Pep Guardiola has established Manchester City as the powerhouse of English football, but he won’t be there forever. Eventually, he will leave and Manchester City will have to come up with something new.
Upon his arrival to the Etihad, he inherited a squad that had finished 15 points behind Chelsea the following season and at a club without a league title for three years.
Granted, the squad was hardly in poor shape and three years without topping the league is hardly a drought. But, one thing evaded ‘the Citizens’ – European glory.
And it still does. City, under Guardiola, have gone out in the Round of 16 and the Quarter-final twice. They’ve had exciting games against Monaco and Spurs, bested in both. A 6-0 drubbing of Shakhtar Donetsk last year remains the jewel in Pep’s crown of Manchester City’s European endeavours.
Despite all the domestic success he’s had, winning seven out of eight honours available to him, he’s failed to deliver what he was really hired to do.
It’s not the first time that Guardiola has been found wanting in Europe, either. When he departed Barcelona and found himself at the helm in Munich, he was left with a squad that had the season before won the treble.
Guardiola went out in the semis but did win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal. Domestic success, not so much European. And it was always to be a semi-final exit for Guardiola during his time in Germany, to his frustration.
In a new book, Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam, Guardiola said he would “step aside if things weren’t going to plan”. But what remains is when will that day come, and who would step up.
But now, things may seem to not be going entirely to plan for the Spaniard. It would be far too harsh to say that City are having a bad season, they’re spotless in the Champions League and only two league losses this campaign.
Yet, it might be time to consider that Guardiola has done all he can at City. They don’t look as sharp as they did last year and don’t let the 8-0 demolition of Watford distract you. A far more promising prospect this season has been Leicester if big scores are to go by, just ask Southampton.
It will likely be a year of the ‘three-peat’ for City, which has only done once before. Doing so will satisfy the Manchester club in taking a feather from their neighbour’s cap. But, that’s the extent of it.
He’s done wonders for City and he isn’t ‘Fraudiola’, as so many rival fans are want to claim he is. Disregarding his European ‘failures’, he’s still established City as the team to beat in English competition which is far from an easy task. And he won’t be easy to replace by any means.
It will continue to be a thorn in the side of the Etihad that their trophy room goes without the most illustrious prize in club football. But it doesn’t seem likely that Guardiola will be the one to take them to new heights, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he departs soon after.
The replacement will be difficult to find. City neighbours Manchester United have shown that a like-for-like replacement doesn’t work, nor does plugging the holes with someone immediately successful, although that was the recipe for Pep’s arrival.
The manner in which Guardiola makes a mark on a team is tremendous. His philosophy is stitched into every fibre of the club, wound deep until it goes beyond his first-team squad. He’s started to build something at City his predecessors didn’t quite have. After all, Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini both won the league once each.
Arteta would look a good choice. He’s been at Guardiola’s side since 2016 and has been learning under his countryman for long enough to continue his legacy. But, as a temporary role.
The club needs someone not afraid of the challenge that would be there, who is willing to accept the club needs more than domestic glory. Manchester United also serve as a warning story for overzealous fans who demand immediate success. A rebuild is going to have to take place at the Etihad, such as the effect Guardiola has had.
Replacing him is going to be something exceptionally difficult for City to do and the day of his departure is rapidly coming. He’s laid fantastic foundations for the club to go on and achieve greater things, but these won’t be done with him there.