Let's face it, it's a question you have either heard or are going to hear in the next few days. A draw away to Celtic and a loss to Spurs will have the critics, haters, non-believers and doubters out in force. You know the argument, that style is lovely in Germany when you have the best players and it's doable when Messi is in your team. Many believe, even Pep enthusiasts, that his current job is his greatest test. Not least because in the English Premier league, with it's lucrative and fair distribution of TV money allowing practically every team to go and recruit at least one player with an X-factor. In Germany, many teams could hurt you with a counter but the varied threats you encounter week to week is not as big a factor. For example playing West Brom, Bournemouth and Watford in a week, which is a possibility, for Pep the way he prepares his sides this means 3 very different game plans. Yes, the principles of how his teams play will always remain much the same but he tailors each game plan according to the opposition and he cares very deeply about not conceding. The excellent book on Pep, Pep-Confidential by Marti Perarnau gives insight into Guardiola's obsession with preventing counter-attacks from leading to breakaway goals. So knowing as we do that Pep not only works tirelessly on playing out but also very heavily focusing and being set up when possession is lost makes our analysis of the goals conceded by City all the more interesting.
See Below how the excellent Pochettino set up to press City but focus more on the reaction of the City players when possession is lost.
When playing out on the right side of defence with his former clubs we are used to seeing a no.6 type player, reacting quickly to prevent a central pass allowing the centre backs who split time to recover and the full backs time to drop. Fernando achieves this here but the entire back four lack urgency, and either don't spot or don't react to danger. This is something we saw a lot from City last season particularly when it came to defending their box.
Goal number 2 conceded against Spurs is once again a counter-attack where City fail to react correctly to possession of the ball being lost.
This goal is just chaotic and it's hard to imagine a Philip Lahm reacting like Zabaleta did, or a Pique mimicking the movements of Otamendi. What struck me about both Barca and Bayern under Pep was their 'light-switch' like mentality when the ball was lost, transitioning almost instantly into positions to protect the goal. People talk about open expansive football but actually I have always felt Peps teams where in the main expansive but actually not that open. Pep's defensive record in Spain and Germany would also appear to tell that story.
The next Goal we look at is not a counter-attack but actually defending from a throw-in.
The recurring theme here is defending a cross, this was an issue for City for the last few seasons and you cannot put it down to height in my opinion. Defenders must get deeper if possible than where the cross is coming from in order to get set for the situation. So far it's hard to blame Guardiola or his playing style for these indiscretions, it seems apparent that these are inherited issues.
The next clip is in my book the least forgivable.
Rushing in, back four not shifting, players not tracking and the keeper would surely have to be questioned also. Again, these issues are ones we have seen from these City players in the past. However, how Pep deals with them will be very interesting. Will he try and develop what he has? Stones perhaps could be viewed upon a little like Pique when he moved back to Barca, he no doubt will be given time to develop. The others you fear will have to shape up or face being shipped out. I can't help feel the City groups ties to clubs in the States, Australia and now China will be put to use sooner rather than later. Etihad Airways could be over-booked come January.
The final clip is the least flattering to Guardiola and one he surely must take full responsibility for.
The high line for this free-kick is a Pep trait and I am reminded of an early goal conceded against Real Madrid a few seasons ago as Pep's Bayern clearly got the game-plan wrong. A deeper line and the goal is prevented. That said picking the ball out of the City net is something Bravo will have to become accustomed too if the basics like having an open body-shape when defending are not adhered to by the City players.
In Conclusion, we certainly don't feel Pep has been found out. One thing we will find out with these City players is just how good he really is. Judge him in two transfer windows time, would surely be a fair assessment. That said City will be in the final reckoning come May, whether it is a City containing all the players featured in this analysis is yet to be determined.