What Will Manchester City Look Like With Pep Guardiola at the Helm?
On the surface, it is easy to see that Pep Guardiola is a different type of manager from Manuel Pellegrini.
The Guardiola era in the Premier League at Manchester City began in earnest yesterday and fans are curious how the sometimes stubborn, former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager will transform The Citizens.
A Change of Tactics
Guardiola's reputation is that of a master technician who implores his team to drive the pace with smart possession and intense pressure. Under Pellegrini's watch, City took more risks in a constant attacking style.
Those who have watched Bayern in the last few years know that Guardiola does not require all-out attacking. He is fine with short passes that maintain possession. Per WhoScored, they led the Bundesliga in possession all three seasons under Guardiola with a rate of at least 65.8% each season -- compared to 60.6% and 60.3% in the club's two seasons prior to his arrival.
In essence, that possession keeps the other team from scoring. Commentators during Bayern matches last year suggested that Guardiola instructed his team not to take long shots. Only 36.5% of their shots came from outside the box last season, which ranked 12th in the Bundesliga.
In another example of Guardiola's fascinating coaching, corner kicks are not considered threatening.
There is no indication that Guardiola will move away from tactics like those in the video above at City. It will likely be tougher for this style to transfer over to the Premier League as the Bundesliga can be considered much more top heavy and less volatile when it comes to weather.
According to WhoScored, 90% of passes by Bayern last season were considered short, so the weather should not have as much impact on City's playing style as the growing parity in the Premier League.
Perhaps the biggest change that City fans will see is what the team does when they do not have the ball. Guardiola wants his teams to get the ball back in six seconds with immediate, high-energy pressure. If his players at City do not work to cause confusion directly after losing the ball, they will lose their place in the squad. They can win it back, but putting in the work on the defensive side is a must.
Guardiola is also not afraid of moving players out of their natural position. At Bayern, he moved Philipp Lahm from outside back to holding midfielder while Joshua Kimmich moved to right back from the midfield. David Alaba was used all over the field.
There are already signs that Fernando and Fabian Delph will be moved to the back line from the midfield this season. Players must be flexible and willing to understand responsibilities in various positions because the master technician will not stick with one or two formations. Guardiola used seven formations at Bayern last year.
Of course, that playing style and flexibility depends largely on the personnel, and Guardiola has just started tinkering with his roster. City's preseason friendly schedule is rather short, but Guardiola is known for his intense training sessions where he closely evaluates his players on their technical ability and not overall athleticism.
He tested out some of his young players in Wednesday's first match while Kevin De Bruyne and others continue to rest after playing internationally this summer. It is also looking more and more like Yaya Toure will see out his contract at City.
CITY XI: Caballero, Maffeo, Adarabioyo, Kolarov, Angelino, Fernando, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, Barker, Iheanacho, Navas #cityontour #mcfc
— Manchester City (@ManCity) July 20, 2016
Still Guardiola wants certain types of players for his system. City has signed four players to this point, including highly touted midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. They are also after John Stones and Leroy Sane. Forward Gabriel Jesus could be the next announced signing, although he may not report to the team until January.
Toni Kroos once said that Guardiola was the "best coach I ever had in terms of football ideas." Praise like that makes it easy to see why so many want to play for Guardiola.
Regardless of who is on the Manchester City roster in a few weeks, they will be expected to pressure and keep possession as much as possible. They will be asked to take fewer risks and build with the ball. The team will come up with new wrinkles to make corner kicks more threatening through the eyes of the new manager.
All of that has brought excitement back to The Citizens as fans hope Guardiola's meticulous ways will bring more hardware to the Etihad. The fans will get to see the changed squad in person for the first time on August 13 as City hosts Sunderland.