It could be argued that there has never been a season since the Premier League’s inception in which a team looked so perfect a candidate to win the quadruple, indisputably the greatest achievement in the league’s history. While many factors are involved, Pep Guardiola has ultimately spearheaded this campaign. With two Champions League wins already under his belt as a manager, is Pep moving into #1 position as a Prem manager?
Essentially, 2021’s Man City might well be the best team we’ve ever seen in the Premier League. Few clubs have ever seemed so comfortable than they have over their last twenty games in all competitions – of which they have won all twenty. A great deal of this success must be attributed to Pep Guardiola.
Until recently, a common criticism of Guardiola has been that he has had his teams were handed to him on a plate. At Barcelona, he achieved significant success with a squad that was lined with world-class talent such as Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. He then picked up an incredibly well-rounded Bayern Munich squad in 2013. Guardiola spent no longer than four years at either club.
It could be said, then, that Guardiola’s first true challenge as a manager is happening presently. After picking up an outstanding City team in 2016, he then had the chance to build a team of his own – the team that we see today. Now a Citizen of five years, Pep has truly stamped his identity on to the team, and beyond that, the club itself. Criticisms of money-spending aside, Guardiola has proven that, given the opportunity, he can transform an already strong side into an utterly dominant one.
With that being said, the money discussion is one that can absolutely not be avoided. It is inarguable that Man City’s success could have never been achieved without abundant spending. Guardiola himself acknowledges this, stating that “[City] have a lot of money to buy a lot of incredible players. Without good quality players, we cannot [succeed].” The reality is, what City are doing now is simply impossible to achieve with a Leicester City or a Spurs. In fact, Liverpool’s current form suggests that even they may be beyond ever reaching this level of dominance.
The reality is, then, that City have been given a very good chance at greatness because of their seemingly endless supply of money. But the money then must be invested properly, and beyond that, a good coach is required to get the best out of the big money players. Guardiola has proven he can do these things – with City boasting a more balanced squad, a more refined tactical approach and a healthier and happier dressing room than any rival in sight.
We have seen City hit hurdles in the Guardiola era – tactics growing stale, players looking out of form, and so on. Right now, it feels as if Pep has addressed these concerns, remedied them, and made them better than they ever were. John Stones, who looked as if his City career was over not too long ago, is playing as good as anyone in his position in the league. İlkay Gündoğan outscores most strikers from midfield after a relatively nondescript start to his career in the UK. Most importantly, Manchester City have gone through tactical metamorphoses – and that is unlikely to change, as they continue to adapt.
So, is Guardiola the greatest manager the Premier League has ever seen? My answer, if it weren’t for the existence of one man, would be ‘certainly’. But Sir Alex Ferguson exists. Ferguson won thirteen league titles, eight domestic cups and two Champions League titles with Manchester United during his illustrious managerial career. The most incredible thing about his tenure in the role was his ability to constantly rebuild and maintain dominance – something that will take Guardiola a while to match.
As of right now, I believe Guardiola has inarguably obtained a podium position in the all-time Premier League managerial rankings – but he still has something to prove. Manchester City’s first Champions League still eludes them, and with their level of quality, time is running out for them to avoid embarrassment. If Pep wins the quadruple this season, or even just the treble, the conversation will change dramatically, and it would no longer be scoffed at if you were to argue that he is the league’s greatest ever gaffer.