Recent criticism of Barcelona and their form under Luis Enrique has been inextricably tied to Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Graham Hunter of ESPN FC questions whether “Lucho” (Enrique) might be faltering in his effort to reinforce and reinvent “the core philosophy of pass-move, press-move, pass-score-win” that City’s current skipper instilled while training the Blaugrana.
The “lateral thinking” that Hunter suggests “may be creating more problems than it is solving” has been an issue for both Barça and City.
Then, the writer points out a fact that has followed Guardiola across the continent and slowed the immediate success that some expected at City:
“When you are successful, people study you. They want to blunt you. They fear being decimated by you. They raise their game against you. So how do you surprise, disconcert, confuse and outgun any well-prepared rivals?”
Guardiola recognized the need to simplify, as Hunter calls it, after harrowing defeats against Chelsea and Leicester City. He has seen that Premier League teams and Champions League opponents will bring pressure and seek to build frustration, which has caused both Barça and City to show frustration with officials.
Both clubs are marked as teams to beat and their style has obviously been addressed by managers around Europe.
Liverpool’s form under Jurgen Klopp has reflected similar struggles as the Reds seek to manage games by out-passing, out-pressing, and out-scoring challengers, only to find their defense strung out and vulnerable.
It is obviously a priority at the Etihad to find “new ways to impose superiority on rivals,” as Hunter says. Such things should come from the arrival of Gabriel Jesus, new defensive talent, and continued coordination of the talent City currently boasts.
With the ability to ignite City veterans and build a roster from a different vantage point than Enrique’s star-studded squad and to develop an adapted form of possession play, Guardiola has the freedom to create a new identity for City which could represent a general progression from the team he managed in Barcelona.