Depicting Pep Guardiola’s teams as underachieving has become something of a trend. Indeed, a near decade-long lack of Champions League success ostensibly supports Dietmar Hamann’s description of Guardiola’s coaching style as outdated.
There is no denying that, on paper, his spells in Munich and Manchester have left a lot to be desired on the continental stage. City’s underwhelming start to the 2020/21 campaign on the back of mixed performances last season did little to alter this picture. However, before we write Guardiola’s methods off, a trip down memory lane is well-worth taking.
Just like Rinus Michels’ Ajax, Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan and Johan Cruyff’s Barça Dream Team, Guardiola’s sides have always been able to win whilst playing an entertaining style of football that generates a lot of goals.
Of course, we should not forget that Guardiola was nurtured by Cruyff, a prominent endorser of ‘total football’. Guardiola’s outstanding skill, vision and tactical awareness on the pitch, have certainly invigorated his coaching concepts.
Crucially, he has shown the ability to bring life to such concepts. Signed by the Spaniard for Bayern back in 2014, goal-scoring ace Robert Lewandowski describes his former boss as ‘demanding, dedicated and purposeful’. This might naturally have a varied impact on player and squad alike.
Still, with players like Ederson, Walker, De Bruyne and Sterling, Guardiola has been able to re-enact his play of offensive-minded possession.
However, in my opinion, the ingredient the Citizens lack is self-confidence in crucial moments. Arguably, throughout the Guardiola years, City have incurred unnecessary defeats against the likes of Lyon, Tottenham and even Liverpool, because they have departed from their tried and tested approach when they have encountered adversity in key stages of these games.
If someone were able to give the Sky Blue players this confidence, you could think of no one better than Pep to do so.
With well over twenty trophies in top-flight football, Guardiola still seems capable of turning City’s fortunes around.