Jurgen Klopp vs Pep Guardiola - Comparing the two top managers of the Premier League
Over the past few years, there have been many managers that have arrived on the scene and gained great success in football. Gone are the days where the manager is the sole man responsible for handling all the affairs of the club and getting results from the team at the same time. A new breed of modern managers have taken over football and the sacking of Arséne Wenger may indicate the fall of the conservative manager who took over the control of the entire club.
These modern managers are often referred to as head coaches. Head coaches tend to improve the playing style of the team, impose their philosophy on the pitch, and focus purely on getting results week in and week out. A director of football is appointed to act as the link between the head coach and the club's management. However, in many cases, this link is often deemed useless as many head coaches complain over insufficient funds over transfer windows.
Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are fine examples of a more hands-on approach to managing a club. While Pochetinno doesn't have as much control over the club as Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola, he has managed to take Tottenham from a mid-table club to title challengers. Let's focus now on the other two names - Jurgen Klopp and Josep Guardiola.
Both of these managers have gained great success in foreign leagues and have rebuilt their respective Premier League clubs gradually over the past three years. They have had many bouts in the Bundesliga and Premier League but the 'Normal One' has gotten the upper hand over his rival as he boasts a 7-5 lead over the Machester City manager with only two draws when the two have faced each other. So the question arises:- Is Jurgen Klopp Pep Guardiola's 'Kryptonite' and will he get the upper hand over him this Sunday or will Guardiola edge closer to making it an even score? Let's compare the two managers and see which one is superior.
Honours (As a manager)
Barcelona :- La Liga: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12, Supercopa de España: 2009, 2010, 2011, UEFA Champions League: 2008–09, 2010–11, UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011, FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011
Bayern Munich:- Bundesliga: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, DFB-Pokal: 2013–14, 2015–16, UEFA Super Cup: 2013, FIFA Club World Cup: 2013
Manchester City:- Premier League: 2017–18, EFL Cup: 2017–18, FA Community Shield: 2018
Pep Guardiola has been involved with football since the age of 13 when he joined FC Barcelona as a player. He was quick to work his way into the senior team where he played for 10 years. He was a living depiction of the way Barcelona played - a highly creative, hard-working player with precise passing who could rotate the ball around and create chances in seconds.
He was often deployed as a deep-lying playmaker where not only his technical ability but also his tactical awareness and ability to read the game would be put to complete use. Playing under Johan Cyruff, who is a huge role model for him, alongside Figo and Rivaldo in a 'dream team', he gained a lot of success with Barcelona winning six La Liga titles, one European Cup (now Champions League) and one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup(Now the Europa League).
Possession Based:-As a disciple of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola's tactical philosophy is one that has 'Barcelona' written all over it. It mainly involves keeping the ball and retaining possession. For this, the players continuously pass the ball around the pitch and move the ball all over to create a chance.
This is thoroughly exciting for neutral fans and also dangerous for the opposition. Guardiola is known to play a lot of pace up front and often a sudden chance creation due to the quick ball movement can cause all sorts of danger for the opposition. It is quick, lethal and effective.
Use of width:- Pep Guardiola is known to deploy pacey full backs with attacking prowess. In Barcelona it was Dani Alves and Abidal; in Bayern Munich, it was Alaba and Lahm; at Manchester City, it is Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy. With wingers such as Messi, Villa, Robben, Ribery, Sterling, Sane and Mahrez who tend to cut inside very often to support the build-up in midfield and maybe score goals with their shooting ability, the full-backs are given the responsibility to provide width.
The likes of Alaba, Alves, Mendy and Walker have all shined applying their lightning pace and attacking ability to create chances in the final third of the pitch and contribute offensively and well as defensively.
Tactical Flexibility:- Pep Guardiola has gained fame for putting forward some unorthodox tactics and surprising changes in matches, some in big matches as well. But they have all proven successful as none of his decisions is made with inadequate homework and preparation. The Spaniard has used various formations such as 4-3-3,3-4-3,4-2-3-1 and most recently a 4-1-4-1 against Arsenal on the opening day of this season.
This is not a surprise for a manager who believes formations are nothing but 'phone numbers' that contribute nothing to his fluid game style. The Spaniard also turns games around based on what he sees on the pitch. He has told in his interviews that he gets 'Eureka ideas' based on the opposition he sees during the game.
Use of a conductor:- Another philosophy inspired by his time under Cruyff where he himself would play the 'conductor' role. The main role of the conductor is to control play and keep play moving from a deeper position. At Barcelona, it was mainly Sergio Busquets, at Bayern, it was Thiago and Phillip Lahm and at Manchester City, it is David Silva.
While Sergio Busquets and David Silva were known to play a similar role and were known to have the attacking prowess and passing ability to fulfil the role, Philip Lahm was a surprising pick at Bayern Munich. The German captain had only played at the right-back position but his game intelligence and his experience made the conductor role seem simple for him.
He adapted quickly and was able to control play from the middle of the park. His defensive capabilities also helped him as he won the ball and would himself transition from defence to attack.
Pep Guardiola has always been one of the most elite managers to grace the game. Managing Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, the Spaniard has lifted numerous titles and earned a massive reputation in all three countries. From creating players like Messi and Kevin De Bruyne to making game-changing position shifts like Lahm to central midfield and Fabian Delph to left-back, he has established himself as one of the best managers if not the best manager right now. His accolades at all three clubs he has managed speaks for itslef.
Honours(As a manager)
Borussia Dortmund:- Bundesliga: 2010-11, 2011-12
Jurgen Klopp was born in Stuttgart. He played for three Frankfurt clubs during his adolescence: Eintracht Frankfurt II, Viktoria Sindlingen and Rot-Weiss Frankfurt. In 1990, he finally signed for Mainz 05.
Spending nearly ten years there he played as a striker from 1990-95 and then played as a defender for the remainder of his career netting 52 goals in the process. However, his playing career was not as celebrated as Pep Guardiola's
Gegenpressing:- Gegenpressing, in simple terms, can be defined as the pressing of the opposition as soon as you lose the ball. This, in turn, thwarts the opponent's counters and could, in turn, lead to a chance for your own team. Various teams have tried the gegenpress but the most successful and famous implementation is that of Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp relies heavily on gegenpress. While it is seen as a method to just win the ball by other managers, for Jurgen Klopp, it is an opportunity to start an attacking move. Since when an opposition looks to counter they lose their defensive shape but your own team's shape is still offensive, it creates gaps, where the team's already well-positioned forwards, can attack and score goals. In a way, it acts as a decisive playmaker for Klopp.
Playing on the counter:- Be it at Dortmund or Liverpool, Klopp's teams are not teams who will always have the ball but are teams that will have the lethal pace to counter in seconds. Be it the likes of Rues, Aubameyang and Gotze at Dortmund or Salah and Mane at Liverpool, Klopp always has players who can counter as soon as they win the ball.
This counter-attacking football falls in place perfectly with Jurgen's gegenpress philosophy making it Klopp's teams one of the most dynamic teams that can play in all sorts of conditions.
Jurgen Klopp has managed two teams to great effect. He took Borussia Dortmund from just escaping relegation to winning the Bundesliga on back to back occasions. Now, he looks to rebuild Liverpool after taking over from Brendan Rodgers in 2015. After spending nearly £170 million, the Reds might have a chance to win their maiden Premier League title this season.
After all the years of saying 'this is our year', this might actually be their year. After creating players like Lewandowski, Reus, Mkhitaryan, Robertson and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and refuelling the career of Mohamed Salah with a 32-goal season.
Both managers have very contrasting styles that work in different ways. While Klopp focuses on counters, Pep makes sure his team retains possession and keeps the majority of the bal in the game. Klopp has built clubs from scratch while Pep has taken world-class players and made them the best in the world. Pep might be ahead in terms of trophies but Jurgen still has the better of him in head-to-head games. Could Pep Guardiola break this curse on Sunday? Only time will tell.