What can Manchester City expect from Pep Guardiola?
Pep Guardiola has recently been announced as the next manager of Manchester City, in a strange stroke of deadline day fate where the largest piece of breaking news was as out of the blue as a ‘can he do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke’ cliché.
For the next five months every move that City players make will be scrutinised as to their future. What, though, can be expected from the City of Guardiola in terms of playing style?
Possession will be the obvious stat that people will look at. Over his stint at Bayern Munich and his final three seasons at Barcelona (data is only adequately available from the 2009-10 season onwards) the lowest year-long average percentage of possession one of his teams had was 63.8%, the overall average close to 66%.
Part of this may be due to the two clubs’ strength in their respective leagues, a comparative strength that Manchester City don’t enjoy. At Bayern Munich, they had an average share of possession of 59.7% over the three seasons prior to Pep’s arrival. The increase in possession has come predominantly from an astounding rise in the number of short passes per game, from 471.4 passes per match in Jupp Heynckes final season to 582.2 per match in the following, Guardiola’s first. They are up to 612.4 per match this season.
Pep’s Munich also attempt notably fewer crosses per game than Bayern did in the previous three years, 17.6 on average across the Guardiola reign as opposed to 24.4 in the last 3 seasons (two led by Heynckes and one by Guardiola’s probably soon-to-be local rival, Louis van Gaal). Manchester City under Pellegrini have made an average of 22.9 per game, so perhaps we can expect this will come down from this coming August, along with a more generally shorter passing game.
Barcelona post-Pep seem to have continued the style that they had enjoyed under Guardiola, the statistical differences mentioned above not present following his departure from Catalonia.
In his final 3 seasons at Barcelona Pep’s teams conceded 7.73 shots per game, in the four seasons since the number has been 9.05. In the 3 seasons preceding his arrival at Bayern the average was 9.33, under Pep it’s been 7.7. It isn’t huge, but it is a consistent difference (for the record, the number at City for Pellegrini has been 9.53).
What is different, despite this consistency, is the way in which this seems to have been achieved. At Barcelona, the number of team tackles and interceptions per game was remarkably similar under Guardiola whereas in the following seasons the number of tackles has stayed at similar levels but the number of interceptions has dropped to an average of 14.3.
At Bayern however, the profile of the defensive actions is different, dropping from the number of team actions that the previous sides made. Interestingly, it has been moving slowly towards the balance seen at Barcelona and has shifted each year – perhaps the attacking style is easier to put into place than the defensive system wanted or required.
It seems, from what you can say from a few basic statistics, that Guardiola will probably look to impose a shorter passing game in possession at City, while remaining flexible but effective in his defensive outlook off the ball.
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