The transformation in play and the ever-changing mindset are Pep Guardiola’s strengths and he has no reason to please the public or the fans.
Before the day Pep Guardiola and Man City faced Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti in the Champions League semi-finals, people were often reminded of the Catalan coach’s habit of “thinking a lot”. There is an opinion that Pep should stop the habit of “thinking a lot” and make different adjustments before important matches.
The difference between the two coaches
More than nine years have passed since Pep first encountered Carlo Ancelotti as a coach in the Champions League. Guardiola’s Bayern Munich had just won the 2013/14 Bundesliga title, regularly passing more than 1,000 times in a single game, playing seemingly unstoppable football.
In the 18 minutes of the 2013/14 Champions League semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu, Bayern dominated. Then, Ancelotti’s Real Madrid counter-attacked and Fabio Coentrao provided an assist for Karim Benzema to score.
On the flight back to Germany, Pep changed his mind and would let Bayern play a defensive 4-player formation. A 4-2-3-1 formation will free Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. A day later, on Friday, Tito Vilanova, Guardiola’s friend, and former assistant, died. The next day, Bayern beat Werder Bremen 5-2 in the Bundesliga.
During Monday’s training session, the day before the semi-final second leg, Guardiola asked his players how they were feeling: The team said they were excited, confident, and wanted to play offensively. Pep agreed, replacing the prepared 4-2-3-1 with a 4-2-4.
After Bayern lost 0-4 to Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena and were eliminated 0-5 after two legs, Pep described it as the worst match of his coaching career.
Real Madrid play simple-looking football to crush Bayern. The Spanish representative went deep, counterattacked with speed thanks to Angel Di Maria, and won thanks to three goals from fixed situations. Ancelotti, the pragmatist, beat Guardiola, the fierce idealist.
Last year, also in the Champions League semi-finals, Ancelotti did it again. The Italian coach and his simple football philosophy became Pep’s obsession in Europe. Overall, Guardiola won five of his eight meetings with Ancelotti as a coach, but four of them happened when the Italian captain led Everton.
In 28 years as a coach, Ancelotti has won 4 Champions League titles and is the only coach to win the league title in all 5 of Europe’s biggest leagues (Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League, and Bundesliga).
Guardiola has been a coach for 14 years, won 2 Champions League titles and 10 national championships, and at the same time changed world football with the philosophy of controlling the ball and the unique “position-oriented” movement of the players. student.
Pep is the inventor, creating an empire while Ancelotti simply assembles the pieces to conquer. Ancelotti, perhaps, like Sir Alex Ferguson, was a great football manager, but not a radical reshaping football the way Herbert Chapman, Rinus Michels, or Valeriy Lobanovskyi did.
This season is very different
Obviously, theory and initiatives do not guarantee success. Pep is still mocked as a lucky guy at the Champions League playground, criticism so much that the coach once mocked himself in a press conference.
“Ah yes, I am someone who can only win if I lead Messi or Iniesta in the squad,” the Man City captain once said in February 2021.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti is even nicknamed “Carlo the Great”, as a way of proving his success in the Champions League with AC Milan or Real Madrid. But this season is completely different from the previous ones when Man City and Pep have an almost perfect squad. Ancelotti’s Real Madrid is still the same, they have not changed much in personnel and football philosophy.
According to Opta, Man City has the most chance of winning the Champions League this season with 47.11%, while Real Madrid’s chance of winning (17.08%) is even lower than Inter Milan’s (23.54%).
The appearance of Erling Haaland or Julian Alvarez helps Pep solve the scoring process, but most importantly, the tactical adjustments since the beginning of the season of the Catalan coach have always shown effectiveness.
Pep does not use pure full-back, even pushed John Stones to play midfield and create a virtual change. Man City now also knows how to use the long ball with a wall striker like Haaland, or even use the Haaland – Alvarez striker pair, which Pep rarely uses in his coaching career.
The current Man City force allows Pep to make adjustments. The traumatic experiences in the European playground over the past decade are enough for Pep to draw lessons. If Man City play predictable football, they will be good bait for Real. On the contrary, just by playing properly, Real Madrid cannot be the opponent of the English club.