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Spatial awareness; just some Pep talk

1.47K   //    25 Sep 2017, 09:24 IST

Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Pep Guardiola is slowly, but surely, transforming the way Manchester City play the game

Seventy-six minutes and thirty-eight seconds on the clock. Leroy Sane has sprung forward with the Liverpool defence hurrying behind him. Of course, he's not the easiest one in the league to chase down.

In a matter of seconds, he completes a short tap to Benjamin Mendy, who has arrived on the flanks, screaming past what seems like the length of two fields, who completes a quick 1-2 for Sane to place it into the Reds' goal.

Forty-four, the sum of their ages, both capable of playing on either flank or inside. Sure, Pep's blessed with the riches of an Abu Dhabi oil refinery or two, but Pep has truly transformed an ageing Manchester City team into a goal-scoring machine.

Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Manchester City have run completely rampant so far this season

While watching Pep's Barcelona, you were told you shouldn't be going to take a leak in case you missed a goal. If anything, the last few matches with City have been the same, if not better. It is simply impossible to take that way from him.

A week later, playing away at Watford, the scenes are even better. The game is fluid, the ball moves swiftly, and with purpose.

Those who have seen blurred 144p footage of the 1970s Dutch team that pioneered the concept of totaalvoetbal (or Total Football, as it's known in English), will only agree that City's new-found style is eerily similar.

It's a full press, the one that requires the highest levels of fitness, the discipline to fall back when the ball is played long, the skill to find passes with precision, and the vision to create space.

The last concept, spatial awareness, is really what makes it so Dutch. Over half the country is reclaimed from the sea, and for anyone who has lived in the city of Amsterdam, a fifty-five-meter square apartment is a palace. The Dutch are frugal; they make do with less.


Cruyff learnt that lesson as a kid, and the story is well documented in his memoir. What isn't documented as well, yet, is how beautifully that was passed on to a skinny little Catalonian who, in all likelihood, will end his career as the manager who created some of the most beautiful football that spectators pay to watch.

Stoke City v Manchester City - Premier League
Pep Guardiola has picked up some unbeatable tactics from the best of the best

Spatial awareness is really all there is to understanding Pep's philosophy. You see this with the current squad that City throw up every weekend, a team so rich in talent that it is almost embarrassing.

Movement and precision is what this City side thrives on; it has been well covered in the media too. With Mendy and Walker on the flanks, it will take something special to stop those crosses from showering in.

Aguero remains one of the best finishers in the league, and Jesus gets better with every game.

Yet, the heroes for me are in the midfield. Let's forget for a moment that Fernandinho usually lies back, waiting to pounce on a loose ball, or ready to strike with all his might when just outside the box.

We are blessed with two wizards in the middle, the ridiculously precise David Silva and the absolutely magical Kevin de Bruyne.

Middlesbrough v Manchester City - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final
David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne have dictated play from midfield with aplomb

In Pep's world, Ederson is the first attacker and Aguero is the first defender, and that is how they play. This City side is almost unbeatable, at the moment.

Tottenham can spring a surprise with a sprinting Kane, and for a long time, I always felt that Klopp's Liverpool, with Salah's pace, was the only team that could truly cause problems on the counter for Manchester City.

Conte's Chelsea is known for its mental counter attacks, and Mourinho - well, Jose always knows how to find a way to win. The only way to beat City right now is to hope to score the first goal and defend with ten men in the box.

Lukaku could well run away with the three points in the Derby, but you know what; it does not matter.

At the moment, City are playing the best football in Europe. It's fluid. When in possession, it's a piece of jewellery, strung together with passes.

When they lose the ball, they swarm on it like ants. It's a sight to watch, it's a feast for the neutrals, it swells up the fans of the club in pride, and for Guardiolians like myself, it brings home tears of joy.

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