For the last few weeks, a certain smug satisfaction appears to have creeped into the press. It’s not working, it’s been claimed. He’s been found out. It’s not as easy here in the Premier League. Pep is a fraud. It only works when you have Messi or Muller.
Countless daft clichés have been produced as wisdom in recent week, as smug and insular types get greater delight from Guardiola failing. Now winless in seven, the Citizens look a shadow of their early season selves – or at least, results do. They still dominate the majority of matches and appear to be undone by moments of poor defending or being caught.
The Barcelona and Spurs games aside, nobody has really outplayed City yet. They appear to have hit a patch whereby the inconsistency that has plagued recent years has returned in earnest. Whilst easily fixable, it’s given the “proper football men” of England a good chance to get the boot into one of the games true visionaries.
When asked recently about the ease of the Premier League versus the perceived ease of La Liga and the Bundesliga, Pep held nothing back. When asked not too far later, following the loss against Barcelona, about changing his style, he responded with his trophy count in seven years as a manager.
For the proper football men types, this was probably a win – they had him rattled. The man with all the answers and the infinite cool was finally biting back. Much like his system on the pitch, he was being worked out off it.
But, where does it come from? Where does the dislike of Pep Guardiola – and coaches like him – come from?
A Working Class Game Gone Smart
To put it bluntly, many attribute the change coming from the way football is perceived in the United Kingdom. For many countries, it’s viewed almost as a science, an academic pursuit to be studied like maths, or science. For people in England, it’s a game – something to take the weeks’ blues away. Speak to your average English football fan about tactics or phases of play, and they’ll likely scoff at you.
This is not to degrade or belittle anyone who thinks this way – it’s merely a different culture. The difference is, though, that it creates a sense of suspicion in the foreign man with the ideas and the terminology. When you’re used to men who sound like they live on a pub barstool educating you about football, it’s easy to become engrained in that culture.
The vast majority of the young English population are educated on TV by people like Alan Shearer and Tim Sherwood. As such, many coaches at youth level will ape this same kind of thinking.
In a bad to keep it a game for “real, working people” there is an inherent dislike of smart football men with ideas and philosophies. Whilst nobody expects your average fan to change that culture themselves, it’s high-time that the pundits and educators in the game lost this desire for the game to be treated as just that, a game.
For the longer they continue to look at it so basically, the longer British football is ultimately stifled. As soon as the pundits stop talking with glee at the idea of men like Guardiola failing, the public will follow. It might not seem like a big deal, or merely a desire to see successful people being appreciated, but it comes down to improving in the world of football.
In a bid to view Guardiola as too weak for the Premier League, the pundits and experts risk chasing away the very people who make the league so special in the first place – the foreign men with the fancy words.