’t invent these concepts, his Barcelona side employed them to devastating effect.

At Bayern Munich, Guardiola has continued to dominate domestically while experimenting with formations on a radical level.

The 4-1-4-1 has become a staple of Bayern, while they’ve also employed a 3-4-3 and a spectacular 2-3-5, pressing opponents preposterously high up the pitch. The most amazing thing about his current Bayern squad is how fluidly they change formations. As soon as the ball is won or lost, Munich visibily adapt their shape to counteract their opponents. 

They are meticulously schooled in the weaknesses of their opposition, extremely quick to exploit any vunerabilities that present themselves. 

Pep Guardiola Manchester City 2-3-5 Formation

Photo: @GuardiolaTweets | Twitter

What makes the proposition of Guardiola in English football so enticing is his philosophy in tactical flexibility. His formations are constantly shifting while the positions his players take up are just as fluid.

David Alaba has been deployed as a hybrid center back/attacking midfielder. The goalkeeper becomes a sweeper, the forwards play in between defensive lines and the midfield strings together countless passes - which once caused Sir Alex Ferguson to lament that "they get you on that carousel and they make you dizzy with their passing."

Width is provided by non-traditional fullbacks and their alignment of players on the pitch begins to resemble an unbelievalbe manipulation of space: their own possession and dominance of the ball unfaltering, while the opponents in possession are instantaneously choked out by an ever-shrinking field of options.

This is all invariably non-English. While cultural stereotypes are mostly employed by lazy journalistic hacks, there's still something overtly English about the 4-4-2 formation and the traditional number nine. For the purposes of an enthralling storyline, it'll be direct play, i.e. hoofing the ball forward, rainy nights in Stoke and positional rigidity versus the Philosopher.

Ultimately, Guardiola would be the first to deny this categorization. The man himself has said, "people talk about tactics, but when you look at it, tactics are just players. You change things so that the team can get the most out of the skills they have to offer, but you don't go any further than that." 

Pep Guardiola Manchester City Lahm

Photo: @TurkDelight_12 | Twitter

But still, even when Guardiola's innovations fail, they're breathtaking to witness.

Guardiola infamously man-marked the entire Barcelona team during 15 minutes of madness at the Camp Nou. Ridiculous and naive? Possibly. Will it ever be replicated? Not by anyone other than Guardiola. I, for one, would love to see this employed against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. 

Pep Guardiola Man-Marking Tactics

Photo: @offtheballmove | Twitter  

Pep Guardiola to Manchester City, succeed or fail, would make for the most fascinating soccer experiment of all-time. 

Guardiola told Martí Perarnau, author of Pep Confidential, “Excellence! And what exactly is excellence? Excellence is like a bubble. You can look for it as much as you like, but it only appears from time to time. Okay, you have to be ready, you have to be in the right place when it does come along.”

At Manchester City, Pep would have sufficient funds to bring in the talent of his choosing (rumors have even swirled that Messi could join Pep in Manchester) while City continue to make strides at the youth level, build their brand internationally and challenge for the Champions League trophy. It's an excellent opportunity that Guardiola is certainly ready for. 

Predicting A New, Pep Guardiola-inspired Manchester City

Through all of Guardiola’s fiddling, tinkering and innovations, there’s always been two constants:

1) The use of a number four, or pivot, who can adequately shield the defensive line and restart the side’s attack.

2) The abandoning of traditional full-backs in favor of players who can support the midfield and attack. 

While Yaya Touré appears to be on his way out at City, the arrival of Guardiola would make this a certainty. Touré was allowed to leave Barcelona in June 2010 when Guardiola was manager, favoring a young Sergio Busquets in the defensive role. 

If Guardiola took over Manchester City after this season, with immediate effect, you could expect a 4-3-3 that would look something like this:

Currently, the closest thing City have to Guardiola's vaunted pivot is Fernandinho. According to, Fernandinho averages 62 passes per game for City, at 89% accuracy and with 1.1 key passes per game.

Compare this to Xabi Alonso, who plays a similar role for Bayern Munich: 92 passes per game, 91% accuracy and 1.5 key passes per game.

An upgrade in the center of the pitch would seemingly be the first need for Pep. The advantages of being the best manager in the world? Players are much more likely to queue to join you. 

As Guardiola says, "I want every move to be smart, every pass accurate – that's how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that's all I want to see."

In David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, City are blessed with two of the smartest, most creative influences in the game. However, there's no defender/midfielder to match the savvy of Bayern's Philipp Lahm.

In defense, Guardiola has never shied away from instilling those who are comfortable on the ball, frequently shuttling midfielders into his backline (Javier Mascherano, Javi Martinez and David Alaba).

While players like Nicolás Otamendi and Vincent Kompany are skilled distributors of the ball, there’s a distinct lack Guardiola-type players in this area. Young defenders like Pablo Maffeo, Cameron Humphreys and Kean Bryan would certainly be offered a chance in these roles.

But rather than analyze and dissect the possibilities on a probable level, let's speculate as to how Pep could best impose a 2-3-5 in England.

Manchester City 2016-17 Lineup, Under The Direction Of Pep Guardiola:

See, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola will be perfect for each other. 

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