Guardiola maps out Man City’s plan to be champs; discusses Cruyff’s influence

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Pep Guardiola is enjoying a rare few days off from managing Manchester City.

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After winning 10 of his opening 12 games in charge of City, the Spanish coach attended a book event in London this week as Johan Cruyff’s autobiography was released after the Dutch legend finished it during the final months of his life.

The Guardian went along to meet Guardiola and he shared some fascinating insights into how he plans to win the Premier League with City, plus he revealed he owes all of his success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and generally his philosophy as a coach, to one man: Johan Cruyff.

Speaking about how he envisions his City team becoming champions of the Premier League this season, Guardiola was asked about the way Leicester City won the title last season with little possession.

“This season, to be champions, I need my team to have possession,” Guardiola said. “You can lose with possession, but more likely you will lose with less possession. We must do what we believe. I believe in possession. I know everyone wants to copy the winner – but in football and sport no one wins for ever.”

Although his clear philosophy as a manager comes from his days at Barcelona and the ideals championed by Cruyff, Guardiola isn’t trying to spread that all across England.

He is just focusing on getting his message across to his players.

“I am not here to change English football,” Guardiola said. “I am not here to change the Premier League. But my team is going to play the way I believe in. I will try to get my players to play with the style and the ideas which come straight from Johan. Some people will say: ‘Wow, that’s nice.’ Others will say: ‘Ugh, that’s awful.’ But I am not here to change anyone else.”

Guardiola spoke fondly of Cruyff throughout the interview and if we didn’t already know it, it’s clear his one mentor in developing the tiki-taka style was Cruyff, the man who created a whole new identity at Barcelona which changed the face of modern soccer.

“I would not be able to do what he did. You hear all these people saying: ‘Oh Pep, what a good manager he is.’ Forget about it. Cruyff was the best, by far. Creating something new is the difficult part,” Guardiola added. “To make it and build it and get everyone to follow? Amazing. That’s why, when I was Barcelona manager, I went to see Johan many times. I made especially sure I went a lot in my first year when we won everything, absolutely everything.”