All or Nothing: The Pep Guardiola Challenge

By Udeh Okoro Emmanuel

Recording a 1:3 win against Wolves, 2:5 defeat against Leicester City and a draw with Leeds united is not a good way of starting the season if Manchester City will contest for the trophy this season.

Pep Guardiola is facing the biggest challenge of his managerial career. For the first time, the formal Barcelona gaffer faces the possibility of not winning a league for two consecutive
seasons.

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Agreed that the season is still fresh and it’s too early to write any team off. But the lapses in City’s defense line is enough for anyone who knows the team very well to conclude that they are currently a shadow of themselves.

Guardiola is a man of many towering legacies as far as football is concerned and he will always be measured by that standard. When he arrived Manchester City, it didn’t take him long before he declared his mission: “We have neighbours who for 15 or 20 years have always won. I think that my biggest challenge as a manager is to change that.”

It sounded bold and brash but the reality was, of course, that City were already ahead of Manchester United when Guardiola arrived at the club and the series covered the 2017-18 campaign – when City won the Premier League with a record 100 points, 19 in front of second-placed United and in a season mirabilis of almost perfect football.

So Guardiola’s biggest challenge is actually what he is facing right now after the chastening 5-2 Premier League home defeat against Leicester City when for the first time he hinted that there may be a lack of belief among some of the players.

The result means that in their first two league games, City have conceded six goals. In their last title-winning season it took them 14 games to concede as many. Last season it was just five games and this with Guardiola preparing to take his spending on defenders to more than £400million.

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Manchester City are struggling to keep clean sheets despite defensive reinforcements of course players were missing against Leicester and even a club such as City is stretched when it is without Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and so on.

But following on from the disappointing Champions League quarter-final exit against Lyon the finger also has to be pointed at Guardiola and his tactics and, digging deeper, where his own level of motivation lies at present. At this stage there are a couple of intriguing added dimensions.

In his eleven full seasons as a manager, Guardiola has won eight league titles – three times in his first three years at Barcelona, before missing out in his final season, and then three out of three at Bayern Munich.

At City, it is two titles from four seasons.

This fifth season at City means it is the longest he has been at any club and the first time that he has faced the possibility of not winning a league for two consecutive seasons.

Also, although City finished second behind Liverpool, the margin of 18 points is the largest deficit Guardiola has ever had behind the champions.

City is not in this woes alone as a repeat of 2016 season where the under dogs (Leicester city) gave the big boys a run for their money. Title holders Liverpool, title contenders, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal are not looking too good as Everton and Aston Villa are the table toppers at the moment.

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