Football fans have been spoilt for choice this year when it comes to books on the sport, one of which is Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam, which focuses on Pep Guardiola’s first three seasons at the Etihad; from the trophyless first, to the record-breaking second, then the treble-winning third.
Journalists Pol Ballus and Luis Martin were given unparalleled access to all things Man City, both on-and-off the pitch. Pep takes centre-stage of course, but there’s plenty of insight into his coaching squad, the players, as well as the unheralded members of Citizens staff who make the club tick.
Below we’ve plucked out eight of the book’s most interesting Pep-isms...enjoy!
Regular followers of The Sack Race will have recently clocked our new series - In The Manager’s Office - with the duo of Michael Jolley and David Artell both kindly letting us into their places of work so far.
We’re still waiting for the call back from Guardiola, but when he does relent and invite us over to his place of work, Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam informs us that we will follow the Spaniard up 28 steps to his office, where will be greeted by his scribbled musings on the walls, next to a massive quote from one of his managerial influencers - Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa - and a message from his daughter:
‘Maria was here! Good luck! I love you!’
We’re told that Guardiola regularly lights incense in his office, is known to blast out Manel, Carla Bruni and Oasis on the occasion - speaking of which he has a caricature of Noel Gallagher on display. While there’s also a statue of his hero, and former Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff.
Frank Lampard’s fine system at Chelsea was recently linked online, revealing that Blues players are smacked with fines ranging from £500 to a whopping £20,000, depending on the offence.
At Man City it’s a little different.
With Guardiola eager to find a new way to approach staff discipline, one of his sports scientists brought to attention a ‘roulette wheel’ that Ralf Rangnick had implemented at Schalke 04 Germany.
Instead of dishing out bog standard fines to punish players for breaking rules, the players spin a roulette wheel and subsequently carry out a certain task, which in the case of Guardiola’s City are any of the following...
- Paying for a team/staff dinner
- Working in the kitchen
- Community work
- Shift in the academy
- Joining the performance analysis team
- Working with ground staff
- Helping out the kit men
- Teammates choice - get a teammate to help you out
- Or there’s always the ‘lucky escape’
The most frequent offenders? Sergio Aguero, Riyad Mahrez, and Benjamin Mendy!
It’s revealed that while Guardiola is no longer has nervous as used to be in the build-up to games, he does like to spend some time alone, pacing up and down - often barefooted - as he visualises the game ahead. This amuses many a player.
Prior to a game he never eats with the team, and in general doesn’t have too much contact with his players. If City are playing at the Etihad he usually doesn’t even watch the warm-up, while in the dressing room he leaves the players to their own devices, as they get pumped up through the medium of music.
Is he superstitious? Yes. He has his set routine...
Just as the players are in the tunnel, he takes out his phone and calls his wife, Christina. Then he hugs Manuel Estiarte, who heads off to his seat in the stand, and goes to the dugout. Game on.
Pep’s Hosting Skills
Guardiola’s office at the Etihad is always stocked up with food and drink should an opposition manager fancy a chin-wag after a game.
This tends to be more popular with the British contingent; Roy Hodgson has previously paid a visit, as has Tony Pulis, and Neil Warnock who was particularly fond of Guardiola’s choice of wine.
Pep’s Player Powers
Guardiola’s transformation skills have been highlighted on numerous occasions, and rightly so. However, the book delves deeper into the incredible impact he’s had on a range of Man City’s superstars.
“Do players have to adapt to Pep? There’s really no other option,” reveals assistant Mikel Arteta. “It’s one of the secrets of his success. He gets people so focused and intense about the game that anyone who doesn’t adapt is finished, out the door.”
The examples of Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero all make for engrossing reading, yet arguably the most interesting and pertinent example involves Raheem Sterling, who was remodelled into City’s version of Romario, the iconic Brazilian who played in Barcelona’s famous ‘Dream Team’ alongside...Guardiola.
The plan was that Sterling should make a habit of dropping slightly further away from his marker, or nearest opponent, when looking to receive possession, his body turned towards the goal. In that position, if he then gunned his extraordinary accelerator, the sprint was always to the danger area.
“If he’s found a space about three metres off his defender but he’s half-turned towards the goal then his sprint takes him much more quickly to a space where he can shoot and that’s going to cause the rival much more damage,” states Arteta.
“It’s also a tactic, dropping off a little, so that your defender gets drawn into a position he mightn’t want to be in. It leaves space behind him and Raheem can attack that space. If it’s close to, or in the penalty area, they also have to hesitate before putting in a challenge.”
Pep’s Phil Foden
Man City were in desperate need of a moment of inspiration in the dark aftermath of their devastating Champions League exit at the hands of Tottenham last season.
It came in the form of Phil Foden.
The pride of City’s academy is buzzing around the training pitch at the CFA, his infectious enthusiasm transmitting to his beleaguered teammates. Pep makes an instant decision. He will include Foden in the starting XI for the weekend’s re-match with Spurs, in the league.
And so Foden scored the only goal of the game as City came out 1-0 winners, in what proved to be a vital victory in their ultimately successful defence of the title.
"He is the only player that cannot be sold, under any circumstances,” Guardiola would adamantly reveal. “The only one. Not for €500m. Phil's going nowhere. Phil is City."
The book also goes into detail about the roles of key members of coaching staff, with Guardiola opting for ‘leaders not followers’ - one of whom is Mikel Arteta.
In his first season Guardiola placed his then coach in charge of City for a clash against his former club Arsenal, telling him: “You’re more than capable of taking the team through the game. So, it’s up to you. Do what you think is best.”
The score? City triumphed 2-1, and Arteta has since been elevated to the position of assistant manager. City supporters will hope that they can continue to be mesmerized by Guardiola for many more years, yet when he does decide to depart for his next challenge, the club may not have to look too far for his successor.
His famous bespoke flat caps - recommended by City legend Mike Summerbee- are from a tailor shop hidden away in Manchester, at a cost of £75 each.
Guardiola sported a €1,500 cashmere-and-goose feather jacket for the 2018/19 campaign, and come the end of the season it had shown the effect of “regular matchday abuse from Pep” before it was auctioned off to charity.