Every mad tactical creation Pep Guardiola has made which confirms he’s most innovative

Every mad tactical creation Pep Guardiola has made which confirms he’s most innovative

Glory has accompanied Pep Guardiola throughout his career.

When the former Blaugrana captain and central midfielder made the leap from Barcelona B to manage the first team in 2008, few knew what to expect. But the footballing world was forced to take notice when he won a historic sextuple in his first season, revolutionizing the sport with one of the most complete teams ever assembled.

A one-year hiatus after his departure in 2012 was followed by a new challenge in Germany, where he transformed a gung-ho, treble-winning Bayern Munich team into a calculative, possession-oriented squad over the course of three seasons.

More trophies followed Guardiola’s seven-year tenure at Manchester City, where he has won the most in his managerial career. It’s difficult to believe there were ever doubts about whether his style would be successful in English football, given that the Catalan added five more league titles to his previous six at City.

It is simple to identify similarities between Guardiola’s three incredibly successful stints in Spain, Germany, and England, which culminated in a historic Treble and a historic night in Istanbul. The man who once said “you can’t score a goal without making 15 passes first” always prioritizes possession, and his counter-pressing, cut-backs, and tactical fluidity have permeated the fabric of the game.

Guardiola is still reaping the benefits of his tactical innovations 15 years later, so Daily Star Sport presents each of his brilliant adjustments throughout the years.

Particularly beginning in his second season, Guardiola’s Barcelona teams were renowned for their oppressive possession play. While the tiki-taka manner on the ball was evident even to casual observers, their dominant defensive play was underrated.

This was a result of Pep’s implementation of a’six-second rule’, in which his players collectively rushed the opposing team with high-intensity pressing as soon as they relinquished possession. Their condensed positioning rendered them extremely resistant to destruction.

And while this helped prevent counter-attacks, it also allowed Barcelona to swiftly regain possession of the ball and begin another cycle of endless passing. It would also catch opponents off guard, enabling Barca’s attackers to break with devastating effect.

False 9

The false nine is Guardiola’s most well-known innovation in football. It all started when he benched world-class strikers Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in favor of a teenage winger named Lionel Messi.

In 2009, he implemented it for the first time in a match against Real Madrid. It was believed that a ‘false’ striker who dropped deeper between the opponent’s defensive and midfield lines would have more operating space.

Defenders attempting to track Messi would confront a dilemma, as Pedro and David Villa would be able to exploit the space left behind. If the defender did not pursue Messi, Barcelona would have a numerical advantage in the midfield with four players.

Guardiola has since implemented variants of the remarkable invention, most notably with Cesc Fabregas in 2011-12. Fabregas, a central midfielder by profession, scored 29 goals in his first two seasons under the guidance of his idol, while Messi scored an astounding 91 goals in 2012.

Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden have been used as single or double false nines for City, as their chameleon-like attack has left opposing defenses bewildered. Guardiola has now abandoned this strategy in favor of Erling Haaland, a true number nine in every aspect of the term, due to his team’s consistent failures in the Champions League.

Positional play/ ‘Juego de Posición’

Before Guardiola, very few people comprehended the term positional play. Initially employed by Johan Cruyff at Barcelona, the philosophy encompasses everything the Spaniard advocates for.

It is founded on a possession-based style of play that seeks to establish superiority across the field by utilizing various zones. The outcome is a style of play that suffocates opponents in every phase of the game.

Lionel Messi ran Man Utd threadbare in 2011

As Rio Ferdinand once recalled after being “embarrassed” by Messi, “Messi robbed you of your finest qualities by the way he played. Due to the fact that he is playing away from me, he is playing midfielder with his accomplices and forming that little pentagon.

“Really, I want him [at striker] in one-on-one situations. He does not permit me to do that. Me and Nemanja [Vidic] are looking at each other and thinking, ‘We’re not even in the game. We have no effect at all. He undermines our confidence by surpassing us.'”

Recruiting athletes

Phillip Lahm was transformed by Pep Guardiola into a central midfielder.

Phillip Lahm was transformed by Pep Guardiola into a central midfielder. (Photo: Getty Images for Bayern Munich)

Messi’s conversion to a false nine stands out due to the Argentine’s status as the finest player of all time, but many others have benefited from a positional shift under the Spaniard.

At the Camp Nou, Javier Mascherano was successfully converted from a physical defensive midfielder to a ball-playing central defender.

At Bayern, the three-time LMA Manager of the Year had the audacity to convert the world’s best right back, Phillip Lahm, to central midfielder. Lahm flourished in his new role, serving as a model for subsequent Pep teams. Which brings us to yet another mind-boggling tactical development…

Inverted complete-backs

Oleksandr Zinchenko was converted by Pep Guardiola into an inverted fullback.

Lahm was the first full-back to be shifted into midfield by Guardiola – a tactical evolution adopted by some of the game’s most revered coaches, including Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta.

In build-ups, a fullback from a traditional back four tucks into the half-space alongside the lone pivot as an auxiliary midfielder, according to the rationale behind the ingenious formation. The inverted fullback, who must be technically proficient, provides a numerical advantage, more passing lanes, and defensive security when confronted.

Joao Cancelo, Fabian Delph, and Oleksandr Zinchenko have all occupied this position for City during championship-winning seasons.

The 3-2-5

Kyle Walker uses his speed to repel back-three assailants.

Guardiola’s three-at-the-back formation is currently utilized by many of Europe’s best teams. With the advancement of the previously mentioned fullback, the opposing fullback in a defensive four tucks in to provide a number of benefits.

Guardiola initially opted for the formation to neutralize the use of two opposing strikers, allowing for a three-versus-two defensive matchup. When constructing out of the back, his defenders have the ability to outnumber incoming pressers.

Kyle Walker, widely regarded as a right-back, has profited from the positional adjustment, using his speed to thwart attackers on the flanks and in the middle.

Stones and the area at midfield

In 2022-23, John Stones had his finest season to date.

Guardiola, at the age of 52, demonstrated that there are no limits to his extraordinary football intellect by devising yet another tactical innovation at the pivotal midway point of the 2022/23 season.

With title rivals Arsenal leading the race by a considerable margin in March, the astute coach began experimenting by deploying center-back John Stones further forward. Stones, who has always provided driving runs and outstanding long-range passing, was expected to form a midfield box alongside Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, and Kevin De Bruyne further up the field.

John Stones excelled in his forward position in the Champions League championship game.

His composure and skill with the ball assisted in outnumbering the opposition’s midfielders. The remaining three City defenders, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias/Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake, were defensively capable when Stones was further up the field.

It was a crucial tactical adjustment that helped City achieve the Treble. And no performance exemplified its decisiveness better than the Champions League championship victory over Inter Milan.

Stones dominated by playing simple passes, seizing possession and registering the most dribbles in a Champions League final since Lionel Messi.

Every mad tactical creation Pep Guardiola has made which confirms he’s most innovative