Rodri’s goal was the only difference in an unforgettable Champions League final in Istanbul. Man City finally got their hands on the most prestigious title in European football after many years of waiting. Pep Guardiola’s teachers and students ended all debates about their inability to overcome their own psychological barriers to conquer this milestone.
Phil Foden recalled that, after the end of last season, when all the joy had passed, he and Jack Grealish looked at each other thoughtfully with the same thought: “How can we achieve such great form in such a short time?” Again?”.
Feelings of emptiness and disappointment come rushing back, but to find the answer there is no other way but to try, struggle and desire.
Pep admitted that it will be difficult to reach such heights a second time, but when the heavy burdens have eased, no one can eliminate Man City from the list of championship candidates for the 2023 season.
Last season, Guardiola applied the idea of playing with four central defenders in some matches, turning Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji into full-backs. And this season, he continued to make adjustments to the 4-4-2 scheme, simply because it was the most suitable way for him to be able to use both Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.
Alvarez rarely had the opportunity to start last season when the Norwegian striker had a brilliant start, breaking many decades-old scoring records in English football. Alvarez himself also played very impressively for Argentina in the 2022 World Cup, but Pep is still not interested in the idea of letting Alvarez play with Haaland because he is worried that the two strikers will affect the team’s overall playing style.
At the end of last season, the thicker schedule forced Pep to let Alvarez and Haaland start together in the Premier League. That was the time when the Catalan military leader began to have a more open view of this tactic.
This season, Alvarez started every match with Haaland. The Argentine player scored 2 goals and had 3 assists, of which 2 were assists for Haaland. The Norwegian striker has 7 goals and 1 assist for Alvarez.
Statistically, it’s clearly an ideal combination. However, having two strikers will force the squad to push higher. If the midfielders do not have a productive day, the number of passes they need will not be met. At that time, the attacks will lack fluency and be fragmented.
But the fact that there is a formation revolution budding in Pep Guardiola’s brain signals a significant threat to opponents in Europe.
A constant innovator and perfectionist, Guardiola in previous seasons had almost abandoned the idea of a central striker.
He once let Kevin De Bruyne play the false number 9 position in the 2021 Champions League final. The purchase of Haaland partly shows that he is also influenced by the philosophy of English football – which requires an excellent scorer. And now, from an eccentric genius who said no to center forwards, Pep is building a new scheme with 2 strikers.
Alvarez and Haaland are two strikers that any team desires in the modern football era. And the “temptation” of this duo appealed to Pep Guardiola. It underscores his relentless drive to innovate to stay ahead of his competitors and avoid being caught out. Using two strikers means Pep will have to deploy an outdated squad that goes against the times.
But let’s not forget Guardiola’s 4-4-2 formation is much more advanced than the way Mike Bassett has deployed it throughout the history of English football. Pep’s style is unpredictable, as he constantly changes in each match. With a new trend gradually forming, The Citizens are certainly still hungry for more titles after reaching the peak.
With a talented squad and ever-changing mentality, Guardiola will probably need a little more luck if the blue ribbon will continue to fly on the elephant-ear trophy at Wembley next summer.