Pep Guardiola is rightly regarded as one of the best managers in world football. The current Manchester City boss has won the league in three of his four full seasons in England, as well as numerous domestic trophies including four consecutive League Cups. He has built a side with City that are capable of competing on all fronts and if they win their remaining games, as the Premier League odds suggest, will pip Liverpool to another league title in a few weeks.
Guardiola is far from perfect though. It’s been a while since he last won the Champions League and many believe he goes into far too much unnecessary detail in big games, overthinking them to City’s detriment. While many will try and debunk that theory with his significant trophy cabinet, there is substantial evidence to suggest he can lose the plot on the odd occasion. Let’s take a look at three times where the Spaniard has been guilty of overthinking.
Leicester City – 16-17
This was Guardiola’s first season in England and while his side was still some way from the swashbuckling centurions we know today, this trip to the King Power Stadium against Leicester City was a real welcome to the Premier League.
You could argue that in those first ten games, the Spaniard had overthought all of them, with inverted fullbacks that would step into midfield against Sunderland and John Stones, who was guilty for several high-profile errors in this game, overplaying in dangerous areas. Despite the EPL predictions tipping City for the title, they lacked identity.
They were ripped apart by the current league holders 4-2 as Jamie Vardy smelt blood and punished a City team that looked shellshocked. With Antonio Conte’s Chelsea pulling ahead in the league it all but ended their title race by Christmas, and a difficult run of form saw Guardiola finish the season trophyless for the first time in his career — a real reality check.
Liverpool – 2017-18
It seemed as though Guardiola was psychologically beaten before a ball had even been kicked. Videos emerged of him worrying about Liverpool’s front three in the changing rooms at Goodison Park — a whole week before the first leg of their Champions League quarter final.
In the end, City succumbed to a 3-0 defeat at Anfield where the vociferous atmosphere and heavy pressing all but killed the game after 20 minutes and although they put in a valiant effort in the second leg, and could have perhaps pulled ahead had Leroy Sane’s equaliser had counted, the Reds hit them on the break and won the game 5-1 on aggregate to embarrass the champions elect. It was a real blemish on an almost spotless season for Guardiola.
Chelsea – 20-21
It had been a decade since we last saw Guardiola in the Champions League final. His last appearance was at Wembley, 2011 — Barcelona vs Manchester United. It’s still regarded as one of the best performances in the competition’s history, where the Catalans were almost perfect on the night, 3-1 victors against an impressive United side. With the spotlight on the Spaniard, and a socially distanced crowd full of expectation in Lisbon, City were clear favourites as they took on Chelsea.
Remarkably, having started every other game with a holding midfielder — be it either Fernandinho or Rodri, Guardiola opted to change his tactics to try and outthink the astute Thomas Tuchel. Ironically though it was a turnover high up the pitch that led to Chelsea’s goal, and when Mason Mount was able to slip Kai Havertz through for the only goal of the game, fingers were pointed in Guardiola’s direction as a conventional defensive midfielder would have been able to break up play in that situation. It means the wait for a Champions League goes on for City, something they’ll want to put right this year.