Pep Guardiola has been struggling in the Premier League. His City team are currently sitting fifth in the table, and he has been subject to a lot of criticism about his methods in adapting to this league. It seems that Pep himself had bought into the media hype of his joining Manchester City, and the highly anticipated rivalry it would bring to Manchester with his nemesis, Jose Mourinho, managing Manchester United. And yet, his presence has been disappointing.
Looking back, his managerial record is impressive. He won 14 trophies with Barcelona in his four seasons with them, and in his two seasons with Bayern Munich won five trophies. His appointment at Manchester City came with excitement but also a general feeling that this could be where Pep truly had to prove himself. The abundance of talent within both his Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams was the key to his success, with many of those players so skilful that they could have managed themselves. Manchester City, whilst consistently progressive in recent years, is a team who need guidance (as are most Premier League teams).
The Premier League has proven to be a challenge that he did not anticipate. Guardiola’s struggle to find his feet has transformed him from a man oozing confidence to a man riled up by the media and miserable in the dugout. The thrilling 4-0-loss City suffered to Everton this weekend was the largest league defeat in his managerial career – a sad fact. This, along with a string of unconvincing performances, have highlighted the long way Pep has to go until he can build a truly threatening side like he is so used to.
Through his struggle, the Premier League has proven itself to truly be one of the best leagues in Europe, if not the best. It is competitive throughout the season and unpredictable in outcome. It is clear that Pep had not anticipated the consistent pressure that comes with every fixture. Every team within the Premier League should take his shakiness as legitimacy of their relevance.
This league is strong. Supporters of English clubs understand that any fixture can be make or break, win or lose. There are no guarantees here. Of course, there was a sense of unpredictability within the Bundesliga and La Liga, but not even close to the extent of the Premier League. This beloved league has shaken one of the best managers in Europe and seemingly exposed the previous notions that producing greatness came so naturally. There is pride in this fact. Not many people seem to feel sympathy for Pep because it is well known that in this league managers have to be ready and adapt to change otherwise they won’t succeed (or last very long).
Manchester City is still fifth. In this league, every game counts and they can’t be written off just yet. A top four place is still likely and winning the league is possible. But still, Pep’s clear frustration at his team’s presence (or lack of) so far is a sign of strength of the Premier League in general. It seemed that everyone but Guardiola predicted that he would struggle, and he will have to acclimatise fast if he is to establish himself as a threat within English football. He still needs time to build the squad he wants but his predecessor, Pellegrini, seemed to know how to play this squad to the best of their abilities. So what’s Pep’s excuse right now? There is only so long that ‘needing time to adapt’ is a reasonable answer.