In the first of a brand new series, we take a look at the tactics, mannerisms, demeanour and touchline antics of the game’s top bosses. First up is Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola’s reign as Manchester City boss got off to a winning start against Sunderland, but the Catalan superstar will also realise after this weekend he has got his hands full in an ultra competitive Premier League and as he strives to push his players into his new way of a playing.
There were no sartorial surprises pre-match. As expected Pep was all sharp suits, 5 o’clock shadows and pert buttocks. What else would you expect from one of the best-dressed sports personalities in the world?
Guardiola set them up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that at various times morphed into 2-3-4-1 and even 2-3-2-3. The new formation saw his full-backs push into central midfield areas into a bid to squeeze the opposition, with his deep midfielders dropping into central defence when they lost possession.
New centre-half John Stones, as expected, brought the ball out of defence, with his range of passing utilised regularly and that is expected to be a feature of their game plan this season.
The other big news of course was his decision to go with Willy Caballero in goal ahead of Joe Hart; the thinking behind which is the Argentinian is more adapted to play the ‘sweeper keeper’ role than the England man, whose days at the Etihad could now be numbered.
Significantly Yaya Toure – who left Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2010 to join the Citizens – didn’t even make the 18-man match day squad.
The normally ice cool Iberian was unusually animated on Saturday, deciding to virtually shun the technical area boundaries altogether at times as he barked instructions loud and proud to his new side. He was clocked on camera a few times with his arms flailing and if Pep gets this lively for a home game with Sunderland it might well be worth putting a few bob on him getting arrested before, during or after the first Manchester derby of the season on September 10.
What they said
On his decision to axe Hart: “I have a lot of respect for Joe. I know how good a goalkeeper he is. But I decided for Willy.”
And his verdict on England youngster Raheem Sterling, who enjoyed a decent game at the Etihad: “Sterling was amazing. That is what we need. People to play wide and have the quality to go one on one. On the outside, inside, right, left. That is important. He is a fighter.”
It would have been interesting to see how Guardiola would have reacted if Sunderland had held on for a share of the spoils at the Etihad. In famously glorious spells with Barca and Bayern Munich he had rarely felt the wrath of the fans but even when it was 1-1 with time running out Guardiola didn’t lose his head on the touch line and was a picture of diplomacy afterwards.
Having recently been wooed and then installed as the man to lead City to promised land both domestically and in Europe, and having spent well over £100million on new players, Pep’s job is as safe as houses currently.
What did you think of Guardiola’s tactics? And which managers would you like to see us analyse in the coming weeks in this new feature?