“Pep Guardiola is setting the premier league on fire this season!” “He may have created the best team ever to play in this league.” “Pep is proving all of his critics wrong this year.”
All are phrases uttered and used by pundits, journalists and fans alike as Manchester City continue on their incredibly impressive run in the Premier League this season. City, at the time of writing, have only lost one game. They hold arguably the best player in the league in Kevin De Bruyne and it looks as though the title race is as good as over. Rightfully so, when you see results from City against the top 6 from last season leading to an aggregate score of 15-3 this term. There is no doubt they are playing the best football, possibly in the whole of Europe. But, is it right to give Pep Guardiola, Man City’s manager, a tonne of praise for this incredible form?
Whilst every successful team needs a confident leader and coach, there is surely a point whereby a manager has such great talent at his disposal that they can’t really get it wrong. This is the case for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
During his time at the Etihad, Pep has spent over £410m. An astounding figure. Using this funding, he has bought in talent such as goalkeeper Ederson, full backs Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, midfielders Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan and attacker Gabriel Jesus as well as many others. The majority of these expensive names now feature in Cities starting XI, demonstrating that spending the money to rebuild nearly the entire team with proven stars will, rather unsurprisingly, produce fantastic results.
Add onto this the talent that Pep simply inherited when he joined City, through the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure among others and questions begin to arise as to whether Pep is the top-quality manager as those pundits, journalists and fans are claiming… or if he is simply a manager with a big reputation and unlimited chequebook.
Looking at Guardiola’s whole managerial career, similar questions can be asked. The three teams he has taken control over (Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City) were all top, world class and super-rich teams at the time his reign began. He inherited teams that contained talents such as Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Andres Iniesta and, of course, Lionel Messi. Despite this, this past summer, Pep’s total career spending hit £1billion. With that talent already in your team, and an endless amount of cash in your pocket, do you really need any managerial skill at all? It could be argued that you could leave these teams to themselves and they’d likely produce top results regardless.
Teams do need to invest to continually improve and keep up with the competition, that’s modern football. But the rate at which Guardiola has spent over his career despite inheriting some of the best teams in the world is a cause for concern and arguably unnecessary for a quality manager.
Comparisons with other managers in the Premier League exemplifies this. Sean Dyche has turned Burnely into a real unit this season, guiding them to 4th spot at one stage. This was done with relatively little funding and through sheer managerial and coaching perseverance and excellence. Imagine, if he can do this with Burnley, what he would be able to do with even a quarter of Guardiola’s budget.
Earlier in the season, Pep was asked about the injury to newly signed full back Mendy. His response explained that in order to combat this setback, they will have to likely spend in the January transfer window. Compare this with Mauricio Pochettino’s management of Tottenham when star left back Danny Rose suffered a long-term injury. Instead of jumping straight into buying new players, he focussed on turning existing back-up Ben Davies into a solid player capable of filling the spot.
This is not to say Pep is a bad manager. You only have to see Raheem Sterling’s or Fabian Delph’s transformation this season to see that his coaching techniques can be effective. However, is he worthy of the credit for City’s incredible run so far this season or even the reputation he has of one of the world’s best managers? It would seem as though to back this up, Guardiola needs to put his chequebook away and let his tactics do the talking.