Pep’s Number One Priority
What is the common denominator evident with all of Guardiola’s sides ?
Pep Guardiola will take over the reins at Manchester City next season, where he will try to build on his impressive managerial CV. The Bayern Munich boss has enjoyed unparalleled success. He kicked of his first-team management career at Barcelona, winning three straight La Liga titles before finally succumbing to José Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the 2011/12 season. He took a well earned sabbatical before moving to Germany and should have his third straight Bundesliga crown in the bag when he hands over the keys to his office at the end of the season.
His performance as a manager in Europe’s premier competition is equally as impressive as well. If Bayern Munich squeeze past Benfica it will mean that Guardiola has made it to the semi-final stage in each of the seven seasons he has coached a team in the Champions League. He may yet add to the two titles he achieved with Barcelona if the Reds can go all the way this season.
Guardiola likes his sides to dominate possession, often initiating a high press to win the ball back as quickly as possible. Once they have control of the ball, they like to impose their short passing tiki taka style of play, which is usually dictated by one central figure.
Xavi was the key man at the Camp Nou, setting the tempo for the whole team. He averaged 110 passes per game in the 2010/11 season and was comfortably La Liga’s top passer while Guardiola was in charge of the Catalans. Xabi Alonso has taken over that mantle at the Allianz Arena, with Thiago Alcântara being groomed as a worthy successor.
Manchester City lack a creative player of this mold, so it’s not surprising to see transfer news linking the Citizens with the cream of European football’s playmakers – notably the aformentioned Thiago and Marco Verratti of PSG.
The Italian international is arguably the best midfielder in world football, but he will take some prising away from Paris, while moving to Manchester is another matter entirely.
There aren’t too many other midfielders across Europe’s top 5 leagues that fit the bill. Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny recently smashed through the 100 passes per game barrier, in the 4-0 home win over Watford, while Napoli’s Jorginho boasts the best passing stats in Serie A. Nobody is pulling up sticks in La Liga, so Guardiola would have to unearth another gem if he decides to raid Spain.
That leaves the German Bundesliga and one candidate has emerged as the favourite to follow Pep to the Etihaad – Borussia Dortmund’s İlkay Gündoğan. But how does he stack up against City’s current crop of midfielders?
Well, as can be seen from the Oulala infographic above he’s outperforming them in a number of key areas – passes, interceptions and take-ons. This augurs well for fantasy managers who partake in game formats where such attributes are rewarded. However, it should be noted that Ilkay has only chipped in with one goal and three assists in the Bundesliga this season. He’s quite effective shooting from long range but wrestling set-piece duties away from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne will not be easy.
Whatever happens, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City project is sure to make for compelling viewing and all eyes will be on his number one transfer target!