Solely 5 gamers stay from Pep Guardiola’s first matchday squad as Manchester Metropolis supervisor in 2016.
Of these, one is not first selection, and two are coming to the top of their Metropolis careers. The opposite two have developed from tough diamonds to 2 of Europe’s finest gamers. However the distinction between Guardiola’s first squad and his most up-to-date is a lot higher than simply the personnel.
Final trip towards Arsenal, Guardiola produced a tactical masterclass to out-think his former assistant Mikel Arteta, in addition to most of us watching from dwelling. His unconventional formation, which concerned full-back Joao Cancelo as a roaming midfielder, with completely different formations in assault and defence, continues to confound pundits days later.
It helps Guardiola that in Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias, he lastly appears to have added some solidity and adaptability in defence that he arguably hasn’t had since he arrived on the membership. Actually that has been missing since Vincent Kompany left.
By evaluating Guardiola’s first three seasons along with his final one-and-a-bit, there’s a clear transfer from having high quality gamers for every place, to high quality gamers that may play in a number of positions. That has by no means been clearer than the Arsenal recreation.
The beginning XI towards the Gunners appeared like a really easy 4-3-3. In actuality, as much as 5 or 6 gamers performed out of their recognised place at completely different factors within the recreation. It is the type of tactical shock Guardiola tried at varied instances final season, to completely different levels of success.
It is encouraging that up to now this season, Guardiola has seen success when altering the formation, with the Leicester and Leeds outcomes hardly right down to the set-up, reasonably particular person errors at both finish.
And it could possibly be argued that Guardiola is seeing a return on years of labor in coaching to make his aspect able to taking part in many various advanced tactical methods, mastering a number of positions, to at all times preserve the opponent guessing. There have been loads of instances the place his gamers have not been prepared to tug off such formations, however now it appears the penny would possibly lastly be dropping for extra.
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A lot has been manufactured from Guardiola’s fifth season at Metropolis – his longest at any membership – with no signal but of a contract extension previous this summer season. Nevertheless it’s encouraging that his tactical rebuilding of this squad is beginning to repay.
At each Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola created unimaginable sides, successful a number of titles, just like the best way he constructed Metropolis as much as their peak of the 2018 and 2019 title wins. In each earlier jobs, although, he left on a excessive, reasonably than rebuild these sides right into a aspect that may embark on one other interval of dominance.
Now, for the primary time, the indicators could be that he is rebuilding Metropolis’s title-winning squad into one that may go and win the league once more – and probably even problem for achievement in Europe. If Guardiola’s tactical concepts are lastly seeing outcomes on the pitch, the times of ‘overthinking’ could possibly be changed by a squad full of fantastic gamers, each technically and tactically, which can be on the identical web page as their supervisor.
Not solely has he advanced his squad into a greater, youthful and greater group, he’s not reliant on specialist gamers in each place. Now Metropolis have the ingredient of shock, in addition to relentless high quality.
It is a harmful combine, and one which may show to be Guardiola’s greatest legacy at Metropolis. Or it could be sufficient cause to steer him to lengthen his keep and see the advantages of his tactical rebuild.