Pep Guardiola is the unsurpassed master of the language of football. It transcends the command of his native Catalan, his Spanish mother tongue, his fluent German and his good, and rapidly improving, English.
In his first 35 days in competitive game mode with Manchester City, Pep has quickly familiarized himself with some of the grammatical oddities of the Queen’s English, words that sound the same, but have totally different meanings.
Take for instance the examples of rain, reign and rein.
Infamous for its annual rainfall figures, Manchester surpassed its own dubious claim to fame when a virtual monsoon washed away the scheduled Champions League clash with Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The 24-hour postponement failed to dampen the momentum of Guardiola’s up-to-now glorious reign at the Etihad, as City flushed out any German resistance and opened the floodgates, in a crushing 4-0 victory.
Bournemouth suffered the same fate less than 72 hours later as Pep’s 100% start to life with Manchester City continued unabated – eight games played and eight wins – 25 goals scored and just four conceded.
With maximum points gathered in the opening rounds of the Premier League and Champions League, expectations were rising quicker than precipitation levels in Manchester at its soggiest.
It led to Pep reining in ridiculous conjecture in relation to an unprecedented quadruple.
Clearly exasperated by a question in the after match press conference, Guardiola’s response to the ill-conceived query has gone viral on social media, with the City boss heard to mutter ‘F*ck’ under his breath, before downplaying any such speculation.
It’s a display of emotion that will sit well with City’s fans, who are all too well aware of the media campaign to seek to undermine most of what happens at the Etihad.
Thankfully, the actions of Pep and his highly performing players far outweigh the words of any pundits and critics.
Such has been the phenomenal fluidity and finesse of City’s football, even the most jaundiced of City haters have found it impossible NOT to praise Guardiola’s brand of attacking fare.
Pep is right to keep a lid on anticipation levels in his debut season in England despite, thus far, confounding those who said he would struggle to emulate his success in La Liga and the Bundesliga.
City are happy to play the ‘waiting game’ – the one thrown up at the start of the season – that said ‘Wait until…’ Pep has to go away to Stoke or away to Manchester United.
If consecutive 4-1 and 2-1 away wins are anything to go by, the weight of expectation will undoubtedly continue to grow.
Guardiola is more than ready to bear that load. He's a perfectionist, a man who will not allow complacency to creep in and compromise performances. Energised and working at hitherto unknown intensity levels, every City player knows their place is on the line with one sub-standard showing.
How often have we heard that City – under first Mancini, and then Pellegrini – had the best squad ‘on paper’, only for them to fail to perform on grass?
When a truly world class talent such as Sergio Aguero says Pep has improved him, just six weeks into Guardiola’s tutelage, it speaks volumes.
Raheem Sterling has been transformed after suffering a crisis of confidence under Pellegrini, which was further compounded by the bumbling Roy Hodgson at international level.
As for Aleksander Kolarov…where do you start?
Prior to Pep’s arrival, City’s hierarchy of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain fully expected the seemingly lacklustre Serbian to top Guardiola’s list of unwanted players.
The Catalan said he wanted to assess Kolarov himself and Pep quickly decided AK 47 had the ‘…sweetest left foot he’d seen for a long long time…’’ and was being played ‘…out of position…’ which accounted for Kolarov's disenchantment.
Pep sees what others don't. You only have to take the virtual humiliation of Mourinho in the Manchester derby, as Pep’s tactical set-up completely bamboozled the soon to be re-branded, ‘Not So Special One.’
He’s also, quite rightly, seen fit to stand up to the constant bitching, insults and snide insinuations of Yaya Toure’s pain in the ass agent, Dimitri Seluk.
Seluk constantly spews his verbal diarrhoea about City and, let’s not for one moment pretend, it isn’t sanctioned by the Ivorian.
Yaya has been one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – single factor in City’s recent era of success.
Toure scored the winning goals in the FA Cup semi final and final in 2011, was instrumental in the 2011/12 title campaign, the unstoppable force behind the 2013/14 title drive and scorer of the wonder goal that set City on the comeback trail to win the 2014 League Cup.
More latterly he smashed home the winning penalty in the League Cup shootout with Liverpool last February.
The man’s accomplishments on the field are simply legendary.
It’s his utterances and unsavoury off the pitch antics – often by proxy and using Seluk as his mouthpiece – that have tarnished his status and the legacy he will eventually leave when he ships out of the Etihad.
Pep is insisting Seluk apologises for his most recent outburst following Yaya’s omission from City’s CL squad. If he doesn’t, Toure won’t play for City again.
It’ll mean one of the most iconic figures in the history of Manchester City sitting on his backside for the next eight months, while continuing to pick up his ill-gotten £200k-a-week wages.
Was it such a coincidence that Toure chose the day he received Pep’s public ultimatum, to announce his retirement from Ivory Coast international duties?
In different circumstances, Yaya stepping away from his country’s African Cup of Nations commitments in the middle of the English season, would have been welcomed with open arms.
As it is, it’s worth nothing more than a big fat ‘so what?’
How it must pain despicable Dimitri to see his prize ‘asset’ deemed surplus to requirements, as Pep takes the Premier League by storm.
The unrepentant Ukrainian has already hit back saying; ‘Guardiola wins a few games and thinks he is King. I live in Europe so can say whatever I want and Guardiola can’t stop me.”
Demented Dimitri has even demanded Pep apologise to not only Yaya, but also Joe Hart and Manuel Pellegrini after their recent departures. Go figure.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word. If so, Yaya will end his City career as the fabled ‘Invisible Man’.
But, as correct he is on most matters, Pep might wish to readjust his focus on one particularly spiky topic, namely UEFA’s treatment of City.
In his time with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola would have been cocooned from UEFA’s corrupt and vindictive shenanigans – his previous employers in Spain and Germany being prime players and beneficiaries of the cartel pulling UEFA’s strings.
Pep has ‘suggested’ City fans should stop booing UEFA’s self-aggrandizing Champions League anthem, saying it is time to move on and put the past behind.
Easier said than done.
Perhaps if UEFA lose the ongoing legal challenge to their fatuous Financial Fair Play regulations things might be different. In the meantime UEFA should:
Reimburse City the £16.4m penalty levied for breaching FFP (plus a handsome rate of interest).
Apologise and reimburse travelling City fans for the debacle in Moscow, when UEFA decided – late in the day – to punish CSKA for racist chanting, forcing them to play City behind closed doors (500 Russian yobs were still allowed in to cheer CSKA).
Dump plans to revise the ‘co-efficient’ system, changes that will penalise the likes of City and favour the historical cartel of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Liverpool and, incredibly, the fallen giants of Milan – AC and Inter – neither of whom have been in the CL for donkey’s years.
What isn’t in dispute is the seamless way Pep is rotating his squad, integrating brilliant new signings John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane and Nolito, as well as giving youth a chance with Alexi Garcia, Pablo Maffeo, Angelino, plus a possible debut for Brahim Diaz at Swansea on Wednesday night.
City’s defence of the League Cup could see the long awaited return of Vincent Kompany after he limped out of the Champions League semi final against Real Madrid in May.
The captain’s return would give Guardiola yet another boost, with the double header against Swansea coming up, followed by crucial away games at Celtic in the CL and a top of the table tussle with Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Four away victories would give Pep a perfect 12/12 wins, but woe betide anybody mentioning a 'quadruple'.
By David Walker