Guardiola must rise to challenge
LONDON: Pep Guardiola faces a stern test of his managerial philosophy as the Manchester City boss aims to overhaul Premier League champions Liverpool this season.
After an extra week of rest due to their involvement in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League, Guardiola’s side start their Premier League campaign with a tricky trip to Wolves on Monday.
It is exactly the kind of fixture that proved fatal to City’s hopes of retaining the title last season.
They were beaten twice by Wolves, eventually losing nine league games and finishing a massive 18 points behind Liverpool.
Guardiola knows City cannot afford so many unexpected stumbles this season if they are to end Liverpool’s reign.
But the Spaniard himself might need to look in the mirror as he contemplates the reasons for City’s steep decline.
His inability to fix City’s defensive problems and constant tinkering with his midfield and attack seemed to spread confusion and frustration among his squad.
Only Kevin De Bruyne enjoyed a transcendent season for City and the Belgian midfield maestro could not carry his team all alone.
Guardiola’s positional switches destabilised City again in their shock Champions League quarter-final loss to Lyon in August.
Throw in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final win over City, in which Gunners boss Mikel Arteta out-witted his former mentor, and it is easy to see why some are questioning Guardiola’s ability to take his team back to the top.
City have the quality in their squad to beat anyone -- as they showed in a 4-0 rout of Liverpool last season -- but does Guardiola have the hunger and ability to make it happen on a consistent basis?
Luring Lionel Messi from Barcelona would have boosted to City’s title prospects, but the superstar was eventually forced to remain at Camp Nou. -AFP