The Pep Guardiola Revolution.
Posted by John Smith | Published on October 1, 2016
In the illustrious world of modern football, one word remains engraved in the mind of every triumphant manager – ‘success’. The word arises many connotations, whether it be satisfaction, an increasing amount of morale or some could even argue security, but regardless of how you define the word, Pep Guardiola is certainly the master of it.
It’s difficult to put into a short amount of words just how much of an impact the new Manchester City manager has had on the world of modern football, and the success that has soon followed. Taking into his consideration his six league titles (split three La Liga; three Bundesliga), two Champions League trophies, or even his three UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup trophies, it’s more than evident that Guardiola lives and breathes success in the footballing world.
An imposing victory over Swansea City at the weekend saw Pep Guardiola maintain his 100% win percentage as the manager of Manchester City. Whether it’s in the Premier League, Champions League, or any other related football competition, Guardiola has continued to show off not only his awe-inspiring tactical display but also the overall immediate impact he has made on the proclaimed laborious English football.
As predicted by many tactical analysts, the Spaniard has introduced his focus towards Juego de Posición to his new Manchester City players, with fortunate results achieved thus far. An outstanding sum of around £180m was spent by Pep Guardiola in the summer of 2016 to further improve and fully perfect his philosophy.
As displayed with the above drawing, Pep Guardiola has consistently used his alternating 4-1-4-1 / 4-3-3 formation thus far in his tenure at Manchester City. The formation is a smart choice for the Spaniard as not only does it allow for his philosophy to take full effect, but it allows for his most gifted players to play consistent first team football.
The goalkeeping role within the formation plays an important part in the eyes of the Manchester City manager. Whilst Guardiola requires an excellent goalkeeper with outstanding attributes, he also requires a keeper who is good when it comes to the ball being at their feet. As a result of this, fan-favourite Joe Hart has been deemed not good enough to fit in with Pep Guardiola’s approach and was loaned out to Torino to play regular first team football. Willy Caballero became the first-choice goalkeeper at the beginning of Guardiola’s reign, but soon returned to his second-choice position as sweeper-keeper Claudio Bravo was brought to Manchester.
The back four has seen continuous variations depending on the club that Manchester City face. Whilst Bacary Sagna and John Stones positions in the lineup seem all but cemented as of writing, the other two positions on the pitch are still not confirmed. In the left centre back position, both Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksandr Kolarov have made appearances in the role – although the Argentinian seems favoured in the role. The Citizens left-back position has also been contested between Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, whilst the former appears to be the first choice, the latter has had a much better season thus far in comparison.
Moving up into the midfield of Pep Guardiola’s formation, Fernandinho certainly plays one of the most important roles in the side. Operating in the number 6 role in front of the centre backs, the Brazilian has offered more than enough defensive support to the defenders and has formed a solid backline with them. Further up the field has seen ongoing changes, the right and left flanks have typically been owned by Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling respectively, but there has seen switches overall with Jesus Navas and Nolito brought in. Summer signing Ilkay Gundogan has recently returned from injury and appears to be a mainstay in the lineup, potentially forming a partnership with David Silva in the middle.
As for the striker role, it’s more than obvious that Sergio Aguero is the first choice centre forward, and that will remain the same in the future. Whilst the Argentinian will not be playing every single in the season, there is a promising back-up on the bench in the form of youngster Kelechi Iheanacho. The 19-year-old has impressed many people with his exciting performances thus far and looks more than ready to challenge, and play, more first team footballer for the Citizens.
The movement of the full backs.
Since his arrival at Manchester City, one of the most talked about aspects of Pep Guardiola’s tactical display thus far has been the overall complex movement combined with the intriguing positioning of his full backs. This has been used multiple times across the early start in the Premier League by the Spaniard but was most notably utilised in the Manchester City manager’s first game of the season as boss.
In the opening match of the season against Manchester City, the full-backs Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were allowed to push up on the pitch in the centre whilst Fernandinho dropped back to support the defensive partnership of John Stones and Aleksandr Kolarov. Transitioning his formation from a 4-1-4-1 to a brief 3-2-4-1, it allowed for Raheem Sterling and Nolito who are present on the wings to roam on their respective flank and better compete in 1v1 situations with Patrick Van Aanholt and Donald Love respectively.
The Manchester Derby also saw the same tactic displayed on brief occasions in the match, with some differences in comparison to how it was set up against Sunderland. Similarly to the Sunderland game, Fernandinho dropped deep once again into a central defensive position which enabled extra support for Nicolas Otamendi and Bacary Sagna who were at the back with him. However, rather than Sagna pushing further up the field like Aleksandr Kolarov, John Stones was allowed to push further up instead which allowed the Frenchman to stay back. By doing this, Stones would allow to turn his attention towards Wayne Rooney on the pitch whilst Sagna could focus on any Manchester United player looking to push up and exploit the left flank.
Implementation of Juego de Posición
Unsurprisingly, it has not taken long for Pep Guardiola to utilise his much-favoured football philosophy of Juego de Posición on his squad. Whilst it’s still early to say, his new team has astonishingly adapted to the new philosophy much quicker than either Barcelona or Bayern Munich were able to.
The following graphic represents a brief outline of Pep Guardiola’s footballing philosophy of Juego de Posición. Within each of the different zones on the pitch, players will have certain roles to fulfil in regards to the position that they are on, on the pitch. When Pep’s team have possession, it is important for fast, concentrated passes to be made to help the flow of the attack going. According to Guardiola himself, around 15 passes would need to be made in total for a fluid attack to be produced.
Triangles and diamonds are an important element of Pep Guardiola’s philosophy that are needed to take full effect. By forming either shape, it allows for the ball carrier to have two, (or ideally, three, when using a diamond shape) passing options to make to maintain possession but also keep a potential attack alive. The weight and positioning of the pass is also important, typically needing to be played in tight positions to look and expose an opposing player whilst also being fast.
The following graphic is a brief representation on how effective forming a shape can be when used correctly. With the right back (assuming Bacary Sagna) currently taking hold of the ball, he currently has three different passes to make, each of which can change the complexity of an attack. Should the player distribute the ball forward, the winger can use their pace to try and beat their man and sprint down the flank in the attempt of putting in a cross. However, should he distribute it to the central midfielder, they can then either make the decision to play the ball forward or, switch the play and lay the ball off to a player on the opposing flank. Finally, the player can also attempt a more tight pass and lay the ball off to the attacking midfielder, who then has a variety of different options to make that can transform the Manchester City attack.
For just under two months of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, his implementation of Juego de Posición has come back with positive results thus far, but it’s obvious that more work is needed to be done before his philosophy can take a full effect. More work in training, strengthening in certain positions – both full backs seems likely – in future transfer windows and also keeping squad morale all seem like important tasks Guardiola must fulfil across his tenure as Manchester City manager to deliver his philosophy to the best possible standard.
After what many can agree has been a fantastic start to the new Premier League season for Pep Guardiola, it’s rather surprising to watch just how much of an impact Pep has had on his new team, as well as England’s top division in general, in such a small amount of time. Typically, it takes quite a while for a team to adjust to life with a new manager and become comfortable with their style of play, however, at The Citizens they have been an instant hit.
The effective tactical display that has been used by Guardiola thus far has been a joy to watch, and in return, has delivered the best results possible on the pitch. For what took Barcelona and Bayern Munich months to finally get comfortable with, Pep Guardiola’s new players have become instantaneous with his philosophy of Juego de Posición.
Nevertheless, there are still some minor flaws present within the current Manchester City lineup that will need to be improved upon in the near future to bring even greater triumph. Regardless, the immediate progression that has been in place at Manchester City, because of Pep Guardiola, is a clear sign that fans of the club are set for a very bright future. The Pep Guardiola Revolution has only just started, and there’s a lot more to come.
The Pep Guardiola Revolution has only just begun, and there’s a lot more to come.