Leicester City’s historic title win was savoured by many but there isn’t much time for lingering emotion in football. The prospect of Pep Guardiola in England is one many a neutral is looking forward to. Tiago Estêvão poses the question of what effect the famed Spaniard can have on the Three Lions.
Ever since Guardiola’s agreement with Manchester City was announced, everyone has been speculating about whom will the Spaniard bring in and who will he let go off to revolutionize the team. Just like everyone else, I also enjoy speculating and I too am wondering about his title winning chances in England, for example. But Pep’s influence goes way beyond club level football: wherever he establishes himself as a coach, he brings an entirely new perspective and philosophy to the sport in the country.
Let’s go on a bit of a journey through the years, in Pep’s career. The Catalonian got in charge of Barça for the 2008/09 season and he changed a lot of things around the club – sold some of the stars, promoted some youngsters and built a team with its foundation on Spanish talent. Seven trophies later (including a Champions League title and two La Liga ones), the 2010 World Cup in South Africa came along. As everyone is well aware, Spain won the tournament despite a lot of changes in the squad that had one the Euros just two years prior.
These changes came not just from the managerial swap from Aragones to Del Bosque, but also through the rise of the Catalonian giants under Guardiola. The final’s starting eleven for the Spaniards had the Barça backbone and, consequently, Barcelona’s style of play in it. Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Piqué were all in the side, with the latter two only being “Culés” upon the arrival of Pep to the club. Without trying to undermine the work of Del Bosque, the new City manager’s influence was undeniable.
Fast forward a couple of seasons and we saw the coach moving to Munich. The Spanish coach had a terrific time with the Bavarian giants and, while one could argue that not winning the Champions League could be big dent in the project, he won every other possible trophy with the club. And only after being in charge for one silverware packed season, the Brazilian World Cup came along and the German national team took most of his stars with it. Lahm, Boateng, Neuer, Schweinsteiger, Muller and Kroos (who left FCB that summer) were all starters in the final against Argentina, and Mario Gotze came from the bench to score the match winning goal. But the connections, once again, don’t end in the players – the style of play of the World Cup winners had deep connections to the one Bayern played that year. Germany ended their campaign as the team with most passes (4157) and an astounding 82% completion rate, very un-German of them. Conclusion: Guardiola has massive influence wherever he coaches so…with the Catalonian jumping ship to Manchester, how can he affect English national football?
Well, if we look at City’s squad we can find a clear difference from the one that Barça or Bayern had pre-Pep, the sky-blues don’t have many Englishmen in their main ranks. With that said, I expect the new boss to buy a couple of talented British players in the midst of the revolution he’s set to make in the summer. Not only that but also promote a couple of the talents who are graduating from the club academy. Looking at the squad at the moment, we can highlight only a couple of English players. Hart and Delph are the first of them. While, the talented goalkeeper will definitely keep his place, there are more questions around the midfielder’s future at the club. Brought in last year from Villa, the center mid didn’t break through this season but I also do not see him leaving just yet. Expect both Toure and one the Brazilian midfielders to leave in the next few months and, despite the chance of Thiago coming in, Delph will most likely stay as a utility player. Another one I want to shine a bit more of light on is Raheem Sterling.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys watching footballers develop and improving their craft, I’ve got extremely high hopes for Raheem. Despite the good start, Sterling ended up having an average season for his talent and quality, to the point of many not even seeing him as a Euro starter. He was often unfit and, much like his team, was too inconsistent in the latter stages. My feeling is that next season might just be his – I can see him develop under Pep similarly to the way Douglas Costa did, becoming one of the club’s creative wall breakers. The 21 year-old Golden Boy winner has the talent to become world class under Guardiola and will hopefully add the necessary work ethic to do so. The English national team needs at least one stand out star, one player that represents the country’s football talent, goals, skills, brilliance – considered by many as a “Golden Generation”, this generation has several individuals who can carry the team on their backs in dire situations and can be those stand out stars. No matter how the performance in the Euro ends up being, players such as Alli, Kane, Dier and Barkley will keep on developing after the tournament. The Man City winger will keep on doing so as well and I’m predicting him to “explode” under Guardiola, becoming “the” player for England.
Other than that, it doesn’t seem like the manager will be able to affect the Three Lions that much, even less so if we have in account that most – if not all – players that will arrive in the summer will be foreign. Not all hope is lost though, since City’s youth system is full of diamonds in the rough ready to be worked on by the Spaniard. Whether it will be Brandon Barker, Buckley-Ricketts, Nmecha, Marcus Wood or Charlie Oliver, I’m sure we’ll see some talented Englishmen breaking through in the next couple of seasons. Not to mention the incredibly talented Patrick Roberts – on loan to Celtic until the end of the 2016/17 season, the winger who was bought to Fulham has done his part to contribute to another Scottish title for Deila’s men. When the youngster comes back, I fully expect him to be in Guardiola’s plans – especially after already being in charge for a full season, the environment for talented youngsters to thrive might be even more beneficial.
Do you think City’s new manager can make an impact in the English National Team? City’s lack of national players will be detrimental but will that make it impossible? If he had to pull from a selection of Englishmen, which player do you think would be the perfect fit for the Citizens and – what will most likely be – their new style of play? Personally, I’d love to see James Ward-Prowse play under Pep – considering the tremendous amount of potential in the Saints youngster. The excitement to see Guardiola in the top British flight is building up and, no matter who he brings in, it will be extremely interesting to follow.
Written by Tiago Estêvão