After a hard-fought battle against last year’s champions league finalist, PSG, Pep’s Manchester City reached the clubs first-ever UCL final and Pep himself also reached his first UCL final as a manager since 2011. But things weren’t quite going well at the beginning of the season and a lot of people feared we may be seeing the last days of the manager at Man City.
But something happened after the Westbrom game and Pep took a decision that has caused his team to go struggling to winning games to becoming the first Man City team to make the UEFA Champions League final. They are also the Carabao cup champions and are now just three points away from winning the Premier League. City are on the verge of a historic treble: the League Cup, Premier League, and the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
Related Post: Why Pep’s Man City Model, is the Future of Football.
So what exactly did Pep change?
It’s simple! He changed the way they played and every other thing started falling into place. Pep disclosed this in an interview with former Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand.
According to Pep, the Man City team had become “heavy” and weren’t playing the way they used to during the days of David Silva — Silva left a big void in that City team.
The players were running too much and sometimes the central defenders were hanging on to the ball for too long. City’s football had become too fast and a lot of things went wrong as a result.
So what did Pep do when he saw this? Pep decided to go back to the basics of “tiki-taka” and in no time, Manchester City became the best football club in the world. They are now running less, passing more, and killing opponents with intelligent positional play.
But it’s not that simple. How does a simple change make such a massive impact? What exactly did the change affect? Going into the tactical analysis would make this a 10,000-word article. So we’ll leave that for Rahul on Twitter, Football Made Simple on YouTube and other great tactical brains.
Pep’s Team got lost in English Football
This normally goes unnoticed especially in the sporting world where we don’t pay much attention to psychology. They lost themselves. It could have been as a result of fatigue or the loss of some of their biggest players.
City had slowly become the teams they were playing against in England. Unlike Spain, football in England is chaos. Most Spanish teams are naturally good at keeping possession and playing beautiful football. English soccer is a stark contrast to this. Right from the first minute, it’s a hustle and bustle till the final kick of the ball.
City had slowly become what they were seeing without knowing. But after the one-all draw in the City-Westbrom game, Pep came to himself. Here is how he describes his experience:
“after the game I went to myself, and my staff and friends, I said, ‘I don’t like the team. I don’t like the way we play. It doesn’t matter the results, I don’t like it. I don’t recognise my team….'”
Obviously, they lost their identity to the influence of the environment and it didn’t go too well. But here’s how Pep changed everything for his team:
“We just come back to the principles — the A, B, C. That’s all! So wingers high and wide and uh, a lot of plays in the middle, and uh, [if you] come back without the ball run like an animal, and with the ball, be more calm, be more passes.”Pep Guardiola
“Think about more, in the, what you have to do instead [of thinking about] the results.”
Have you lost something? Have you lost your core values? It’s still happening individuals, teams, and businesses today. This is one way sports teams and players go from being the best to being just average. Have you ever entered an environment where your styles and principles cause you to stand out from the crowd but after some time you find yourself struggling like the rest of the players?
Go back and look at your behavioural history, there’s a good chance you lost yourself. You have become like the people you came to see. You have probably dropped your standard to what you have in the new environment.
Pep recognised this and it was the turning point for City. They had slowly moved from playing tiki-taka to playing chaotic football. But when they returned to the basics of passing and positioning they became the unbeatable team they were in the 17/18 football season.
Recommended: Sports channels on DStv Compact.
But here is the icing on the cake: it’s the defensive wall built around Ruben Dias. Now Man City are not just unstoppable, they have become impenetrable. This is one of the reasons they are in the Champions League final. They’ve won 11 out of 12 matches and have kept 7 clean sheets in the process.
The creative fusion of quality football and adamant defending has been the difference for City this season. They have simply become unstoppable and arguably the best football club in the world.