Pep Guardiola didn’t have much of a problem implementing the possession-based football at Barcelona and getting immediate fantastic results with it. In Spain coaches teach kids that having the ball at their feet is the most important weapon to destroy the opponent, so Pep and his players were ready to succeed with this style.
At Bayern Munich they tend to have the ball as much as they can. Louis van Gaal and Juup Heynckes shaped a team that craves possession as much as Barcelona did and that’s why Guardiola easily improved his predecessors work until creating an almost-perfect football team.
But England is different and Pep knows it. Defending long balls, set pieces and throw-ins is something he was not very used to doing in his previous two clubs, but has been forced to in this “special” league where he is managing right now.
So it is the way you attack and the amount of players you commit in the process. If we look back 30 years we find that the most successful method in the Premier League was that relentless offensive style that crowned Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson as the Kings of England.
After a tough first season, where the defensive approach nor the possession-based football worked for Pep in the Premier League and the Champions League, he realised something needed to be changed. He is a very offensive manager and the solution would be found accordingly.
The tiki-taka has been modified to a more vertical style, where penetration from outside and surgical passes to the wingers create tons of chances per game. Pep has managed his players to polish their quick thinking and quick decision making, combining this with very fast footballers who can all finish plays with the same quality Agüero does.
Guardiola could have mastered a different style, like Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2014-2015, or the Manchester City that won the title under Roberto Mancini in 2012 and Manuel Pellegrini in 2014, but he proved he is smart enough to create one himself. After 14 league matches, 13 victories, 44 goals scored and eight conceded, Manchester City is the most entertaining team in the continent. And the most effective one.
Cultural learnings, to adapt to where you are in every moment, are fundamental for a manager to achieve success everywhere he goes. Even more if you are a foreign manager who lands in a “special” league like England’s. Guardiola stayed true to himself, created an approach that fits his players and resembles the one that kept the red half of the city winning title after title for two decades, the Ferguson way.
Feature by Alejandro Pérez, author of the book “More than 90 minutes”, available here: https://thatfootballbook.com/.