How Pep Guardiola has made Manchester City unbeatable in the Premier League
The highly anticipated football season of 2016-17 was about to kick off in the summer, but not before the Premier League welcomed a few big name coaches at some of the biggest football clubs in England. Despite getting sacked at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho found his way to the 'theatre of dreams' to take charge at Manchester United. Chelsea, on the other hand, managed to lure Antonio Conte of Italy to get the blues back on track after a disappointing season.
Another high-profile arrival in the Premier League was that of Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona and Bayern coach. The Spaniard was brought to reinforce the ambitious project, already in progress, at the oil-rich Manchester City. The tactician, who faced little resistance in conquering the leagues of Spain and Germany, was rightly expected to do wonders in his very first season.
However, things didn't go according to the plan as Guardiola finished his first ever trophy-less season as a coach. A few months later, yet another football season was about to kick-off, but this time, Guardiola had a lot of doubters and critics to prove wrong following a disappointing 2016-17 season.
Today, a day after boxing day, Manchester City, who are yet to lose a game in the league, are sitting pretty at the top with 12 more points than their closest rivals, with a game in hand. So, what did Guardiola do to make light of a league recognised as the toughest in the world?
The ruthless overhaul
The ageing squad of Manchester City didn't seem to have the hunger and athleticism that Pep craves for in his team. As a result, the Spaniard triggered a ruthless overhaul of his squad in the summer transfer window that saw veterans like Sagna, Caballero, Kolarov and Zabaleta leave the Etihad.
To replace the outgoing, older fullbacks, in came the blazing fast Kyle Walker from Spurs, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco and Danilo from Real Madrid. Bernardo Silva, a highly rated advanced play-maker, also joined Mendy in leaving Monaco for Manchester City.
In his obvious pursuit of having a sweeper keeper with good distribution, Pep also spent big on Benfica's Ederson to make him the costliest goalkeeper in the history of the game.
The brave switch at the back
Given the defensive frailties of last season, Guardiola started the season with 3 defenders at the back - like most other Premier League sides. Pep was cautious and played his first two games of the season with an extra defender in his team.
In these two games, City scored 3 goals and conceded 1 as Everton managed to draw against the 10 men of City as Walker was given his marching orders.
Manchester City, who had thoroughly dominated Everton at home, couldn't get the desired 3 points and the result forced Pep to reconsider his tactics. That's how it all began. In a daring move, the former Bayern coach ditched the third defender to accommodate an extra striker, a certain Sergio Aguero, to partner Jesus upfront.
They say, "attack is the best form of defence" and with this brave switch, Guardiola proved that there is some truth to the saying. After drawing against Everton in August, Manchester City have won every single match in the Premier League ever since. In the process, the Citizens have scored 57 goals in 17 matches, averaging well above 3 goals a game. Insane!
The resurrection of Tiki-Taka
Pep is known to be obsessed with the idea of playing free flowing-football with lots of possession. But when he arrived at Manchester City, many had their doubts if the idealistic theory of Guardiola could be put into practice in a physical league like the Premier League.
The doubts came true when in his first season Pep struggled to get his team playing the fearless and fluid tiki-taka, which the Spaniard is associated with. The goalkeeper was struggling to play out from the back, the defence was all over the place and the attack seemed cautious.
However, following the summer overhaul, Pep had the players capable of executing his very fluid and attacking style of play. Ederson has been impeccable with his distribution from the back, Walker has gelled in fine as the overlapping wingback, Otamendi has mastered the role of centre-back-cum-anchorman and the attacking arsenal of City is growing stronger and stronger.
The current Manchester City side is the very definition of fluid football at its best. At times, you could see De Bruyne playing as a box-to-box midfielder, Otamendi as a deep-lying playmaker, and Sane as a wingback, if the need be.
A few intriguing stats
- Otamendi has completed the most number of passes in the league so far (1452 passes).
- Among the top 5 players with the most number of passes, the top 3 are from Manchester City (Otamendi, Fernandinho and David Silva).
- The assist chart-toppers are tied at 8, all from Manchester City (De Bruyne, David Silva and Sane).
- Manchester City have completed the most number of passes (11,974) with the highest accuracy (89%) in the league.
- Manchester City have scored 60 goals so far, 19 more than their closest rivals.