So the worst kept secret in football finally came out last week, Pep Guardiola as expected will take the helm of Manchester City at the end of the season. It’s hard not to feel a touch sorry for Manuel Pellegrini given how this whole situation has been handled but City finally have their man. For the past few years Man City have been trying to take that next step in terms of becoming a major player in European football and in Pep Guardiola they now boast the best and most in demand manager in world football. In his short time as a manager Pep has shown himself to be an intense, tactically brilliant manager all while playing dynamic football unlike any other. It’s this success which has led many to believe that next year Man City could dominate English football and put down a marker in Europe. But as brilliant a manager as he is and despite City’s vast potential, success isn’t inevitable.
For a start, the squad that Pep will be inheriting needs some work done to it. Of course Man City do possess some top class players in that squad but a lot of their players are either getting older or simply not top level players. Let’s face it with the money invested into this team they shouldn’t be chasing Leicester and ultimately Manuel Pellegrini can have few complaints about his dismissal. Going through the team it’s hard to identify many of that squad who are A) good enough to compete in the Champions League which must surely be Pep’s goal or B) Pep Guardiola style players. By that I mean players who are comfortable on the ball, athletic and tactically flexible. From that first 11 it’s possible that only Hart, Kompany, De Bruyne, Silva (at a push) and of course Sergio Aguero meet these requirements. Now it’s likely that some players may just take time to settle and may improve, Nicolas Otamendi I’m looking at you, or some of the younger players improve such as Raheem Sterling. Sterling certainly is an interesting case in that for much of this season he really has struggled and Guardiola will need much more from a player whom City paid far over the odds for and view as a long term investment.
Defence however is where Guardiola will really need to improve. With arguably only one top level defender in the squad in Vincent Kompany, both Sagna and Zabaleta are solid enough but aren’t exactly ones for the future, City do need to invest. Left back is a position needing addressing with both Kolarov and Clichy never really convincing. Centrally, Otamendi will probably improve but Elaquim Mangala looks anything but a Pep Guardiola player. Given Guardiola’s history of insisting his centre backs to be good on the ball and to start attacks and Mangala continuing to look like he just discovers the football for the first time in every game, it looks a lethal combination. City’s current central midfield it’s a long way away from the technically gifted midfielders Guardiola tends to favour. Aside from Yaya Toure City don’t exactly have players in the mould of say Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta or at Bayern in Alonso and Thiago. When you add in Toure’s age and laziness it represents a bit of an issue. There has been games this season when Yaya has been at walking pace and Joe Hart probably did more running. There is a chance that Guardiola redefines Yaya’s position and insists on him getting fitter. But given that Guardiola allowed a peak Yaya Toure to leave Barcelona perhaps this could be the end for Toure.
So Man City’s squad is good but needs work done, but that’s okay though because they have a seemingly never-ending budget and can sign who they want can’t they? Well to an extent that is true but it’s hard to take an underperforming and simply not good enough squad and turn them into Champions League challenging in the space of a summer. The players that Guardiola will look towards to take City to that next step are either going to be costly or at clubs they don’t want to leave. Transfer fees continue to become more and more obscene and Man City have already shown their willingness to spend. Clubs know that City have the funds and are also in dire need of improvement. The signing of Raheem Sterling last summer shows just how much City will spend if they deem the player up to requirements. But given that Financial Fair Play is still around albeit more relaxed, Man City can’t exactly go around spending huge amounts of money indefinitely. Most of the players that would take Man City into the next level of European football tend to already play for the top clubs in Europe so are less likely to move. Of course many players will be eager to work with Guardiola but that doesn’t mean to say he will get his way in the market.
Finally, a factor that Guardiola can’t control is that the Premier League continues to be unpredictable and competitive. It’s hard to truly dominate the league given how improved the smaller clubs in the league are. When you factor in the huge new TV deal that will kick in next season then the smaller clubs will be even more dangerous. Not only are they better on the field but smaller clubs are now far less likely to roll over and meet the big teams demands for players. Take this season, in years gone by Leicester City’s star men of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy would have been snapped up by the top 4 for fees of 15-20 million. Now that can’t happen as Leicester don’t need the money as much and know that the top clubs can and will pay over the odds. When you factor in that Pep Guardiola has never managed nor played in the country it’s hard to see City dominating. It will inevitably take Guardiola time to settle into the country as shown by Jurgen Klopp’s less than blistering start at Liverpool.
Of course there is a chance that Pep comes over to the country, completely dominates the league and makes everything I’ve written redundant but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.