When you’re the man in charge of a billionaire group’s favourite toy, you’d better make damn sure you treat is well and Pep Guardiola knows it.
Despite being a relative novice in the managerial game, Guardiola is now in charge of one of the world’s top clubs in Manchester City, but is he performing to his full potential?
Since taking over in July, 2016, Guardiola hasn’t inspired the sorts of performances or results Man City’s owners or supporters would expect. Is City the same side today as it was in 2011/2012 or 2013/2014 when it won the Premier League? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean the expectation on Guardiola’s shoulders is even less. With a team worth £1.2 billion and an annual wage bill of £225 million, City need to perform on the pitch if they’re going to stay afloat financially.
With this in mind, it’s likely Guardiola will be looking at his team’s current league position with his hands covering his face. After 22 Premier League games, City are 5th with 43 points. Despite being able to take some solace from the fact his men are two points clear of Manchester United, Guardiola is 12 points adrift of the league leaders Chelsea. With five losses already, the chances of another title are slim.
The Numbers Don’t Look Great for Guardiola
In fact, when you look at the current Premier League betting odds, things don’t get any better for the Spaniard. According to Sun Bets’ odds experts, 20/1 is a fair price for Man City to win the league. Compare that with 2/5 for Chelsea and 7/1 for Tottenham and it’s clear that the 2016/2017 season isn’t going to be Guardiola’s crowning glory.
If that’s the case, the question then becomes: has he shown enough ingenuity and initiative so far this season to suggest he’ll be wrapping light blue ribbons around the Premier League trophy next season?
The first big move the main from Spain made was to send Joe Hart out on a season-long loan. According to Hart, the manager admitted he had reservations about him from the start and that he wasn’t sure if he’d fit into his plans.
“I’ve been sent out because I wasn’t wanted. I’m not here to prove what I can do, I’m here because I need to look elsewhere and I didn’t have a chance to sort anything permanently,” Hart told The Guardian.
Hart’s Loan May Have been a Mistake
Setting all emotions aside, was this a good move? Well, according to the stats, Hart kept 15 clean sheets for City in 35 appearances during the 2015/2016 season. This year at Tornio, Hart has five clean sheets from 20. However, his average saves per game of 2.90 is better this season than last season, which would suggest he’s playing just as well (if not better), but Torino’s defence isn’t as strong as City’s.
If we go on to compare City’s current keeper Claudio Bravo’s stats to Harts, things don’t look great for Mr. Guardiola. With four clean sheets in 19 and an average save ratio of 1.37 per game, the Chilean doesn’t appear to be a better stand-in for Hart. Of course, stats only tell us half the story and it may have been Hart’s dressing room temperament that didn’t gel well with Guardiola and his plans. Regardless, it does look as though the decision to (virtually) offload Hart was a good one.
How about goals? Well, Sergio Aguero has 11 goals from 16 appearances, which isn’t bad considering he netted 24 from 30 in 2015/2016. However, with the likes of Diego Costa (15 – Chelsea), Alexis Sanchez (15 – Arsenal), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (14 – Man United) and Harry Kane (13 – Tottenham) all on more, it looks as though something is missing up front. Now, Aguero has taken a few knocks this season and missed a few games, but is that the only reason he (moreover City) aren’t banging in the goals?
He Needs Time to Adjust, but will he Get It?
Some would say no. In fact, some would say that the Spaniard is having trouble deciding on the best tactics for his team. Already this season, he’s admitted that he needs to “adjust” his strategy to suit the English game. According to JJ Bull at The Telegraph, Guardiola hasn’t adapted well enough to the aerial aspects of the English game. This was backed up by Kevin De Bruyne who told the Belgian press that Guardiola is surprised that a lot of teams play “long balls”.
While one-touch football is a “thing” among the top clubs, middle-of-the-road teams are still built on aerial attacks, looping balls over the top and physical players at both ends of the pitch. This is something Guardiola hasn’t got to grips with just yet. Instead of bunching his players in tightly knit formations where they can keep the ball on the deck, he should be stretching things out a bit more to counter the long ball merchants.
Of course, with a Bundesliga title already on his record, we know that Guardiola has the managerial skills to win trophies. However, the Premier League presents a steep learning curve for any manager; especially one as green as Guardiola. Although he almost certainly has it in him to lead Man City to victory in the coming seasons, he may not get the chance given the cutthroat nature of the business.