Feature

How relentless Guardiola has inspired City to four straight titles

By Adrian Kajumba 19 May 2024
Guardiola

Adrian Kajumba looks at the Man City manager's HISTORIC achievement

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Adrian Kajumba analyses Pep Guardiola's legacy as the Manchester City manager wins a historic fourth Premier League title, and his sixth overall.

As Man City stood on the brink of history against West Ham United, Guardiola provided some pre-match insight into secrets of their sustained success.

“It is the mentality,” he said. “There is something in the club.” 

Everyone has it, he insisted: “All the people are driving the club.”

The doctors, physios, sporting directors, CEO, chairman, kit staff. Numerous people got a mention. The one key person he modestly missed out? Himself.

Yet it is perfectionist Guardiola, with his sky-high standards and relentlessness, who has repeatedly inspired his Man City team to peak when they need to.

It is Guardiola’s tactical tweaks that continue to keep his side ahead of the rest, no matter the record-breaking efforts the chasing pack produce. 

And it is Guardiola who is now out on his own as a Premier League manager with a unique piece of history - four top-flight titles in a row. The first manager to ever do it. 

He is rightly lauded by others who are more than happy to shine the spotlight on the all-conquering Spaniard. 

“The mentality of this team to go and go again,” said Micah Richards, a former Premier League champion with Man City.

“Let’s get the fourth, let’s make history and when it comes from the manager, those constant reminders, it seeps down.”

Man City’s relentless form

There have been recurring traits of teams who have enjoyed periods of Premier League dominance, and Man City are no different.

March and April was the key point in the season for Sir Alex Ferguson. The time of the season when he always wanted his Manchester United side to be in the mix.

The emergence of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and their fast starts to seasons led to a rethink at Old Trafford.

For any of Man City’s challengers in recent years, the ominous point in any campaign has become when they begin building momentum.

Because when Man City start, they tend not to stop. Often all the way until they have the Premier League Trophy in their hands.

Man City’s record under Guardiola in the final 15 games leading up to them being crowned champions is remarkable.

In 2017/18, they won 11. The following season it was 14. In 2020/21 there were 12 victories. The season after saw another 11 wins, and last season 13. 

The fourth successive title has been clinched after an unbeaten final 15 games featuring 12 wins and three draws.

In total, Guardiola’s record in such games reads; played 90, won 73, drawn nine and lost only eight. 

They actually finished 2023/24 with a 23-game unbeaten run and nine wins on the bounce. 

Points totals that are tough to beat

That proved to be City’s emphatic response to the questions that arose when they went four games without a win in November and December.

But City’s frightening consistency does not end with how they complete the campaign.

Each title-winning season has contained long runs of successive wins which have provided the foundation of their triumphs.

Guardiola’s side have set a pace their rivals have been simply unable to keep up with, no matter how hard they try.

Liverpool won 97 and 92 points in two of the seasons where they were pipped to the title by Man City.

They are the two best campaigns produced by a team not to result in a Premier League title win. 

The third is the season that runners-up Arsenal have just put together, which they ended with 89 points and a goal difference of +62.

Praise for Arsenal

"The first words are for Arsenal - Liverpool as well, but especially Arsenal to push us to another level," said Guardiola. "Before it was Liverpool that pushed us to our limits and now it has been [Arsenal] these last two seasons, especially this one. It has been an incredible season.

"We get the message, so I know they will be there for many years. Young manager, big talent and a young squad and young team and they send us a message that we have to be careful for the next years."

Pundit Gary Neville said: “A huge step forward from Arsenal this year. It’s not been quite enough in the end but they’re up against one of THE greatest managers we have seen.”

Man City striker Erling Haaland added: “It’s tough [playing for Guardiola] but look what he has done. 

“He demands a lot every single day and if you don’t live up to what he expects then you have a big problem. He is demanding but a lovely guy, so I love him to pieces.”

The tactical genius

Another feature of Man City under Guardiola has been the tactical tweaks that have kept his players on their toes and opponents searching for solutions.

The rise of playing out from the back and ball-playing goalkeepers is a legacy of Guardiola’s approach to the game. 

Guardiola’s first Premier League title-winning season in 2017/18 saw him deploy Fabian Delph as an inverted full-back to aid Man City’s midfield control, a tactic also far more widely used now. 

He revived the “false nine” from his time at Barcelona with Lionel Messi to win the Premier League in 2020/21.

This season it has not been uncommon for Guardiola to select four centre-backs across his defensive line for increased solidity, or instruct John Stones to step into midfield - and sometimes even higher up the pitch - leaving opponents scratching their heads.

EA SPORTS 2023/24 Player of the Season Phil Foden has developed again under Guardiola this season, thriving and enjoying more minutes in central areas.

Josko Gvardiol has emerged as a surprise weapon and genuine attacking threat from left-back as the season has worn on, popping up with four crucial goals and two assists.

And right to the very end, Guardiola’s tactical changes have been decisive.

Winger Jeremy Doku replaced central midfielder Mateo Kovacic in Man City’s starting line-up against West Ham because Guardiola felt his qualities in tight areas and 1v1 battles could make the difference.

As ever, with Doku a constant threat through his dribbling and the creator of Foden’s crucial second goal, Guardiola got his tactics spot on once again.

History-maker

The longer he has been in the Premier League, the stronger case Guardiola is making in the debate about the competition’s best ever manager.

Like Sir Alex Ferguson, Guardiola has displayed an incredible ability to reinvent his teams, to successfully respond to the challenges posed by rivals and to ensure his players maintain their hunger to compete season after season, regardless of what has been won before. 

Both have won a Treble, too. 

And while the Man City boss is seven short of Ferguson’s 13 Premier League titles, Guardiola now has one piece of history that is his alone.

“Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world - and that's crucial,” his long-time and departing Liverpool rival Jurgen Klopp said.

"If you put any other manager in that club, they don't win the league four times in a row.” 

Guardiola added: "The Eighties belong to Liverpool with the older managers, Graeme Souness, Ian Rush all these players. The Nineties was Sir Alex Ferguson, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane. Of course, Mourinho with Chelsea, Invincibles with Arsene Wenger. Now it is our period." 

And even if he might not say it himself, Guardiola is the main reason why.

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