Pep Guardiola is a man of principle.
He will remain that way despite recent results for his Manchester City side.
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In his first season coaching in the Premier League the Spanish manager has come under plenty of criticism for sticking with a three-man central defense and insisting on his players playing out from the back and via goalkeeper Claudio Bravo which has led to plenty of sloppy defensive mistakes and just four wins in their last 15 games in all competitions.
Speaking after City’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester on Saturday, and ahead of their game against Watford on Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) Guardiola was asked if he will change the way he plays to get results as City is currently seven points behind first-place Chelsea in the Premier League table.
“No way. We are going to way the play I feel,” Guardiola said. “Making mistakes and improve those mistakes. I cannot do something I don’t feel.”
He was then asked if people have to accept that his project to turn City into a free-flowing possession side similar to the teams he built at Barcelona and Bayern Munich will take time and if everyone should be patience for his project to develop.
“Football doesn’t accept projects. You have to win immediately. If you don’t win, you will be in trouble,” Guardiola said. “When you don’t win there are many reasons you don’t win. Maybe because the opponent is better but it is to improve what you are not doing properly. The mistakes of course you have to minimize those mistakes to win the games. I believe in that. I believe in what I like to play. I’m sorry if I am not able to do that and then the boss and the chairman are going to decide.”
So, Pep is piling the pressure on himself early on in his City career and it seems as though even if the results continue to go against him then he will keep playing risky soccer in defense and stick to his principles.
The big issue here is that it may not work in England against a different style of play week in, week out. Guardiola has said as much and is eager to see if his tactics work in the Premier League.
So far, it’s been way too easy for teams to press City back into their own half and force mistakes from John Stones, Bravo and other defenders like Aleksandar Kolarov who are being asked to play out of position and switch from full back to center back.
Over the long term Guardiola’s ideas will most likely gain plenty of success. The real problem is that right now he doesn’t appear to have the players, especially defensively, to carry out his wishes expertly.
With Man City’s hierarchy stating no more players will be bought in January, Guardiola has to do the best with what he has. With Vincent Kompany out injured and others being chopped and hanged all the time in the defensive areas, there’s no real sign of when these defensive issues will clear up or when the penny will drop, if it ever does, for this philosophy.
Is Guardiola being too stubborn in sticking with his philosophy and not tweaking it slightly? Or should he stick to his guns and go down on his own sword if if doesn’t work out?
If it’s the latter it won’t be pretty for City, who’ve waited for years to get Guardiola in charge and won’t be firing him anytime soon.