A Case Study of the Managerial Methods used by Pep Guardiola

Below is an excerpt from my new book on Pep Guardiola that details his managerial methods and game model.  Available on Amazon “Click Link to Buy”

Guardiola’s Game Model

Always try and defend 50 yards from your goal, using possession as means of shifting the defense to create openings. The more we have the ball the less time the opponents have to score. The attack must be relentless, putting the opponents on their heels, not allowing them to assert their game plan. When we attack the opposition, they can only react to our attack, this is part of the secret, our consistent attack never allows the opponent a chance to impose their ideas on us, they can only try and block us, never getting set-up to attack us. However, one attack will not sustain, the opponent will adapt, so we must be in a constant transition from attacking one area to the next, forcing the opponent to adjust. In the end, the opposition will find themselves crumbling under the pressure, and eventually defeated.

Game Model Quotes by Pep Guardiola

“It doesn’t mean my footballing ideas are special, different, better than others. I’m not saying it’s my football, my ideas, and the other coaches are nothing. It’s the way I believe. I’m not special.”

This quote speaks to the humility of Guardiola. He is not saying his way is the best way, or the only way, but it is the way he prefers and thinks is beautiful and correct for him to teach. When Gary Linaker asked Pep if England should change the way they play, Guardiola firmly said, “no”. He understands that each country has their own identity and attributes, and to go against these, may be unnatural.

“The distance between us is short…when you lose the ball after a sequence of 10-15-20 passes, that helps us to be together, when you lose the ball, always your actions is 4-5 meters, and you can do it immediately and quickly, and after you can make the transitions…”

Pep understands that build-up play provides the team with shape, allowing players them to get set-up in the opponents half, so when the ball is lost, there are always multiple players to win it back at close distance.

“You have to adapt to the quality of the players.”

The foundation of play can stay the same but adapting is required to hide weaknesses and maximize strengths. At Manchester City Pep has done this amazingly well with Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and others. He limits Walker’s role, not allowing him to aggressively overlap and attack wide, instead Pep has Walker positioned slightly more central and deeper, this simplifies Walker’s decision making process, letting him showcase his strengths, while staying away from potential weaknesses in his wide attacking play. Guardiola also simplified Raheem Sterling’s role, which made him much more effective. Sterling has pace and dribbling talent, but he needed to fit into the team game more effectively, so Pep defined Sterling’s responsibilities. He taught Raheem to always stay wide, unless he needs to come inside to cover the back post or provide another option for balls played into the box. Raheem has learned when to dribble and when to combine, his progress as a team player has been impressive. This is what Guardiola does, this is part of the secret of Guardiola.

“Always trying to play 40 meters from our own goal.”

Pep knows that if his team is playing in the opponents half, the strategy of positional soccer will work. If his team can dominate the ball and constantly be on attack, the opponent can only react, never being able to use their own strategies.

“We believe a lot the way we want to play.”  “The managers the players are fully convinced that is the way to win.”

The only way to be a true team is to have every player and coach committed to one idea.

“You can play with a plan B or improve plan A.”

This statement re-enforces Guardiola’s commitment to play his way and his way only. Essentially, there is no giving up his core beliefs.

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