Mercato Mercato – Manchester City – Haaland – Guardiola, the improbable marriage between the 9 and the one who no longer wanted it

If you play in Brazil like Guardiola played today, it ends in a police investigation” This December 18, 2011 in Yokohama, the world takes a lesson in ‘guardism’. In the final of the Club World Cup, the coach of Santos, blown 4-0, can not believe it. “They played in 3-7-0, an inconceivable formation in Brazil“, notes Muricy Ramalho. ‘Pep’ is then at the height of his glory: his Barça has crushed everything over the calendar year. He therefore ends it in an experiment that will make children: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Eric Abidal behind; Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Dani Alves and Lionel Messi.

No attacker but an insolent mastery for a corrida regulated like clockwork. The goal : “Try to control the middle and exploit the space“, explains the boss who then delivers his mantra at a press conference after the coronation. Eleven years have passed, ‘guardiolism’ has spread throughout Europe, the faux-nine is no longer a dirty word but a widespread alternative. and its founder continued his work. In 2016, Chelsea and City, led by Guardiola, faced each other without a centre-forward on the pitch. Last year, for City’s first Champions League final, again against the Blues, the Catalan technician is still innovating.

Guardiola, eleven years of failures and an evening of resignation

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Six false nines at City

While Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero, Cityzens centre-forwards, spent a good part of the season on the bench, Guardiola lined up not one, but two false nines that day. Defeat will not deflect him. Just look at the construction of City’s squad today. The departure of Sergio Agüero last summer has not been filled and Manchester has only one axial striker left, Gabriel Jesus who is, moreover, not really the archetype of the surface striker. The Brazilian has only started three Champions League matches this year: Guardiola, who has always admired midfielders and sometimes mistreated his points (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto’o), has therefore changed nothing. City have half a dozen players capable of playing false nines (De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Mahrez, Sterling, Mahrez, Gündogan). Playing without a centre-forward is no longer a plan B but the priority option.

How Guardiola lost the coaching battle

However, this Monday, May 9, the British press is unanimous: Erling Haaland will engage with Manchester City. He would have passed his medical examination and all doubts are removed. Guardiola will therefore welcome one of the best center forwards in the world, offer him the biggest salary in the history of the Premier League (30.4 million euros annually) and build around the greatest hope of his generation ( 21 years old) if we except the UFO Kylian Mbappé. What happened ? Has the club decided to ignore the recommendations of its coach? Does Guardiola want to change his DNA? Or was he forced to do so?

Guardiola is not looking for a nine but a finisher

Haaland’s arrival responds to a need: to make Manchester City’s too many missed opportunities a reality. More than a centre-forward, Guardiola is looking for a finisher. And it must be remembered that, had it not been for Tottenham’s intransigence last summer, Harry Kane would have had to join City. It’s been several months since the Cityzens brain noticed the inability of his people to finish the job in the most important moments of the season. This team lacks a cold-blooded killer. This is how the recurring failures in the Champions League are analyzed and it is enough to see the number of missed chances by City in the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid (despite the four goals scored) to see the harm. that eats away at the champions of England.

Why Bayern won’t miss Haaland

To put an end to 11 years of failure in C1, the Catalan wants to increase his conversion rate of clear chances and he knows that his team can stuff his new center forward with ammunition. Who today is better placed than Erling Haaland for this mission? The man who weighs 23 goals in 19 Champions League matches, 61 pawns in 66 Bundesliga outings. The Norwegian is a scoring machine. The arrival of a striker of this size, and the investment made by City, will force Guardiola to review his main principles of play. Is he capable of it? How will Haaland adapt to his new boss and how will ‘guardianism’ adapt to Haaland? Eleven years after reinventing football without a center forward, Guardiola is forced to reinvent his football with the great center forward of tomorrow.

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