The immediate answer to the above question is – nothing.
After yesterday’s 4-1 stroll against Tottenham Hotspur the usual superlatives were in evidence. “Brilliant”, “exciting”, “best Premier League team ever” and other such adjectives to describe a team made up of, in the main, the same players who finished third last season!
Man City have now played all of the other top 5 teams in the Premier League – hammering Liverpool 5-0, comprehensively beating Arsenal 3-1, as we already mentioned strolling past Spurs 4-1 yesterday, squeaking past Chelsea in a tight 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge at the end of September and of course last weekend’s Manchester Derby where they beat their arch-rivals Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford.
They have a new goalkeeper who, admittedly, has made a difference as the defenders no longer have to worry too much when a shot or a cross goes near him.
They also have a new full back in Kyle Walker who has replaced Pablo Zabaleta, giving the team a lot more pace down the right hand side. Other than that, what is the difference? Benjamin Mendy is injured and out for the season, Danilo and Bernardo Silva can’t get in the team!
This should be particularly worrying for Danilo who, as a left back, is being kept out by a converted defensive midfielder in Fabian Delph.
So, basically, Guardiola has turned last season’s third place side into the best in Europe by adding two players!
Almost true, but by thinking of this as his achievement is where the mistake is made.
Guardiola has a very, very simple philosophy on the game of football. If his team has the ball then the opponent can’t score. If his team doesn’t have the ball then they need to get it back as quickly as possible.
His game is all about possession and he has worked with his players to be better at that aspect of their game. City rarely give the ball away cheaply and every player looks comfortable when he has it.
It is quite amazing to hear “experts” saying how much better a player is under Guardiola when what he has chiefly done is to make sure that player doesn’t lose possession cheaply.
Granted, he also works with players on their positioning on the pitch but that is all geared to winning the ball back should they lose it or maximising the chances to score when they have it.
In other words, it is not rocket science, to coin a popular phrase. It is just a very simple approach to a game and, by playing it as it was intended, he has people baffled as to how he achieves his success.
Keep the ball, score more goals than the opposition, win games. Simple. So simple that it is a method he has used before at Barcelona where he was their most successful manager. So simple that the Brazilian team of the sixties and seventies used it to win the World Cup.
Yes, good players are a requirement but, as long as the they are capable of following instructions, then the team does not need to be full of world class players in every position.
Kevin De Bruyne is, rightly, regarded as the best player in the Premier League at present. Why? He can keep the ball, pass the ball, scores goals, makes goals and tracks back when required. In other words, Pep has him playing to his potential along with most other City players.
The rest of the managers can sit around scratching their fake hair or their balding pates and try to work out what makes Guardiola better than them but this just displays a remarkable lack of intelligence.
Pep just simplifies the game while the rest complicate it. He doesn’t have twenty different tactics for twenty different teams. He has one. Score more than they do.
It’s an extraordinarily simple game managed by some very complex people, except for one.
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