Pep Guardiola will be in charge next year. The current managerwill be given one last chance to win, and he still has a chance for a treble. Last season, the team failed to win any silverware, and the man in charge was put on the hot seat by many supporters. With the arrival of Guardiola on the horizon, the team was saddled with a lame duck coach, and he had to command one final push for trophies before being shown the door.
That might sound like Manuel Pellegrini, but it was also the exact same situation that Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes found himself in three years ago. Heynckes’ end to his managerial career is well known, and one Pellegrini would love to emulate. Bayern went on to win the treble that year, as Heynckes seemed to send a message to his successor to try and beat that. It will be harder for Pellegrini to send the same message, England is more competitive and his side isn’t quite among the elite teams in Europe. So enter Guardiola, the one coach City have coveted, the man to hopefully put them into Europe’s elite.
What does all this mean for Manchester City? Does hiring Guardiola automatically make them one of the best clubs in Europe? No, it doesn’t, but there are a few things it does do. The first is primarily a branding thing. Guardiola is going to raise City’s profile even more. City sometimes has a little brother complex in Manchester. They constantly have to deal with a team that plays just miles away that is more of a brand than a football club. Hiring Pep Guardiola now sees City take a small step out of United’s shadow, especially considering United’s struggles this season.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) February 2, 2016
Branding is important for clubs these days. Bayern Munich hired Guardiola to establish themselves, and Bayern don’t have to worry about crosstown neighbors stealing their thunder, unless you count 1860 Munich (they don’t). City, on the other hand, want Guardiola so they can show him off to their crosstown rivals. Guardiola’s decision to go to City puts them among Europe’s elite right away, when it comes to football as a business.
But what about the actual sport? This is after all, why Guardiola was hired. Many think he’s the best coach in the world. His trophy collection certainly is impressive for someone his age. City already has a good team, but it’s not perfect. Not that any of Guardiola’s previous teams were, but to win the Champions League you have to be awfully close. This is what Guardiola was hired for, to win City a Champions League. So what will happen to City’s style of play, and will Pep have free reign to purchase whomever he wants? Will he plunder Bayern Munich?
— Marcus Christenson (@m_christenson) January 5, 2016
First and foremost, City fans hoping to see Thomas Müller, Thiago Alcantara, Douglas Costa or David Alaba in their colors next year are probably going to be disappointed. Guardiola himself said that he doesn’t plan to raid Bayern players when he makes it to England. But Guardiola will make signings. One of his hallmarks is obviously his style of play and he needs a special kind of player to do that. He’ll want players that can move the ball quickly, and hold onto it. Physicality and strength aren’t very important to Guardiola. He might have to adapt to that in England, though, as the Premier League is much more physical than in Spain or Germany.
Guardiola will feel right at home with many players already on City’s roster. Players like Kevin de Bruyne, who Guardiola wanted at Bayern, are perfect for the Spaniard’s passing style of play. Sergio Aguero is another player perfectly suited for Guardiola. He’s the kind of player that can drop off and play as a false nine, but with enough pace to get into the box quickly and score. Expect both these players to thrive under Guardiola.
City will press heavily under Guardiola. One of his trademarks is that when his team lose the ball they work incredibly hard to win it back almost immediately. These are things you will see from City right away. It will be a lot longer for them to truly adapt to Guardiola’s system as well as it will take him some time to really understand’s the type of team he wants to build in Manchester. In some ways, Guardiola didn’t manage to get Bayern to be his creation until this season. He spent the previous two years experimenting with formations and trying different players in different positions until this year when it all started to come together for him. City might be immediately better when he takes over, but they won’t be Guardiola’s City for a few years.
Not everything that Guardiola brings with him is good, however. City fans will have to understand that Guardiola is a perfectionist, and sometimes that can get in the way of friendships. In the Premier League, it’s not about making friends, but Guardiola’s attitude has strained relationships with players in the past. Mario Mandzukic was one such player, he never got along with the coach and was sold after only one year playing for Guardiola.
Guardiola also had a falling out with long-time team Doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt last season. It isn’t entirely clear what happened between the two, but the Spanish coach was at times frustrated by Müller-Wohlfahrt’s available, as well as the mounting injury list that Bayern had to deal with last season. Injuries, especially muscle problems, have haunted Bayern the last two seasons.
The style of play that Manchester City will be playing next season will be taxing on their muscles. This might be the biggest concern, much like Jürgen Klopp’s gegenpressing style of play at Liverpool, Guardiola’s ultra-high tempo possession game might be hard to handle throughout a packed Premier League calendar. Look for Guardiola to try to not only buy superstar talent but also bolster his squad numbers, because rotation will be very important.
City going out and getting Guardiola shows they’re serious about being a European superpower. For Guardiola, it’s the next step in his career plan. This might just be another stop, in three years we could be writing about what to look for when Guardiola takes over in Brazil or Italy or somewhere else. Guardiola is famously restless. He still has a job to do in Germany until May. Come June we’ll be able to assess how successful he was at Bayern, and then he’ll head to England and a few years from then? Only Guardiola knows.