Football News

Marcelo Bielsa mystified by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City tactics

By Ben Green

Published: 11:08, 14 May 2019 | Updated: 16:49, 14 September 2021

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has admitted he cannot comprehend the style of football Pep Guardiola employs at Manchester City.  

The Argentine tactician has often been hailed as one of the most influential managers to help shape Guardiola’s coaching philosophy.

Why is Bielsa mystified by Guardiola? Five key things to know… 

  1. Bielsa has forged a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking and tactically astute coaches in football.
  2. Guardiola once described the Leeds manager as the “best coach in the world”.
  3. The Catalan coach has often spoken of his admiration for the 63-year-old and his playing style.
  4. Leeds are currently competing in the Championship play-offs against Derby County, while Guardiola’s Man City clinched the Premier League title on Sunday.
  5. Bielsa has now admitted he tries to replicate City’s style of play but cannot understand how Guardiola’s system works.

Guardiola recently lifted his second Premier League title with Manchester City on Sunday, but that would not have been possible without the workings of Bielsa, according to the Catalan coach himself.

On several occasions the 48-year-old has name-checked Bielsa as one of his managerial idols, explaining how the Argentine’s playing style has helped shape his own blueprint.

However, that influence is not been reciprocal according to Bielsa, who suggests Guardiola’s philosophy simply cannot be emulated and put into practice.

“The argument I give to explain my respect and admiration for Guardiola is that the beauty of the play of the teams he built you can’t copy,” Bielsa told a press conference on Monday. “Guardiola builds alpha teams.

“We always said ‘what would Guardiola do without the players he had in Barcelona?’ and you can say the players of Barcelona are unique. The players of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich are very good and Manchester City too.

“But the capacity to create a style which you only see in the teams of Guardiola is much more important than the players he has.

“I’m not saying the players aren’t important. I’m underlining his capacity to be creative. The things you can’t analyse are a mystery for those who don’t know about them.”

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“When I watch Manchester City games I feel I’m ignorant”

The Citizens secured the Premier League title at the weekend after ruthlessly exposing Brighton courtesy of a 4-1 scoreline, becoming the first club in a decade to retain the top-flight crown.

City were pushed to the wire, with Guardiola’s side finishing an enthralling 38-game campaign just the single point above their North West neighbours Liverpool.

However, once again the reigning champions kept their nerve and impressed fans up and down the country with their insatiable attacking football, leading Bielsa to concede that even he feels “ignorant” when watching Guardiola’s side in full swing.

He added: “When I watch Manchester City games I feel I’m ignorant. You have a picture where 10 players are in front of their own box and City move the ball, trying to find the space to put the ball in.

“I see what is well done and try to copy it and understand it. But you can’t copy Guardiola’s teams.

“When I see it I’m wondering ‘what’s the method? What do we have to repeat to do that? What are the pre-established needs to solve this compact defence?’ But you never find out. They always find a solution.”