Pep Guardiola’s first season with Manchester City has not gone quite as well as many expected it to, but there are definitely reasons to show patience with the Spaniard
Guardiola is widely considered one of the top 3 managers in the planet and many think that he is the best of all, but the knives are already out in some corners in England after the Manchester City manager has endured some tough times this season.
The Spaniard arrived in England with a glowing reputation and given that Manchester City had already singled out Guardiola as the man to helm their revolution more than 4 years ago, many were looking forward to the union.
City’s owners have long felt that Guardiola’s style of football represents exactly the kind of football they want their brand to represent and one can hardly blame them given the Spaniards exploits with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich over the last few years.
Barcelona played some of the best football we have ever seen when Guardiola was in charge, and he also oversaw their most successful period in recent history – going down in their record books as their most successful coach of all time. The perfect combination for a club as ambitious as City.
Many see him as a miracle worker and when the Spaniard finally joined Manchester City in the summer, the Sky Blues were already one of the bookies’ favourites for the title this season – such is Guardiola’s reputation.
6 wins in his first 6 league games had many pundits hailing his influence and also installing City as one of the front-runners for the Premier League title this season, but as football has proven time and time again, it is easy to be blinded by excitement and jump to conclusions.
City have been inconsistent since then and despite turning things around since the 2-2 draw at Tottenham, their form from October to January saw them drop far too many points to have a realistic chance at winning the title.
Amidst all the positive feelings surrounding over the last few weeks came a bitter blow. City’s comeback against Monaco in the breathtaking first leg of their Champions League tie was impressive, but their collapse against Monaco in the second leg was the opposite.
Many have cited City’s stuttering performances this season as a result of their ageing squad, one that has undoubtedly needed an overhaul for a while now. Guardiola has been deemed the person to revitalise City’s squad and build a team that can challenge for years to come, and the Spaniard has begun to do that already.
Guardiola has already signed Leroy Sane, 21, Ilkay Gundogan, 26, John Stones, 22 and the brilliant Gabriel Jesus who is only 19 years of age. Unfortunately for City’s manager, both Gundogan and Jesus picked up injuries, with the former set for a spell on the sidelines well into next season.
John Stones has made some high-profile errors this season and his performances have been questioned – particularly on the back of the fact that he cost Manchester City an initial £47.5 million- but he has also showed several signs that he can play at the highest level for years to come.
Sane has also shown many promising signs and Jesus was a revelation in the few games that he played – even relegating the brilliant Sergio Aguero to the bench thanks to his fine all-round performances.
But, if reports are to be believed, Guardiola has a lot more planned for the summer. According to the Guardian, Guardiola is expected to get rid of all the deadwood at his club and is rumoured to be intent on ridding City’s squad of a whopping 18 players this summer.
Seven first-team squad members are out of contract in July: Yaya Touré, Gaël Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero, Jesús Navas, Bacary Sagna and Tosin Adarabioyo. City also have five players out on loan, in Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Jason Denayer.
The rumours linking Sergio Aguero with an exit simply will not go away while Vincent Kompany – who it seems will never recover from his perennial injuries – could also be sold. Kolarov has been underwhelming and is out of contract in 2019.
Fabian Delph has completely failed to impress Guardiola while Fernando’s ill-fated spell will almost certainly come to an end. Kelechi Iheanacho showed some signs of promise at the start of the season but after failing to break into the first team consistently – especially with Gabriel Jesus now a part of the side – he will likely leave as well.
There is no doubt that Manchester City need an overhaul but getting rid of these many players – especially those who have been a part of Guardiola’s first team this season – could prove to be a costly error.
Admittedly, one has only to take a look at the list and see why it is understandable that Guardiola would want to get rid of those players. None of the names mentioned have been a reason for City’s good performances this season and there are definitely reasons for wholesale changes.
However, unless Guardiola is able to sign top class, proven Premier League quality in the summer transfer widow he might be better off sticking with the players who have vast experience in a league that is harsh on newcomers.
City have been linked with moves for Tottenham’s Danny Rose and Kyle Walker and they seem like the ideal candidates to replace Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, but it remains to be seen if Tottenham will sell to a direct rival.
However, buying players from the Premier League is always more difficult and expensive, and despite the Guardian’s claims that Guardiola will be given a £150 million war-chest to spend in the summer, that figure seems paltry when it comes to replacing 18 players.
City do have some promising young players in Pablo Maffeo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aleix Garcia, but it would be far too much to ask of them to replace City’s outgoing players all of a sudden and Guardiola will know this.
It is for the best if Guardiola hangs on to a few players who have proven they can still play a part in the City side this season – Bacary Sagna, Joe Hart and the on-loan Samir Nasri being the three most deserving of another chance – while letting go of the rest only once he knows he will land his targets for a fact.
The experience of those players will be a valuable asset for the younger side that Guardiola aims at assembling, while squad options are never a bad thing for a team that aims to challenge on all fronts.
City must definitely buy a domineering centre back in the summer to partner John Stones, while a defensive midfielder is also of paramount importance. Guardiola proved that he can successfully integrate youth players into the first team squad as well exampled by his shrewd promotion of Sergio Busquets and Pedro during his time at Barcelona.
He has also shown that he knows when the time has come for veterans of the club to leave, just like when he decided Ronaldinho, Deco, Gianluca Zambrotta and Edmilson were no longer needed at the Camp Nou in his very first season in charge.
The Spaniard must be similarly surgical with City this summer. By picking the right players from his academy, signing the right players for the glaring holes in his squad and releasing those who no longer have a part to play, Guardiola might just be able to revolutionise City’s squad quickly – although not as quickly as he would have liked.