Some time ago, during a talk with Jorge Valdano , the Argentine defined Pep Guardiolaas a "fanatic of an idea." He was referring to a non-negotiable gambling idea. That was how he was perceived during his time at Barcelona, where he closed the perfect circle. Of those two Champions won on the Barça bench a decade ago (2009 and 2011), submitted in their subsequent attempts, among others, by the three great Spaniards, Real Madrid, Atlético and Barcelona. Lisbon offers him a new opportunity, in command of Manchester City, after breaking that trend in the second round against Zidane's team. This Saturday, the Olympique de Lyon awaits you. The question is whether we are facing the same fanatic. The answer is yes, but a football fanatic and enriched by the experience acquired in the Bundesliga and the Premier.
Although under the influence of his soccer father, Johan Cruyff , both because of the game and because of his personality, Guardiola's maturity led him, still during his time as a player, to take an interest in other schools, such as the defensive work of the Italians. His choice of Brescia when he left Barça, or even Capello's Roma, was not unrelated to this. He felt that there were aspects of football that he did not master.
Personally, it is a sponge, a virtue but also a problem, because the overinformation leads to indecipherable mazes for those who have to interpret the game. The experience at Bayern, the first after leaving the Camp Nou, allowed him to carry out an adaptation exercise without losing his principles, but incomparable to the one he had to do in the Premier, in whose games many unpredictable things happen. According to Unai Emery , City's Pep is "50% of his principles and 50% of his circumstances." The sequence between possession, initiative in the game and attack is non-negotiable, but not the mechanisms to achieve it, without the anathemas of another time. The two games with Real Madrid, on the way to Lisbon, have left good samples of the alchemy of a more Darwinian coach.
In the first clash, at the Bernabéu, Guardiola used a false double nine at the start, with De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva . Gabriel Jesús and Mahrez accompanied them to form a line of four in the high pressure of City. On the return leg, the Belgian was placed in the three quarters as the attacking launcher, while ahead formed Foden , Gabriel Jesús and Sterling . In neither of the two, due to a technical decision in one and injury in another, did Agüero , City's hammer , play .
The change of positions is really another of the characteristics of a coach who wants to be an interventionist on the game, to mark with his decisions what has to happen, not a simple aligner who leaves the attack totally to the footballer. Already at Barça he took Messi from the band to the false nine or Mascherano from the medullary to the axis of the area, something he also did with Kimmich at Bayern and that Cruyff himself had done with him precisely in the old Bavarian stadium. The experiments did not stop there, with Lahm moving to midfielder, although for Guardiola it is easier for a footballer to delay his position than the opposite.
In the two games against Madrid we observed something almost forbidden in his Barça stage, the long shots of goalkeeper Ederson . Up to nine times the ball was taken out in this way by City at the Bernabéu. Rather than benefit the English team, the action sought to counteract one of Madrid's powers, by preventing Sergio Ramos and Varane from advancing . This forced them to stay in the area and made the opponent longer and, therefore, more vulnerable, with more space between the lines.
Although among its maxims has always been that of having wingers with which to open the field, at the Etihad we saw a City that played whenever it could from the inside, where it accumulated very precise footballers, while laterals like Cancelo progressed on the bands, with a growing role in the team. For a reason, it is one of the positions where he has made the most acquisitions, from Angeliño to Cancelo himself , Walker, Benjamin Mendy or Danilo , on loan to Juventus. Olympique de Lyon has little to do with Madrid, so we have to wait for an ad hoc City, although always with the will to dominate. With Guardiola that is not negotiated.
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