“There’s something about Pep Guardiola and second legs…”
… and I’m not saying this because he just “beat the best team in the world.” In all honesty, the Philosopher oozes some kind of intellectual intelligence that kind of gives him an edge over all of his counterparts.
The ones who think Pep was made by Messi and co. will most likely argue with me on this one. “There’s nothing special about a coach who had one of the best of all time play, score and rip other teams apart for him,” they’ll say.
And just maybe they’re right. It’ll take another generation to surpass what Guardiola and Messi did to European and World football in general. And, during the time, while Guardiola was busy shattering all kinds of record, it seemed as if Messi was the middleman between the trophy and Pep. One was handing down trophies to the other.
But history has shown, that it takes a manager with intelligence to manage such an intelligent player like Messi. T. Martino and the previous coaches of the Argentine national team will testify to this. Yes, Messi is a football god! But you need to be another god to manage a god, to know how a god operates, how the god functions.
Conclusion? Maybe Pep was lucky enough to have players like Messi play for him. But it was his best chance to show to the world how good a manager he is. And the world hasn’t recovered from the awe of his managerial abilities. Now, whether you agree with the above argument or not is a personal thing. But the obvious has been stated.
Coming over to Manchester City and shaking things up so fast was a dangerous move for a club competing on all fronts. But Pep is just Pep. “That style of football is the only power I have,” he once said in a post-match interview, after being asked about changing his team’s pattern of play.
Playing against Barcelona was some sort of baptism of fire for him. To catch a monkey, you have to act like one, the saying goes. But this Catalonian monkey had always outsmarted him everytime he clashed with it. And why not? He had personally trained this monkey. He had taught the monkey most of what it knows. And now, the monkey had become a deadly machine that had its former trainer in its sights.
The first leg ended in a four nil drubbing. It wasn’t a surprise. “That was expected,” most said (myself inclusive). Man. City weren’t exactly outplayed on the night. But they were forced into making errors, a specialty of Barcelona.
I wasn’t expecting much from the second leg. I mean, what’s there to expect after a four nil loss in the first leg and then conceding the first goal of the second? But, as has always been, there’s something about Pep Guardiola and second legs. I think it’s one of the attributes that sets the Philosopher apart.
He knows how to make his team perform better in the return leg. While this is expected of any good football club manager, Pep has an obvious way of pulling his off. He wins in a kind of way that reads: I’VE DONE MY ASSIGNMENT. HERE’S WHERE WE GOT THINGS WRONG THE FIRST TIME. NOW, WE’LL FIX IT AND WIN.
During the pre-match interview of the second leg, Guardiola had talked about how Barcelona force opposing teams into making errors then take advantage of the situations. He had witnessed that strategy first-hand in their first leg clash. He must have been trying to avoid a repeat, being the philosopher that he is.
So he decided to beat the grandmasters at their own game by forcing them into making errors too. This involved high-pressing and committing a lot of players going forward, leaving his team vulnerable at the back. Of course they conceded the first goal of the game but ended up winning by a 3-1 scoreline.
It’s hard to score 3 against Barcelona. It’s even harder to score those 3 goals after you’ve conceded the game’s first via the golden left foot of Lionel Messi. Trying to comeback from a goal down by going all out with your players is probably a suicide mission. And one of the hardest things to pull off against Barcelona.
But Pep Guardiola pulled that one stunt off and gave Man. City a first-ever win over the Catalan giants. He said, “Now they will realise that they have beaten the best team. Future generations will see that and know they have to do that again. That is a process.”
This win will be a major boost for the Cityzens. Now they’ll remember what exactly they’re capable of, the kind of firepower in their arsenal. After that winless run, one of the most important results in the history of Manchester City has happened. And it’s all because of Pep and his love for second legs.
Celtic and Borussia Moenchengladbach, be very afraid!
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.