Pep Guardiola’s managerial career to date has seen him take the reigns at some of Europe’s leading powerhouse clubs, from rising through the ranks at Barcelona, to taking the helm in the depths of Bavaria with Bayern.
Guardiola has long been considered a mastermind, an obsessive tactician, though all with an undertone of excellence in the fields of man management and the execution of his meticulously crafted game-plans.
The Barcelona links with Txiki Begiristain made a Mancunian re-union a strong possibility for Pep and Txiki, though on February 1st 2016, a strong possibility became a reality. Manchester City announced the appointment of Pep Guardiola on a three-year contract.
In the eyes of many, this marked Guardiola’s greatest managerial challenge to date. Barcelona’s comparative dominance in La Liga meant an insistence of doubt in Guardiola’s managerial abilities, similarly to his reign with Bayern Munich, these were teams who would not only naturally challenge for the league title prior to Pep’s regime, but for whom ultimate domestic success was simply an expectation bestowed upon them.
The Premier League’s unpredictability meant Guardiola was in a new realm of uncertainty with Manchester City, if the Barcelona wonder-boy could strike gold once more within a new sphere of equal sporting competition, then surely the doubters would be silenced once and for all.
As with any managerial maestro, they require the tools to perform. Pep Guardiola is no different, and Manchester City’s board acknowledged this with immediacy.
John Stones’ arrival from Everton for £49m cried out to filling a void in central defence the Citizens had long lacked consistency in, whilst Leroy Sane’s £46m transfer from Schalke continued the trend of acquiring the most promising players on the market.
Then came Ilkay Gundodan (£27m), Claudio Bravo (£15.4m) and later Gabriel Jesus (£32m) in the January window. Having tasted Premier League success in both 2011/12 and 2013/14, Manchester City coupled with the arrival of Pep Guardiola were ready to make a serious statement of intent, both on the field, and off it with their purchasing power of players.
The 2017 summer signings of Kyle Walker (£52m), Benjamin Mendy (£51m), Ederson (£32m) and Bernardo Silva (£43m) begun to balance the attacking excellence of Guardiola’s squad with defensive recruits of the highest quality. The age of Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy had long been a cornerstone of Manchester City teams in the 2010’s era, though under Guardiola, Manchester City were beginning to write a new chapter of footballing fantasy.
Fast forward to the 2017/18 season and Manchester City sit top of the table; joint with Manchester United, with six wins from their first seven PL games whilst scoring 20 goals in the process.
The Berikistein jigsaw is arguably on the verge of completion, and Guardiola is at the helm to slot in the final piece of the puzzle. Pep has very much been there, done that and has a wardrobe designated solely for the league title t-shirts to show it – his domestic success in Bavaria and Catalonia will give an invaluable advantage in steering Manchester City to what Begiristain will hope to be a third Premier League title in six years, though this time, there’s a difference.
Where Guardiola might’ve previously lacked depth and dependability in the face of injury and disruption, Manchester City’s 2017/18 squad is simply beyond anything the City Football Group have assembled before. This is a squad built for Premier League titles, destined for accolades further afield in Europe, and perhaps most poignantly, this is a team of footballers blended with youthful talent, seasoned veterans (avg age: 26.9) and with the mastermind that is Pep Guradiola at the helm.
There will be competitors, namely Manchester United, though there is palpable feeling that what we are witnessing from Manchester City at present is a masterpiece that has been long in the making.
The craft of Kevin De Bruyne, the clinical nature of Sergio Aguero, the lighting pace of Raheem Sterling and the coming of age from John Stones. David Silva’s pin-point passing and Bernardo Silva’s ability to deputise when needed – there are many factors that contribute to a team of such mesmeric stature, though one guarantee does indeed remain.
Manchester City are heading for the 2017/18 Premier League title, and whilst 31 matches do indeed remain before this likelihood becomes a reality, from the depths of Catalonia and Bavaria to the embodiment of financial managerial luxury in Manchester, Mr Pep Guardiola looks set to engineer the return of Mancunian footballing ecstasy to the blue half of Manchester once more.
Written by Tom Newman.