Bayern manager Pep Guardiola

Getty Images

We’ve expected it for weeks and now we’re about to live in a world where Pep Guardiola is leading a Premier League club. His choice of Manchester City over their crosstown rival United, Chelsea, and anybody else who had a dream of luring the football mastermind will no doubt send ripples throughout the EPL. There are countless questions to be answered before and after Pep takes the reins at City in June. Here’s a few of the most fascinating storylines as we witness the English chapter of Pep’s European Conquest.

Can Pep possibly match his astounding record of success in Spain and Germany?

At age 45, Pep’s title count is already totally ridiculous. When you’ve lifted five league trophies in six seasons (soon to be six in seven) in two different countries, you’re a legend, regardless of the talent on your team. When you’re one of 19 managers in history to win multiple European Cups (renamed the Champions League in 1992), you’re a legend, especially when you joined that list after just your third season as a manager. All of this doesn’t even take into account his two Copa del Rey titles and DFB-Pokal trophy, including whatever he wins in his final few months as the Bayern skipper.

However, everyone knows the Premier League is a different animal. Right now, the teams at the top aren’t as strong as Barca, Real, and Bayern, but the influx of money has typically middling English clubs closing the gap with the traditional powers. Without a truly dominant team this year, upsets have been common, and not just your “Tottenham over City” variety. Leicester (who still lead the Premier League!) and West Ham have excellent chances to play in Europe next fall.

This type of parity doesn’t really exist in La Liga or Bundesliga. Of course, Guardiola played more than a small part in that over the last seven or so years, but certainly the pressure will be on at City if he doesn’t succeed right away, since he did so quickly in Barcelona and Munich.

What will Man City’s playing style look like next season?

It’s no secret that Pep loves possession. His whole career has been built on it. While City doesn’t have quite the talent level of Bayern, there are players that Guardiola should absolutely love managing. David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne come immediately to mind. Their technical and athletic proficiencies will play wonderfully into what Guardiola wants to do. Still, he will want to install his own personnel choices as he sees fit.

It’s also no secret that Man City practically has a bottomless pit of money to throw around. Everyone and their neighbor will be trying to predict Pep’s first few signings (Pogba, John Stones, Ross Barkley, etc.), but the roster he inherits will decide much of who they bring in. Yaya Toure is expected to leave. Will Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony fit in? What about City’s aging defenders, like Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna?

As for City’s future formation and tactical choices, we often think of Pep as a single-minded genius devoted entirely to his “system” (like a more successful Chip Kelly), but at Bayern he did make necessary changes to suit the players already there. It seems reasonable that he will do the same in Manchester, while simultaneously maintaining his trademark possession-heavy style.

Who does Man United hire now?

Coming up short in the Pep Sweepstakes means the pressure is really on at United to find the right managerial answer. We’ve now seen David Moyes and (barring a remarkable turnaround) Louis van Gaal fail at returning United to their former glory. With City poised to continue asserting their dominance over their rival, these are crucial times at Old Trafford.

The Guardian outlines United’s two apparent options. Jose Mourinho is the pragmatic selection. If United agreed to a deal with the Special One, it would almost certainly be short-term. However, Mourinho obviously has the fortitude to clash with Guardiola. After all, Mourinho is the only man to deny him a first-place league finish, when Real Madrid won La Liga in 2011-12. Can you even imagine the drama of Pep vs. Mou, Premier League Edition?

The other option is the idealistic one. Promoting Ryan Giggs or giving the reins to Gary Neville (currently in the midst of a mediocre campaign with Valencia in his first season as a manager) would be undoubtedly risky. Both are untested and, like I said, this is a crucial time for United. However, if a former United star were to guide them back to the top, it would be all too perfect.

No matter who they go with, Premier League fans are supremely lucky to have managers with such outsized personalities running the top clubs. It’s possible that by the start of next season we could see Guardiola, Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, and Arsene Wenger all managing in the same league. The entertainment value would be off the charts.

Can Pep return the EPL to Champions League glory?

As we know, Premier League teams haven’t exactly set the Champions League on fire the past few years. In two of the last three seasons, zero EPL clubs have even reached the quarterfinals. Besides Chelsea, no other team has made it to the semifinals since 2011. If this keeps up, the league could see their number of UCL spots slip from four to three.

Pep might just change all that. While the one dent in his Bayern resume has been his inability to get into the Champions League final (although that claim could be wiped away in the coming months), he’s at least appeared in the UCL semis all six seasons as a coach.

Interestingly, the one knock on City’s success since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in 2008 has been their Champions League struggles. Even though they have the great Guardiola now doesn’t mean Real, Barca, and a Carlo Ancelotti-led Bayern are suddenly chopped liver, but if they were looking for the man to lead them on deep European runs, I think they’ve found him.


Tags: , , , , , ,