Advertisement

How Guardiola makes players more prolific

How Guardiola makes players more prolific
From ESPN - April 17, 2018

The goal was scrappy, the finish applied from a few yards in a crowded penalty area. The immediate significance was that it put Manchester City 3-1 ahead at Tottenham. It assumed a greater importance the following day when Manchester United's shock defeat to West Bromwich Albion made City champions.

But even before then, a different meaning was apparent. It was Raheem Sterling's 22nd goal of the season. He had doubled his previous best tally. It used to be a mantra of Manuel Pellegrini's that the winger should score goals. It is an achievement of Pep Guardiola that he has converted Sterling's potential into potency.

But he has company. Around an hour earlier, Ilkay Gundogan converted a penalty. His sixth goal of the season was a new personal best. Another German, Leroy Sane, had already rattled the post. His total stayed at 13, still a career high. Injury deprived Sergio Aguero of the chance to participate; otherwise he may have closed in on his biggest haul of 33 which, nevertheless, came under Guardiola's management.

It is part of a trend that dates back a decade. Players become more prolific under Guardiola; not all, obviously, but sizeable numbers, many of whom score far more than before. Thomas Muller, Mario Mandzukic and Arjen Robben -- with 32, 26 and 21, respectively -- had their finest scoring season in his Bayern Munich teams. So, at Barcelona, did Andres Iniesta (nine), Bojan Krkic (12), Xavi (14), Pedro (23) and Lionel Messi (a ludicrous 73).

The Argentinian is the great outlier. Yet it is notable both that, pre-Guardiola, his highest total was 17 and that he improved year on year under a mentor: 38 in his first year, followed by 47, 53 and then 73. But in a way Xavi is as indicative, a distributor becoming a scorer for Guardiola. The playmaker never got more than seven goals in a season for Barcelona under any other manager. Like Sterling, he doubled that for Guardiola.

A manager indelibly associated with passing gets his players scoring. Some reasons are both obvious and a feat in themselves. He has excellent footballers, often at their peak, operating in top teams that create a lot of chances and who, because of their prowess in knockout competitions, play more games than most.

But other factors reflect on Guardiola's coaching, with his capacity to improve players, and his tactics. Sterling and Sane highlight the merits of his positional game, of the way he teaches wingers to cut inside to the penalty box when the ball is on the opposite flank. It points to improved decision-making, in terms of both where they are and when they shoot.

Advertisement

Continue reading at ESPN »