Pressure on Guardiola highlights the worst of football’s reactionary nature
The fact people are suggesting Pep Guardiola is under pressure and ignoring his past achievements shows the unhealthy fickle nature of football fans.
Guardiola’s Manchester City have been outplayed by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool this season to the point where the title already appears to be wrapped up.
Therefore, according to the logic of the modern football fan – usually spearheaded and amplified on Twitter – that must indicate that the Spaniard is a ‘fraud’, with his past winning record counting for little, and only succeeding if given an enormous pot of gold before accepting any job.
It really does defy belief given how brilliant City have been since Guardiola took over, but the fact he is no longer flavour of the month means his standing as an elite coach could be under threat and he can also be mocked at every turn.
Those people, of course, forget that Guardiola is practically the reason why possession-based football is so prevalent in the modern game – his “tiki-taka” style which emerged at Barcelona produced arguably the greatest club team of all time in the early 2010s.
So influential is his style of football, that teams across the continent, even to a level as low as League Two, are trying to emulate his tactics with varying degrees of success.
Those who denigrate Guardiola are forgetting about the players he has brought through and improved tenfold.
Lionel Messi would not be the global superstar he now is without the knowledge and nous imparted to him by Guardiola. He was a very accomplished player before the Spaniard coached him for the first time and turned him into arguably the greatest player to ever kick a ball.
The likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta would not have lasted so long at the top level if it wasn’t for Guardiola’s insistence on ball retention and how best to play.
Then, for those who say he is a chequebook manager and not a coach, how do you explain the almost unbelievable ascent of Raheem Sterling from a ragged winger to a genuinely world-class operator?
Like Guardiola, Sterling in the past has been a target of those on board ‘the banter bus’. Meme after infantile meme was shared when Sterling dared to stop being a footballer momentarily and become a human being following his admission that he was too tired to join up with England in 2015.
Tough one to take.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 2, 2020
That stuck with fans and every aspect of Sterling’s game that could be criticised certainly was.
Guardiola transformed a struggling individual into a confident goal-getter and someone who City can rely upon to get them out of tough situations.
He has made Sergio Aguero a more well-rounded player after challenging him to improve his game following the arrival of Gabriel Jesus.
And Kevin de Bruyne, who was discarded by Chelsea, became a majestic midfielder who could carve open any defence.
Those who point to Guardiola’s spending record are missing the point – every big club spends vast amounts of money, and in some respects, City are hamstrung by their own wealth. Selling clubs know they have a near-endless supply of cash and can drive a harder bargain in fee negotiations.
Liverpool might have got the bargain of the century when buying Andy Robertson for £8million from Hull but the purchase of Naby Keita, a player who has never been more than bit-part since his arrival for over £50million gets conveniently forgotten.
Barring a miracle, Liverpool are going to win the Premier League this season and City will have to watch on enviously.
But just because Guardiola has lost out this time does not justify questioning how brilliant a coach he has been over the years.
Guardiola is still one of the very best and his time will come again.