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Guardiola will Beat Everybody!

Predictions 2018

City is rated #1 by sportsbook to win the title.

Pep’s success is obvious; he already multiplied by zero all of the factors that were disturbing his team last year. But just in case we explained how Guardiola works and why in May nobody will remain, but his City.

Their main achievement now is a new record number of wins in a row. 17 times. But this is only one of lots of records that will come this season.

Potential Records on Manchester City

 

Result

Perspective

Record

Scores

55

110

95

Wins

18

36

30

Losses

0

0

0

Goals

60

120

103

Missed goals

12

24

24

Difference

+48

+96

+71

Gap from the second place

13

26

18

 

The only record that seems to remain is missed goals of Chelsea 2005. All the other will be destroyed by Guardiola’s team, even if it will take some time.

Manchester City in EPL 2017/18

                                                                                                             Place

Shots 17.9 1
Shots on target 7.7 1
Accepted shots 6.1 1
Accepted shots on target 2 1
Shots ratio 74.6% 1
Shots on target ratio 79.3% 1
Possession 65.9% 1
Passing accuracy 88.7% 1

 

City strengthen the outstanding results with powerful statistics. Their dominance in some aspects is phenomenal! 65.9% – a record for possession in the history of the Premier League. 5% more of the fallen record, which City set last year. Usually the difference between teams with the best and worst possession is about 20%, so the improvement of the record of 5% is huge.

Now about shots ratio. It expresses the degree of shots dominance. In this case, from all the shots in their matches City succeed in 74.6%. In the history of results no teams of the Premier League has managed to break through a mark of 70%.

Manchester City in EPL 2017/18

                                               Chances                                         Place

Made 69 1
Accepted 16 2
Difference +53 1

 

City has created 69 chances – 21 more than the 2nd Liverpool (and 11 more than last year’s champion had for the whole season). For context: 6 Premier League teams have still not created clear 21 chances. The City’s difference of these moments is +53. If we add up the difference of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea, they will give only +47 in total.

During the past disappointing season Guardiola was saying repeatedly about the quality of the game, as the coach controls it. And the result comes from it. It’s hard to describe an incredible progress in this regard with figures. But let’s try. Let’s compare the sharpness of the created and accepted moments of Chelsea during last year’s 13-game winning series and City in their current series.

Winnings series of Chelsea and Manchester City (xG)

                                           Created                        Accepted                       Difference

Chelsea – 16/17

1.61

0.57

1.04

Manchester City – 17/18

2.91

0.65

2.26

 

Chelsea is absolutely top team in a good time for them. Thus, City two times cooler than the top team. Any series depends on a little luck at the right time, but City depends on it in half less. This reveals not only in distance but also in separate matches. The difference of 0.6 xG is usually enough for a fair victory in the match. The difference of City was more 1xG in 14 matches out of 17. Chelsea – only 7 out of 13.

What has Changed Compared to Last Season

In last November Kevin De Bruyne said that there had been many matches last year in which they would have achieved better result, if had been creating chances more effectively. He adds that this season they are just more cold-blooded, which is the major difference. This year the City have the best realization in the League – 17.6%. Last year’s result of 12.6% was only the 5th in the League. Equally important is the rise from 18th to 9th place in number of shots required for the goal against City.

Taken together, this made an incredible effect that was predicted by Pep at the end of last season who said that while analyzing the matches, he noticed a lot of positive moments, but not in the penalty area, because the opponents scored when they got to it, but they didn’t. Even with last year’s level of play and current cold-blooded game, City would lead in the Premier League. But Guardiola’s team has become even more powerful.

This is a normal process for Pep’s football, who has repeatedly said that as the team learns his style, they achieve more, for example, he considers that the top season of the quality of the game is not the one with 6 trophies, but the last year at Bayern and the last two in Barcelona. If to ignore the anomalies of the realization in the first year in England, City is experiencing the same thing:  clear and gradual evolution.

Contrary to stereotypes, it is the first year when Guardiola is working more on the game without the ball. “Attack is more based on innate talent. Defence is about the work you put into it. Defensive strategy is absolutely essential if I want to attack a lot,” Pep said.

As usually it all started with pressure. “He doesn’t want the onus to just be on the back four to defend but it’s the responsibility of the whole team to get the ball back quickly when we lose it,” explained Gael Clichy during the first pre-season. The same Arjen Robben said about Guardiola’s work at Bayern. He told that the most significant change in their game, compared to last season (under Heynckes), is that they began to put pressure even higher and more often. A constant pressure on the opponent helps to reach the next level.

The team quickly embraced the idea. “People tend to think of Pep as just focusing on attacking, but I say it’s the opposite. He thinks more about defence. I’ve seen footage of Sergio Aguero running back, David Silva pressing, and I’m sure he’s changing that mentality and intensity at City,” – said Xabi Alonso in autumn 2016. De Bruyne said “Sometimes it’s easier to put a few seconds’ pressure than to go for a long sprint. It feels a little less heavy. If you get a lot of ball possession, you can breathe a little bit at some times.”

Already in the first year Guardiola brought the pressure of City on the top level – he was clearly the best in England. The problem was how severely the team was punished for a rare failure of pressure, and a total lack of control. Pep said that in all the clubs he wanted to control the matches. He admits that he has to analyze the situation and understand the reason.

The best in intensity of pressure in Europe (PPDA*):

Manchester City               6.11

Borussia                             6.41

PSG                                     6.72

*PPDA – Passes allowed Per Defensive Action

Changes in Manchester City Game

                                                                             PPDA                                    Possession

City 2016/2017

6.43

60.9%

City 2017/2018

6.11

65.9%

 

The PPDA shows the number of opponent’s passes on the defensive action of the team in the opponent’s half. That is, the intensity of the high pressure.

Pep explained at the end of last season that he has principles in his career. For example, high pressure, which is literally prohibited in England. As the ball is more often in the air than on the ground, he needs to adapt. But the quality of the City’s pressure has been improved, even if only slightly. The key is the huge increase in possession, which solved the problem with matches’ control. The improved control solved the above mentioned Guardiola’s problems.

Three main reasons of City’s progress with the ball:

  1. Natural evolution under Guardiola. It takes time to master positional play. In the second year, after the pre-season aimed at it, with more suitable players (especially defenders) City improved the control.
  2. Ederson. “His distribution is unreal. He’s starting attacks against the opposition’s pressing game. I don’t think I’ve seen a goalkeeper like him in the Premier League era. It won’t be long before he claims an assist this season,” admired Jamie Carragher recently.

As evidence, Carragher remembered matches against Tottenham: last year’s defeat without a chance, and a fresh total failure of Spurs. According to Jamie, the Spurs’s plan on both games was similar and built around high pressure. The difference is that last season the pressure moved the game of City to pass, but this time it is being broken by Ederson and resulted into sharp City’s attacks.

  1. Last season City lacked the psychological strength to hold the ball on the desired by Pep level. After going off the Champions League, Guardiola pointed out: “All managers make mistakes but I don’t think it was down to a tactical mistake. The problem was the first half. We weren’t there. We wanted to show personality, not to let them think, but they could pass and pass the ball. We forgot to do that in the first half. My mistake was being unable to convince them to do that. I did in the second half but it was too late.”

Now this problem is even hard to imagine. “Guardiola has given us the confidence that we can beat everybody “, – explained De Bruyne in the beginning of the season.

How Exactly Man City Play

Guardiola explains his philosophy: “It’s chaos or control. There are players who think more about what the team needs and what is the best solution for the team. This kind of player is an intelligent player who has a vision about what the team needs. He controls. Then there are the ones who cause chaos. The ones who play on instinct and on talent. They are a little outside of the field. They can create absolutely everything and you can’t control that. You cannot limit that.”

The combination of chaos and control is achieved through the concept of Juego de posicion. Before Pep arrived at City, his key principles were explained by Thierry Henry in live Sky Sports. He has illustrated the role of the Barcelona’s players when switching from defense to attack. At this stage they could not move from the plan, but were given the right to improvise in the final third of the pitch. The Frenchman also said that once Pep replaced him at halftime with Sporting for not following these instructions, despite the fact that his wilful action allowed him to score.

It is similar to the recent words of Kevin De Bruyne: “There’s a certain freedom here but a lot of discipline. The more you come up the pitch, the more freedom there is. In the first 60 metres of the pitch, everybody knows exactly what they need to do to help the team go up. Everybody has to be in position or run to make options for the other guys, and that’s why we can play so much from the back.”

In simple words, the principle of Guardiola sometimes is formulated as follows: there should not be situated more than two players on the same vertical line, on the same horizontal – no more than three. As soon as one of the conditions is not met, player changes the position. If this happens, the team, regardless of their own scheme and location of the opponent will almost always have options for advancing the ball. This distribution of players is the minimum, without which the structure breaks down.

According to the optimal scenario, only one player needs to be in the same vertical line, in most horizontal – also only one (sometimes two). It is much harder to achieve this in every episode. For this reason, Guardiola splits the field into 20 zones in trainings. Players need to control the filling of the zones depending on the position of the ball. Ideally, the players do not just fill near to their own position zone at the right moment, but also switch roles with their partners, promptly identifying which area needs to be filled in a specific moment.

When interpreted correctly, such football provides a huge number of options to advance the ball, unpredictability in attack and almost perfect for counter pressing arrangement of the players in case of loss. According to Pep, the creation the correct structure of the positional attack requires a minimum of 15 assists: “I hate tiki-taka. Possession of the ball is only a tool with which to organise yourself and cause disorganisation in your opponent. If there isn’t a sequence of 15 previous passes, a good transition between attack and defence is impossible.”

Pep never goes beyond zone principle, but changes details from match to match. The simplest adaptation is the change in the number of defenders depending on the number of attackers of the opponent. “In our build-up we were too many people behind the ball, we were not in the right positions – we were John Stones, [Aleksandr] Kolarov and Fernando against one player. It makes no sense,” Pep said last season.

De Bruyne explained that the idea is to overcome the pressure of the opponent by low pass from defenders.

This is the ideal system to overcome the pressure. But it also helps players in positional attacks. Another example from Kevin: “It’s freedom but everybody has their position. I know when Kyle [Walker] is going up and Raheem [Sterling] is going inside I have to take care of the winger for the counter. If I am more up then Kyle is going to stay and Raheem is going to be outside. It’s fluidity in the team but knowing what you need to do at the right time. We just have to try and see where the spaces are and then take advantage of it. Every game is going to give us something else.”

Thus, City players always have a sufficient number of options to continue the attack, but at the same time prepared to loss and fast pressure after it. “With this trainer everybody knows where he is, in position, so it makes it a lot easier for me,” Kevin De Bruyne concluded. Counter pressing in this season is no less severe weapon for the City than positional attacks.

The main disadvantage of the system is the complexity. Players first learn the key principles, then improve them, and finally adapt to details changing each game, while not moving away from the basics. It even sounds terribly difficult. Claudio Pizarro said that at first players did not understand what Pep was talking about. Alonso told the following “Pep and his team basically put me through a fasttrack Master’s degree in football.” Domenec Torrent, one of the Pep’s coaches, compares the process to learning a new language: “We’re showing them the number first, then the days of the week, then verbs. ”

Torrent also gave a certain example of working at Bayern. He said that players have never worked under such a system. They did not know the principles of positional football. For Pep and Barca it is a natural thing, while in Germany many believed that it was just keeping the ball. For example, Pep believes rondo is a very general exercise, which speeds up decision-making and game understanding. But only after a few months players started to understand that rondo is an exercise not to hold the ball, but to understand the game.

Rondo has become the key exercise in trainings of Manchester City. “We always play ‘boxes’. It’s strange to see a manager be so busy with boxes. I mean 5 v 2 or 6 v 2. For him, that’s like being the master of football. If you can do that well you can play well in a game because it’s small-based,” De Bruyne shared his impression.

In another interview of Kevin De Bruyne (Pep definitely needs to talk to him, so that the guy does not leak all the information) went into details:

– no Guardiola’s training starts without rondo;

– other coaches in Kevin’s career didn’t take this exercise seriously;

– players in the boxes are determined randomly;

– Pep is just happy when players in the box perform about 60 passes in a row.

Crazy game progress of City is directly related to the progress in understanding of the principles of positional football. But, speaking recently about the huge scope for growth, Guardiola did not dodge. Pep gave the example of the Derby with Manchester United. MU were playing with 3 defenders before the game against City, but went into the match with 4. City’s players do not adapt themselves; only with the help of a coach at half-time. But this is the next stage. However, it is possible. Xavi said that some ideas had come to his mind just before he heard them from Pep.

How Guardiola Makes the City Even More Invulnerable

 Last spring Guardiola admitted that he is getting older and is no longer watching 6 matches of each opponent in search of weaknesses (once he worked so hard even for friendly games). But “law of 32 minutes” are still there. So, a close friend and assistant of Pep Manel Estiarte called this maniacal dependence from football: “You invite him for a meal in a restaurant, hoping that he’ll forget about football, but 32 minutes later you can see his mind is already wandering. He starts staring at the ceiling and, although he’s nodding as if he’s listening to you, he’s not looking at you. In actual fact he’s probably thinking about the opposition left-back, the marking scheme for the midfielder, how much the wingers can support the inside-forwards.”

Pep’s obsessive approach reveals when preparing for opponents or during games. “Pep leaves nothing to chance. In every situation, he knows exactly what to bring to the players, especially with regard to tactical directions. I directly feel that 99% of preparedness is not enough for him – he wants 100% and full confidence that his ideas are ideal for a particular match and opponent. Not every player is able to immediately understand these ideas, but they can perfectly work,” Leroy Sane described the manner of the manager of City.

“He’s football crazy, in a positive sense. He’s fan, expert and coach all rolled into one. He studies every opponent minutely, and he shows us solutions: where are the spaces, where are the opportunities, how should we play. The manager will, for example, tell the striker to make different runs or position the central midfielders slightly differently in relation to each other. I believe we are now even more flexible, have even more control and are harder to figure out,” Philipp Lahm admired the coach.

De Bruyne says that never before he has had a coach who in great detail was preparing for each episode and aspect of the match and explained in a simple way all to players.

If you look carefully, there is a tactical trick in every match of City. Craig Bellamy during live Sky Sports said that every match is Guardiola’s lesson of football tactics. Pep is so crazy that he is ready to adapt tactics to the opponent within 90 seconds after the start of the match. So it was in last year’s match with Chelsea.

Guardiola noticed a discrepancy in the game of Chelsea with what City was prepared, called John Sconza and explained to him what they need to change in the early attacks. “After 90 seconds you realise that what you thought about the game, your opponents or you, it’s happened or not happened. Immediately you can know that. I saw the opponents and maybe after 90 seconds they do something different from what we thought and I have to communicate to one player and they change a little bit. I would like to have timeouts after 30 minutes and more substitutes. In that case with John Stones it was about our buildup. I realised immediately they wanted to avoid us playing inside, leaving us to go outside. Maybe 90 seconds is an exaggeration but after 10-15 minutes you know exactly what the opponent want to do and what you have to do and if the plan you prepared is going to work,” remembered Pep.

This quality of Guardiola helps City when they have problems in matches. For example, against the Huddersfield. The opponent was really strong, but it underestimated the creative qualities of Nicolas Otamendi, allowing him to move freely. Guardiola noticed this and moved on to the scheme 1-2-4-3, where Otamendi was always in line with Fernandinho, where he could use his freedom.

In the match against West Ham Pep fielded the second attacker at half-time and moved De Bruyne in midfield. City played under a flexible scheme. Formally, 4-2-4, something similar to 3-3-1-3 with Delfa in the role of a central defender, Sane and Walker on the flanks approximately on one line (Kevin De Bruyne is here as well), and others in the flexible attack. This was done to overload the top 5 defenders of West Ham. It worked! The decisive goal was born exactly from such overload – De Bruyne gave the scoring pass from inside.

This flexibility and accuracy of the coach not only helps players tactically, but gives them additionally a sense of invincibility. Last season Gundogan said about it: “Against Barcelona he changed the formation after half an hour from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-4-2. He gave us a totally different feeling and we suddenly had the game under control. It’s unique the way he does that, but players from Bayern and Barcelona had already said that about him.”

Why Pep’s Success is So Important

Juanma Lillo, Guardiola’s mentor and one of the most underrated coaches of our time, once said that everybody value what is well finished, but not well done. He named it a sign of a weak society.

Guardiola returns the faith in modern world.

It seems that Pep had an easy way – to be deceived with the results and abandon the style. Over 8 seasons available for statistics, the Premier League has never been won by the team with the biggest possession. In England, it seemed, this just won’t work. In 2011 Andre Villas-Boas explained that Barcelona’s 4-3-3 wouldn’t stand a chance in the EPL because of too high risks when they lose the ball.

Initially, the theory was supported by the results. Pep was losing, often due to errors in attacks creation. But Guardiola was wise enough to look beyond the results and strong enough to handle the media pressure. The quality in Pep’s games is always more important than results. Foolish theories were never correct. City has always been fine. And now the person who appreciates what is done well and not well finished achieves the most outstanding results in the history of the Premier League in the most unique style. An example for each of us!

“People said we couldn’t play the way we did in Barcelona in England but it is possible and we did it. I knew that last season. Always I believed we could do it,” said Pep after the victory in the Derby.

That’s  Pep. The quality of the game is more important than the result. Process, not outcome. In his opinion the winning titles are great, but they are not the aim of football. It is really important that the player could one day say: “Coach, you made me better. I learned a lot from you.” Guardiola is still faithful to this principle; the success is only the consequence.

City haven’t won anything yet, but the main victory Guardiola had already got. Players constantly tell him that. “I feel like I’m developing as a player and a person under him Guardiola,” said Stones. “It was a massive learning curve for me,” Sterling. “Guardiola changed my whole play,” Sane. Even Vincent Kompany noticed this trait of Pep: “He’s a great teacher. I’ve got to be honest, it has made me realise how important it is for managers to be actual teachers, no matter what level the footballer is at.”

Pep has taught not only the players, but all of us. He reminded of the forgotten truth that the process is more important than the result. Only in this way things are really worth doing. A year ago, the Spaniard was asked why he didn’t play more pragmatic. A contempt flashed in Pep’s eyes, he already explained a million times that he believes his style is pragmatic, as with the right selection of players he maximizes the chances of success and minimizes the influence of random factors. Instead of having to repeat this monologue, Pep just sighed and said: “I deserve to be happy.”

At the conclusion of the first season of Pep in Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung summarized his style: “It’s a football that the Bundesliga has never experienced in 50 years; so delicate and precise, so playful and determined, so sophisticated and improved, so inspiring and exciting. No one has come this close to art with football in this land as Pep Guardiola.” It had to wait a year and a half in England, but Pep is happy again and makes others happy.

 

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