Pep Guardiola: Avant-garde genius or charlatan?

Joshua Byers

Okay, so it might be churlish to argue that Pep Guardiola is a talentless dick; certainly if managing were The X Factor, Pep wouldn’t be that unemployed 50-year-old former checkout salesman who has mistaken mocking for encouragement all his life and thinks the world really needs to hear his George Michael covers, but is Pep really a Steve Brookstein or Alexandra Burke? For the sake of the analogy, please ignore that their music is shit and concentrate on the fact they won.

Against Everton, Pep opted for a 3-2-2-3, to the delight of the commentators on a certain dodgy stream that a certain dodgy CLICKON writer was illegally watching. Some of the adjectives used were “groundbreaking” and “genius”. We take issue with both of those descriptions.

Let’s start with groundbreaking. The 3-2-2-3 is a system that first appeared in the 1920s under the name WM, made famous by Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal side. It was modish until Hungary’s famous post-war side advanced things and people started using a WW, or 2-3-2-3. Most recently, Patrick Viera has implemented the WM at New York City FC, so it’s less groundbreaking and more a case of a manager having fuckloads of great attackers and bringing back an old formation to squeeze them all into the team.

In terms of genius: City drew the game 1-1. Now, a home game against Everton isn’t the easiest fixture in the world, but the fans will have no doubt expected three points. City dominated, missing two penalties, and Ronald Koeman called them the best side he’s ever faced, so let’s not pretend for the sake of narrative that they were completely terrible. What’s inarguable, however, is that they did not achieve their wholly attainable goal, so it’s difficult to call the move “genius”.

Two games before the Everton match, Brendan Rodgers showed great character by sending his players out with some pretty simple – not groundbreaking – but effective instructions. Celtic got into the faces of City’s players, and came away with an “outstanding” 3-3 draw that should be pretty embarrassing for Guardiola and the Premier League in general, considering the gulf in resources available to the two clubs.

Next up, Mauricio Pochettino followed up on Brendan’s good work by sending his exuberant young Spurs side out to press City high up the pitch. The result was complete Tottenham domination, and City’s previously indomitable stars walking away from White Hart Lane humbled.

Again, there are defenses of Pep to be made here: Celtic Park’s incredible atmosphere and his side’s second half improvement against Spurs to name a few, but the feeling that he is being hyped to the point of explosion by a media obsessed with the notion that the Premier League has the best of everything remains; would we really expect a side of, say, Cholo Simeone’s to be intimidated as City were at Celtic Park? How many of Cholo’s men would have lived to see the Spurs game if that happened?

It must be emphasized that the objective of this article isn’t to dismiss Pep completely, but to question his greatness and the free pass he is given by the press. Having succeeded with a Barcelona outfit one imagines Donald Drumpf could run successfully, and then underwhelmed somewhat at a Bayern team that he inherited immediately following a Bavarian treble success, the heat is now on Pep to show he can do it with a City team that still looks far from complete despite a plethora of talent.

There is a chance, of course, that City will go undefeated the rest of the season and make this article seem like a very silly knee jerk, but could it be that we are seeing the first signs of Pep cracking?

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