“Sometimes you have a noisy neighbour. You cannot do anything about that. They will always be noisy” is what the great Sir Alex Fergusen had to say about Manchester City back in 2009. 13 years later, Manchester City changed their status from the “noisy neighbours” to the dominant ones. Manchester City has won 4 of the last 5 Premier League titles, which might give an idea about their dominance in recent times. What changed? The answer is simple, Josep “Pep” Guardiola Sala.
Many might argue that the “Oil Money” is the real reason behind City’s recent success. But that’s not it; a stat shows that Chelsea and Manchester United have also spent close to Manchester City in the last decade, but the returns have not been the same. Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in 2016 and took no time to take over the Premier League. Let’s have a look at how Pep Guardiola transformed Manchester City.
How Pep Guardiola transformed Manchester City into a giant?
Before Pep Guardiola, there was Manuel Pellegrini, who enjoyed a successful run of 3 years at the helm of Manchester City. During his term, Pellegrini won a Premier League title in the 2013-14 season and two Carabao Cups. However, Pellegrini faced a fair share of tactical problems as he went through long spells of sticking to the same formation despite poor results.
Pep Guardiola took over an ageing City squad that lacked pace and couldn’t press aggressively. Manchester City initially wanted to sign Pep Guardiola in 2012 but missed out on the deal as the Spaniard went on to lead Bayern Munich in Germany.
However, Manchester City was well prepared to sign Pep Guardiola in 2017. The Blues got in some major names from Barcelona, with whom Pep Guardiola was comfortable working in the past. Man City signed Ferran Soriano as their CEO, Txiki Begiristain as their Director of football, and Dr. Mauri to make Pep Guardiola feel at home in Manchester.
Pep Guardiola was arguably one of the best managers in the world with his legendary run with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. However, many of the English media were not convinced whether his methodologies would work in the Premier League. Nevertheless, Pep answered all their queries.
Pep Guardiola identified some major setbacks in the City squad as soon as he arrived at the club. They had an old squad under their belt. In fact, only Watford, Stokes, and West Brom had higher average squad ages than Manchester City. Adding to that, Pep Guardiola was not happy with some of the names in the squad who didn’t suit his playing style.
Wilfried Bony was not technically strong. Joe Hart and Eliaquim Mangala were not good enough on the ball. And as per reports, Manchester City’s superstars Yaya Touré and Samir Nasri didn’t have the required discipline to be in Pep Guardiola’s team.
Pep Guardiola bought in players like Ilkay Gundagon, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nolito, Leroy Sane, Claudio Bravo, and Gabriel Jesus in his very first season. At the same time, Guardiola got rid of players like Mangala, Jovetic, Martín Demichelis, Nasri, Joe Hart, J Navas, and Bony. Guardiola let go of the ageing players and replaced them with some of the best young talents in the world at that time.
However, despite some major changes, Pep Guardiola still struggled to find his best XI in his first season. He used a total of 8 different formations in 38 matches. However, City saw some major improvements in Pep’s first season itself. Guardiola’s side scored more goals, allowed fewer goals, and kept more possession than Pellegrini’s.
Having said that, Pep Guardiola didn’t win any silverware with Man City in his first season and finished 3rd in the Premier League. It was a decent season, but there was still pressure mounting over Guardiola as he was accused of not adapting to the style of the Premier League.
What did Pep Guardiola say about the start he got in his first season?
“Yeah. I don’t know what would have happened had we not been able to win the games. I can assure you something, my players always run. And after that, we must try to play as well as possible to achieve the result and win the games. But first is to play good, and to play good, you have to run, and I was pretty sure we could do that. In some moments, we played really well; it’s just the quality of the intelligence of these players.”
“You can make a training session; you can say this or that. Some understand quickly; some need more time. Most get it quickly. That is why we are a little surprised about how fast, in some moments, we have been in our three games: we played really well. Not for 90 minutes – that is not normal – but how stable they [the players] are. In terms of full games, we have to improve a lot.
“Yesterday I saw the game v Stoke City again and thought about many things we must improve. But in the short time, we have spent together, we have made many good things. That is why I am confident that it will remain this way and we will have solidarity and help each other. We can achieve good things.”
However, Pep Guardiola didn’t waste time rejuvenating Manchester City’s squad. Pep got talents like Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Danilo, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, and Aymeric Laporte in the very next transfer window. And with that, Manchester City transferred out players like Nasri, Nolito, Sagna, Bony, Clichy, Iheanacho, and Kolarov. With this transformation, Man City became the 6th youngest squad in the league.
Pep Guardiola had the team he needed to begin his supremacy in English football. Pep Guardiola won his first Premier League title with City in his second season with 100 points on the table. Man City were 29 points clear of the second-placed Manchester United in that very specific season. Manchester City asserted their hold in the upcoming seasons and went on to win 3 out of the 4 league titles.
Pep Guardiola built and created one of the best teams in the history of the Premier League. However, he still has one trophy missing from his cabinet: the Champions League. He had come close to winning the Champions League in 2021 but eventually lost to rivals Chelsea in the final.
With the inclusion of Erling Haaland this season, we might see Pep Guardiola achieving his long-lasting dream of winning the Champions League trophy since 2011.
Trophies won by Manchester City since Guardiola became their manager;
- Premier League (2017/18, 2018/19 and 2020/21)
- The FA Cup (2018/19)
- The League Cup (2017/2018, 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21)
- The FA Community Shield (2018/19 and 2019/20)