Well, it finally happened didn’t it … the English Premier League has finally arrived. Jurgen ‘German Keegan’ Klopp, Antonio ‘The Godfather’ Conte (dubious title), Arsene ‘The Emirates Builder’ Wenger (my fav!), that S.O.B. Jose ‘The Fraud’ Mourinho (called him a fraud ages ago)… who else? Oh yes … Pep Guardiola! The freaking genius coach. The man who gave us Sergio Busquests and said nah to Samuel Eto’o, Deco and the legendary Ronaldinho. Brought back Pique from Man Utd, converted Mascherano to a fine international class defender, unleashed Lionel Messi and gave full trust, confidence & improved one of football’s most intelligent duos; Iniesta & Xavi. A total revolution of Barcelona and these players as well as Coach Pep mark the era of the post-modern Barcelona we have (well I) have fallen head over heels for.
Roll on the years and he is now here … with us, in the Premier League. What a time to be alive, these are exciting times.
Pep Guardiola will be the subject of this commentary, oh and forgive me if I labour on but I probably won’t cover much of what I would like with regard to his body of incredible work. There are very few times we see moments of genius and inspiration & now we witness a rare actual architect of such. Congratulations ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE, my favourite league – you did it. I’ve been analysing you for over 2 decades and you have finally arrived. Seriously great fucking job. You did it, you got him here … it’s taken many years of limp imposters and hype appointments but you finally got the big catch. Coach Pep, he is here and oh my fucking god does it matter. Trust me, it’s the biggest deal yet. Forget your frauds like Pogba et al… This is the signing of the summer. This is the true marquee, probably the greatest signing the premier league has ever done or will do for some time yet. The last time the EPL received a philosophical paradigm shift was probably when Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal and went on to transform their notorious traditional British football that was referred to as sausage football to what I can only call Foie Gras football at its peak; carrying with the foodie analogy. Some of the very best ever seen.
Philosophy, a word that has been parsed through filters that I don’t think even Instagram could fashion has become a bit of a buzz word for coaches who have no actual understanding of it – especially in a footballing conceptual framework. Louie van Gaal was the latest scammer to hide behind this word during his fatal Manchester United stint. A man living off past greatness and using philosophy as a security blanket. Something about football and forgetting a man’s recent managerial trajectory and focusing on past glories long replicated huh? LvG was a dinosaur who scammed a lot of very analytical footballing people in your various publications, podcasts etc. *Tips glass of rum Jose Mourinho’s way*
That was quite a digression however contrast all that to Pep Guardiola and particularly his spell at Bayern Munich; I can already smell the warm stout laden breath of the naysayers bearing down my neck – who rounded Pep’s stint as a failure for not delivering a Champions League title in his 3 season stretch. I’ll handle that on another occasion if need be. However, philosophy – something I mentioned earlier. Currently, other than Diego Simeone, there probably is no other coach in the major leagues of football who has a clearer idea of what his footballing philosophy is exactly besides Coach Pep of course. (edit – Well, Jurgen Klopp and his self-titled rock ‘n’ roll smash up your bitch and take a dump in your kitchen sink football has a very clear identity in itself but nothing that has yielded the kind of results we’ve seen with Guardiola … however the two have been operating with vastly different budgets and calibre of squads).
Bayern Munich were playing some of their most ‘German’ brand of football when under Juup Heynckes and were kicking some serious butt as well with it. This led to one of the club’s most successful campaigns in its history winning a treble and delivering some memorable results and swash buckling football that obliterated Barcelona 7-0 over two legs.
However, as soon as January 2013 of the illustrious 2012/13 campaign, the power brokers at Bayern had already announced that Coach Pep would be their future. Reports declared Bayern Munich moved heaven, earth & hell to get the man … why? Pep Guardiola is a visionary, a passionate focused leader, a decisive mentor and has glowing brass balls (did you see him dropping ‘dafuqs’ at reporters?). This is why the man’s philosophy is unrelenting. Cast your mind back to his final season, when Joshua Kimmich had played what was considered a stunning game against Dortmund in a position he was not accustomed to. Adulations all round were peppered however in bizarre, almost shocking, contrast was the sight of Pep in an intense conversation with Kimmich – verbally & physically pushing the boy even further. Bayern Munich have gone on to break records with a patented Pep style of play and Kimmich has gone on to great things in his short career. It really is no surprise that in such a short amount of time, FC Hollywood was totally converted in its style of play and youth players were flourishing. It is the Pep Guardiola ethos.
As is often the case there are those who were weary of his ability to integrate Arjen Robben and a true Striker like Robert Lewandowski into his system especially after his remarkable use of the footballing icon Lionel Messi as a False 9. Of course Pep utterly destroyed such undue scepticism and both Robben & Lewa flourished under the grandmaster coach. Furthermore, his fierce pre-game and in-game tactical management is extremely fluid and boy did he have fun trying all sorts of interesting formations at Bayern. Some included positional fluency which saw Philip Lahm play very well as a defensive midfielder, Alaba a centre back/winger/midfielder, Kimmich across the defensive line and midfield and then some … all the while changing the whole transitional shape of the team tactically.
Rewind a few months ago to 2016/17 pre-season phase, well even further to Pep’s announcement as the new City boss and already there were still those who did not take much to Pep’s phenomenal managerial record and still felt he had something to prove. Basically no different to idiotic English football infused constructs such as ‘…could Messi/other non-EPL great player do it on a cold Tuesday night in the Britannia.’ Ignoring how their league has been floundering in the biggest Europe club competitions consistently.
So it’s really early in season 2016/17 and Pep has had a few games under his belt. Why the hype now? Already there are quite a number of converts from some sceptics yet Citeh’s early results are not that dissimilar to their 2015/16 season start under Pellegrini. It’s the intangible, the philosophy. It is evident something positive is happening at Manchester City and it is happening in front of many Premier League supporters and commentators. Something that those who have been watching Pep over the years have always known and said. He is doing it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke and it is clear that he is only scratching the surface.
There was a moment in the Manchester derby where Kevin De Bruyne was celebrating after the final whistle and Pep came in for an assertive ‘atta boy!’ that made me realise just how under control he has this City restructure. His is in charge, he is respected and he is getting the players to embrace his ideas just like he has always done.
Pep Guardiola is the ultimate big club football manager. He is amongst us getting the best out of what appeared a regressing City squad and instilling a champion’s mind-set throughout the whole club. The Pep Guardiola philosophy is the avant-garde of all footballing principles and lottery winners Manchester City have hit the jackpot yet again. How fucking lucky are they!
Oh and to the new born City fans and those soon to arrive … beware the Guardiola sabbatical notice.