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Guardiola outnumbered in Premier League managerial battle
When Pep Guardiola managed in La Liga, Jose Mourinho was his arch nemesis. When Guardiola managed in the Bundesliga, Jürgen Klopp was his biggest rival. If Guardiola had ever coached in Serie A, Antonio Conte would have been his bête noire. This coming season, all three of the greatest counter-attacking managers in the world will stand in Guardiola’s way of triumphing with Manchester City in the Premier League.
Gone are Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink, and Manuel Pellegrini; the Premier League welcomes a new cast of elite managers in Guardiola, Conte and Mourinho, who will reshape an epic new managerial battle. And Guardiola is outnumbered by counter-attacking geniuses.
There has been something of a counter-attacking revolution in recent years, spawned as a way to counter Guardiola’s tiki-taka movement and taking the main stage at Euro 2016 this summer. The battle between possession and counter-attacking football could reach an epic crescendo in this coming Premier League season as Guardiola goes head to head with his greatest managerial rivals.
The Spanish manager has always been highly regarded as a genteel, aristocratic figure in football’s elite, but his patience will be tested as his foes (Jose Mourinho in particular) will be keen to goad him from all angles. While Guardiola might have been able to temper these personal attacks in Spain and Germany, the proximity to his long-time rival Mourinho surely sets the forty-five-year-old on a collision course with drama that he has tried to avoid in the past.
Mourinho, of course, will be oh-so-happy to the stoke flames.
The Premier League league season is naturally long and tiring but Guardiola will find it even more so for this reason. Especially in charge of a Manchester City team that were injury prone last season, his philosophy might take some time to take hold.
He himself will be forced to adapt, particularly in resolving Manchester City’s centerback crisis; not since the days of Carles Puyol at Barcelona has Guardiola played with such gung-ho type defenders that are required in the Premier League. Eliaquim Mangala was particularly shaky this last season alongside a rotating cast of injury replacements for Vincent Kompany, and even if Guardiola plans on grooming the French midfielder into a world-class defender, he’ll need a partner in the middle.
City have somewhat regressed since their 2013/14 league triumph due to an aging squad, and turning the ship around will be the biggest, if not the first makeover project Guardiola has tackled in his career.
Guardiola has exactly a 50% win ratio against Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino (who formerly managed Espanyol before taking over at Tottenham Hotspur) and Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, and slightly less than that against Mourinho. Maintaining that track record in a significantly more level EPL playing field could prove especially tough in his first year.
Last season, the likes of Leicester City, West Ham United, Southampton, Everton and Swansea City also took points off of City, and Guardiola has struggled at times against strong, organized, counter-attacking teams and even further down the table, the Premier League will be chock-a-block full of them this coming season.