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Pep Guardiola Has Been The Victim Of His Own Remarkable Success Since Arriving At Manchester City

23/12/2016 12:15
OLI SCARFF via Getty Images

Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester in the summer surrounded by an almost unprecedented level of hype.

He was more than just a new manager for City fans, he was a symbol of the progression the club has made in recent years - not only in terms of success, but in reputation as well.

But, as a result, there has been a considerable increase in expectation at the Etihad this season, so much so that results in recent weeks have, according to some, constituted a 'crisis'.

One of Guardiola's most vocal critics, particularly following City's 4-2 defeat at Leicester, has been BT Sport pundit Robbie Savage, who has made it clear - by repeatedly sarcastically describing the former Barcelona coach as a "genius" - that he doesn't agree with many of his plaudits.

Savage's criticisms have, however, been echoed by numerous others disappointed with the start Pep has made. This is, in part, down to the simple fact that he is a manager that has been lauded perhaps more than any other in recent history.

His tactical innovations, his insistence on playing attractive, attacking football, and that his methods birthed arguably the greatest team of a generation made him an incredibly sought after coach.

It's somewhat understandable then that some have been largely underwhelmed so far.

Unfortunately for City fans - and anyone else with unrealistic expectations that he would immediately transform the Sky Blues into a Barcelona/Bayern hybrid - Guardiola is human. The definition of a genius is subjective of course (although he's as close as it gets in football terms) but there is no doubt that he remains one of the world's best, despite experiencing his first real poor run of form as a manager.

Back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Leicester cast more doubt among some as to whether Pep had just rode his luck while at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Really, this emphasised the fickle nature of modern football. The ease of which City took apart Jose Mourinho's Manchester United at Old Trafford in September seemed to have been forgotten, as had November's dismantling of Barcelona.

Clearly there were severe defensive issues highlighted in both defeats, particularly at the King Power Stadium. But against Chelsea, the result could have been very different had City been less profligate in front of goal.

Both losses demonstrated that improvement was necessary, but, as often seems to be the way in the Premier League, they led to an unnecessary overreaction.

City were quick to respond, with what could be a vital victory over title challengers Arsenal on Sunday. Trailing 1-0 at half time, looking bereft of confidence, and displaying a performance lacking any energy, it was a tactical tweak that ultimately changed the game.

Kevin De Bruyne was deployed deeper to provide an advantage in midfield, which allowed Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane the chance to operate far more effectively between the lines. The result was a dominant second half, and a revitalised Guardiola.

The last few weeks have only served to prove that Pep, like any manager (or player) experiencing such a vastly unique and different league, needs time to adapt. With his previous clubs, he has found success immediately, but that trend was always going to be tricky to maintain going into his most challenging job yet.

The Premier League is after all - as those associated with it love to remind everyone - the most difficult league in the world.

It also has to be remembered that this is a Manchester City side that finished fourth last season, by the skin of their teeth, level on points with rivals Manchester United.

There has been a notable improvement from that team, a side that looked devoid of character and application. While Guardiola's City are yet to fully find an identity and a consistency that will take them to the next level, there have been more than enough glimpses of potential to keep fans of the club optimistic for the future.

A player who perhaps knows Guardiola's methods better than any, legendary former Barca midfielder Xavi, backed his former coach to succeed before the season's start.

"He has matured and he has the experience from Bayern," he told ​the Guardian. "He evolves too; he learns, he's always looking to advance, seeking new solutions. Intelligence is often expressed in terms of how you adapt and Pep is very intelligent. He would adapt to any football anywhere and be successful anywhere, I'm sure of that."

Guardiola should be given the chance to adjust to life in England this season without baring the brunt of constant and often unwarranted criticism, because, when he does, City will undoubtedly be a force in the Premier League, and in Europe.

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