Football management initially came very easily to Pep Guardiola, a treble winner in his first year with Barcelona the former midfielder converted the Blaugrana into one of the most devastating and eye-catching sides in football history one capable of winning 14 major trophies in four years including two Champions Leagues and 72 percent of matches under his stewardship
after a year-long sabbatical, he landed in Bavaria as he took the helm of another juggernaut in Bayern Munich where three league titles and two doubles followed in his three years in charge his size tallies of 90 and 88 points in his first and third years has only been topped by Europa’s treble winners in the club’s 120-year history having signed a pre-contract arrangement with Man City in February 2016 finally arriving at a club that had built their entire sporting structure around him Guardiola set about redefining English football
after a disappointing opening campaign, his City side broke the record for most points most goals best goal difference, and most consecutive victories alongside numerous others in 2017-18. after backing this up with a further 98-point campaign in 2018-19 the second-largest in Premier League history and three more than any team had achieved prior to his arrival pep standing as the best manager in the world was firmly secured, but since the start of 2019-20 his halo has certainly slipped the sky blues have only won 30 of their last 47 Premier League games with a 64 win percentage in that time 7 percent lower than his city average for context that is 15 less than Jurgen Klopp’s in the same period
factor in FA cup semi-final defeat to his former prodigy Mikel Arteta and a humiliating Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon and it’s clear that Man City aren’t what they once were, this begs the question does Guardiola deserve more scrutiny?
it’s fair to say that Guardiola has always had very talented attacking players from Messi, Sanchez, and via to Lewandowski Ribéry and Robben and more recently Aguero, Sterling, and Sane. Pep has always been blessed with world-class forwards but the unique and arguably most successful element of Pep style of play namely possession heavy football dominated by short sharp passing and intense pressing when they lose the ball was the high volume of shots they created
whilst Real Madrid spearheaded by their shot monster Cristiano Ronaldo might have averaged 3.6 more per game than Barca across his time in Spain his Bayern side comfortably outshot Borussia Dortmund across his three years in Germany, and despite the doubters arguing pets football wouldn’t work in the more physical Premier League Man City have still dominated going forward with an average of 18 shots per game across the last four completed campaigns four more than Liverpool across the same period.
but this season it’s been a different story despite averaging 16 possession the best in the Premier League Man City shots per game have fallen to just 16. they’re lower since 2010-11 under Roberto Mancini considering the fact they spent over 1.3 billion pounds on players since then and only face one of last season’s top fall to date this simply isn’t good enough
and it’s not like their attack currently averaging 1.6 expected goals per game 0.2 less than Aston Villa has been much better in the Champions League they may have scored 10 goals in four games to date but are only averaging 14.8 shots per game seventh in the competition and 1.4 fewer than they manage last campaign to put it simply it’s a lack of penetration despite spending 33 percent of the time in the opposition third second in the Premier League their winger’s tendency to drift inside has meant 29 percent of their attacks have been central
second in the division to Burnley where it is much easier to defend with a simple low block tired of passing it around the opposition and without the cutting edge thus far to find the deadly final pass Guardiola’s side has resorted to shooting from distance the complete antithesis of his football just six percent of their efforts are coming from inside the six-yard box level with Sheffield United well only six sides take more than their 40 of efforts from outside the area a rise of five percent on their previous title win
while some will rightly point out that pep has had to go into five games this season without either Aguero or Gabriel Jesus available there is without doubt being a startling lack of creativity too, David silva’s 2.4 key passes per 90 has been replaced by Torres 1.1 and Foden’s 0.8 while Bernardo Silva’s positional change has seen his collapse to just 0.2 per 90. 17th in the side and lower than ake Laporte and Garcia even the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne provider of 25 assists in his last 43 Premier League games and last year’s PFA player of the year has been affected. with his expected assist per 90 falling to 0.43 6th in the Premier League and 30th in Europe at the time of writing
but Man City’s shortcomings in attack would be understandable if with their injuries in mind they had shored up defensively but they haven’t.
even in pep’s record-breaking 2017-18 campaign Man City weren’t impenetrable with their 27 goals conceded just two fewer than their Italian under Mancini in 2011-12. that season they had some pretty ropey defensive performances not least against Man United at home and Liverpool in the league and Champions League and whilst the Liverpool defeats were fairly even games in which they conceded a glut of goals in short periods they certainly weren’t outplayed against man united having 65 percent of the ball creating 20 chances with Mourinho’s side scoring three from their four shots on target sounds familiar!
but this year it’s been a different story, in their nine league games to date they have conceded 11 league goals fourth in the Premier League whilst only keeping three clean sheets against Arsenal, Sheffield United, and Burnley that might not sound too bad but the last time they conceded more at this stage of the season was 2009. in his two title-winning campaigns of 17/18 and 18/19 the citizens had conceded four and three goals respectively by this point in the season, there are multiple reasons for this first and most notably Man City are just not working as hard without the ball whilst they completed the fewest pressures in the Premier League in 17/18 mainly due to the fact they saw 66 of the ball when they did decide to pressure an opponent they were successful 33 of the time the best in the division
fast forward to this year not only as their pressure success rate fell to 32 the fourth-best record but just 31 of them come in the final third compared to 35 percent of Liverpool’s. in short where once Man City’s pressing made them the most uncomfortable side to face in the Premier League it’s now far easier to play against them a big part of that comes down to personnel with Fernandinho aging and having missed 15 games with injury across the 2018-19 campaign five times more than across the four previous seasons combined the citizens made the intelligent decision to pay a club record 62 million pounds to sign Atletico Madrid’s Rodri in the summer of 2019.
it’s fair to say it hasn’t been easy for him despite missing just three league games since his arrival the 24-year-old has struggled to fill Fernandinho’s enormous shoes the now 35 years old averaged 2.2 tackles per 90 across 17/18 and 1819 with a 75 completion rate in the latter Rodri meanwhile averages just 1.4 per 90 this term sixth in the squad with a very average 54 success rate
this means that while his Brazilian counterpart was dribbled past just 0.7 times per 90 in 1819 Rodri is chasing back 1.2 times per 90. not only that but the 17 cap Spaniard is also far less expansive with its passing in 2018-19 Fernandinho completed 10 passes into the final third and 8.2 progressive passes per 90. Rodri this campaign meanwhile is only able to complete 8.8 passes into the final third just 0.7 more than Kyle Walker and 5.1 progressive passes 62 percent of Fernandinho’s total.
the blame shouldn’t just rest on Rodri though with Gündoğan averaging 1.8 tackles inceptions per 90 dying from 2.6 last term and Bernardo Silva pep’s second most used central midfielder completing just 18 passes into the final third 11th in the City squad city’s midfield troubles have left a defense which features a brand new center-back and Ruben Diaz and João Cancelo playing out of position at left-back exposed all too often any side that lost players at the caliber of Vincent Kompany, David Silva, and Leroy Sané not to mention Yaya Touré in the space of two seasons was always going to struggle
factoring that club stalwart Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history are both winding down and its clear Man City are aside in transition but could that transition have been managed more intelligently in the market undoubtedly, Aguero has missed 48 games with injury since the start of 2017-18 and ranked 14th for minutes last term below Benjamin Mendy his understudy Gabriel Jesus has already broken his foot and sat out two months with a knee injury prior to this season and has followed that up with nine games on the sidelines this term after signing just one out and out number nine Gabriel Jesus in the last 11 windows Man City have stayed loyal to Aguero
and with good reason after all he’s averaged 28 goals per season across the last nine years but with strikers at the caliber of Erling Haaland, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, and João Félix all moving between clubs in the last 18 months Man City haven’t been short of opportunities to strengthen their roster and it’s not like the hierarchy can be blamed for their recent downturn despite the pressure put on the club due to their recent financial fair play investigation the citizens have still shelled out a net 180 million pounds since the start of 2019-20
compared to Liverpool’s 4.8 million pound net in the same period, in fact, even Chelsea spent close to a quarter of a billion pounds this summer have a net spend of just 71.5 million pounds over the last three windows, 109 million pounds less than Man City even when factoring in that 32 million pounds of that was spent on players for their academy including 18-year-old Pablo Moreno and Yan Couto that is still an enormous amount of money for their return of one Carabao Cup in that time and some of their planning has been muddled after signing Nathan Aké and Ferran Torres immediately after the window opened city waited until the 29th of September to bring in Ruben Diaz
by which stage they had already been beaten 5-2 at home by Leicester City, and their decision to loaner Angeliño has backfired spectacularly with Benjamin Mendy in and out of form Pep had to watch from afar as Angeliño has contributed six goals and two assists in 13 leagues in Champions League games for RB Leipzig
and things are only likely to get worse by July next year Fernandinho, Aguero Walker Gündoğan, De Bruyne, and Mahrez will all be over the age of 30. keeping even more pressure on Guardiola to win his first Champions League in 10 years next May or face the prospect of even more questions about his ability.