Premier League English

Haaland says it all – “If you don’t live up to what he expects you have a big problem”

The now familiar sight, one that’s somehow becoming oddly comfortable as the celebratory antics grow on you over the past many seasons, of Guardiola’s players celebrating and cavorting with the Premier League trophy said it all – Manchester City’s insatiable appetite for trophies spells continuing bad news for any club hoping to break the stranglehold Pep Guardiola’s side are wielding on English football.

Understandably, and sadly, there have been the occasional expected oddballs, pundits and former football icons of a dim past who have argued that City’s success has all largely been due to Guardiola having the best players – clearly an insidious inference to the deep pockets of City’s Middle Eastern owners being the only reason clearly affording them the best football talents in the world enabling them to reap success on such an unprecedented level on the pitch, success clearly not attributable to any genius on the part of the Spaniard who has won the hearts and admiration of both players and fans all across the La Liga, the Bundesliga and now the Premier League.

Graeme Souness, for one, has obdurately dismissed the idea that Manchester City manager Guardiola is a genius, attributing his success to “having the best players”. Souness’ comments, made on William Hill’s new podcast ‘Three Up Front’, also featured Simon Jordan and Troy Deeney.

Despite Guardiola’s impressive collection of 38 major trophies with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City, Souness is unwilling to bestow the title of genius upon him, as the Scot believes it’s the caliber of players at Guardiola’s disposal that has been pivotal to his trophy-laden career.

During the podcast discussion, Souness said: “Pep Guardiola has managed three clubs and in all of those he has had the best group of players in whatever league he’s been in.

“He took over an exceptional group of players in every case,” Souness added.

“City are the richest team in England and they only needed the slightest bit of tweaking when he took over.

“He obviously manages players very well, but there is no genius there. It is just about having the best players. If you have an average manager with great players, then you have a chance at being successful.”

It’s amazing how myopic, not to mention insensitive, an icon like Souness can somehow end up over time, not even realizing that he had inadvertently shot himself in the foot declaring that Guardiola ‘obviously manages players very well, but there is no genius there.’ It is just about having the best players. If you have an average manager with great players, then you have a chance at being successful.’

What ludicrous crap are we hearing here coming out of the mouth of someone who was once even highly looked up to for his prowess on the pitch at his peak?


For someone – although not anywhere in the league of Messi nor Ronaldo –whose playing career is best remembered for his seven seasons at Liverpool, where he won five League Championships, three European Cups and four League Cups, his calculating comments made in pronouncing judgment on Guardiola are so senseless almost to the point of being not only insensitive but plainly vile.

“If you have an average manager with great players, then you have a chance at being successful.”

Even top level managers in the vein of Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel – who have both had some of the best football talents assembled under them at Paris Saint-Germain that money could buy in the recent past –

would not hesitate to refute what the deluded Scotsman has stated here in his endeavor to slight Guardiola’s stature. And this is simply because even these two highly-revered managers had difficulties trying to effectively manage the most expensive players money could buy when they were at the Parc des Princes club and were unable to succeed in their Champions League endeavors to win the most elusive of European honors, despite having the likes of Neymar, Mbappe and Messi as frontliners, in addition to a whole phalanx of other world-beating stars.

Souness then proceeded to reflect on his own quirky, warped experiences, stating: “I’ve been in dressing rooms where everything had been set in stone for the squad by the players that came before us, so the manager barely had to speak to us.”

The above self-incriminating statement at best by Souness clearly attests to the fact that the once-regarded Liverpool captain had actually been a part of squads where there were obviously players of much higher stature and caliber above the then impressionable Scotsman and that there was already a certain appreciable game plan and standard of play with strategies firmly intact, hence needing no necessity for the manager to speak much to brief the players. A statement like that clearly vindicates the manager instead of denouncing his caliber.

It would need to be someone either obviously obtuse, insufferably petty and deliberately biased not to be cognizant of the fact that football at any level involves players with the prerequisite skills and artistry to make it into the massively-popular, commercial sport that it has now grown into over the years. And it is invariably the manager who needs to have the reuisite experience and tactical nous that are needed to elicit and hone the talents and shape the skills latent in players to make them proficient and deadly on the pitch.

Of course, Souness is foxy enough as a pundit not to openly just attribute Guardiola’s success all these years to merely money as that wouldn’t reflect well on him at all, but make him look crass and ungracious, hence his onvious allusion instead to the availability of having the best players always readily available to the Spaniard as the reason accounting for his incredible success as a manager.

Despite Souness’ ineffective, limp ruminations, it is clear that in 53-year-old Guardiola, Manchester City are indeed blessed to have a manager insanely obsessed with perfection and driven with an indubitable will to achieve that perfection, come what may.

Of course, credit should be given to Arsenal for punching so closely again this season but, unfortunately, only to have their grand plans invariably thwarted once again by Pep and his invincible team of indomitable warriors.

Manchester United and Chelsea would be challenging Manchester City and Arsenal for the Premier League title if it all only came down to money spent, states an adamant Pep Guardiola.

“Before it was the money. For that reason, Manchester United should have won all the titles, Chelsea – all the titles, Arsenal – all the titles. They spend as much money in the last five years as us. They should be there. They are not there.

City have averaged 89.7 points in their last four title-winning seasons and, while failing to threaten the 100 they amassed in 2017-2018, Guardiola’s side proved that when the pressure is really on, they are almost unassailable to the extent of being virtually impregnable. Arteta and his valiant men would surely be the first to attest to this.

Arsenal and Liverpool both at different times in the campaign headed City in the standings up to the final months of the campaign, but the valiant title holders put together a blistering run of 19 wins and four draws since their last league defeat by Aston Villa on December 6.

Needless to say, none in the City camp – least of all the players themselves – were really surprised because they all knew 53-year-old Guardiola’s manic obsession with perfection would eventually drive them all the way to success once again.

“It’s a bit demanding at times. It’s tough, but look what he’s done. He demands a lot every single day,” City’s Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland said of playing for Guardiola. “If you don’t live up to what he expects, you have a big problem.”

Incredibly, in the 152 Premier League matches City have played across the last four seasons, they have recorded 112 victories with just 17 defeats, racking up 372 goals.

That is in a league regarded as the toughest in Europe, where the huge broadcasting deals mean all 20 clubs have the spending power to sign some of the world’s best talent.

Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who along with 23-year-old Phil Foden now has six Premier League titles to his name with City, explained that the secret was quite simple.

“The manager sets the tone but this team we enjoy playing with each other. It is not a team with big egos,” he said.

“We play around with each other we run like crazy and we just enjoy it. The enjoyment is lasting so that’s it.”

It could yet get better for City, with next Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester United still to come, and there will be no slackening off until another trophy is in the bag and a double secured, hot on the heels of last year’s treble.