It has been an eventful fortnight for Pep Guardiola.
On 19 November, the 49-year-old signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2023. His former deal was due to expire at the end of the season, and there were worries in the City camp that they would be forced to look for a replacement.
You would be forgiven for thinking Pep’s eyes were wandering. His managerial stints at both Barca and Bayern lasted no longer than four years. Given he is already in his fifth season in Manchester, potential openings at Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain look appealing projects.
But Guardiola quashed any speculation about his future. The contract extension indicates he is determined as ever, and he will need to be if he is to guide the club through what is increasingly becoming a rough patch in their glittering recent success.
Against Spurs, Manchester City’s rough patch was laid bare for all to see.
Jose Mourinho, often depicted as Guardiola’s nemesis, lead his Tottenham Hotspur side to an impressive 2-0 victory against City, who now lie eight points adrift in the title race, albeit with a game in hand.
Pep has never managed transition
Worryingly for Pep, Manchester City are becoming rather toothless. They were particularly uninspiring against the North Londoners and had no answers to Spurs’ defiant defensive performance. Previously, these were the matches where Guardiola’s tiki-taka football tended to thrive on.
It is clear Manchester City are in transition. Alarmingly, Pep has never managed transition.
In the aftermath of European domination, he fell out with the Barca hierarchy and announced he would leave at the end of that season. At Bayern Munich, his impressive domestic performances turned stale, and he left Bavaria before turning his situation around.
Now he faces the same situation at Manchester City.
His side have been domestically dominant for three seasons. In 2018, they became the first side to earn 100 points in a Premier League campaign. The following season, they retained the title, the first to do so since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2009.
Guardiola is in unchartered waters
But last season, they fell 18 points behind champions Liverpool last season, with Guardiola suffering his record-high nine losses in a domestic campaign.
Guardiola is in unchartered waters. He has now committed to changing the club’s fortunes around, and it will be fascinating to see how he approaches the tasks ahead.
It is clear, however, that a new spine is needed. Academy product Phil Foden is increasingly asserting his creative influence, while Aymeric Laporte has proved himself to be a key figure in defence.
However, Guardiola not only needs to recruit world-class talent, but world-class leaders. Vincent Kompany was their warrior at the back, while David Silva was one of many to lead by example. Neither have been replaced.
A severe lack of potency in front of goal will be a priority in the coming transfer windows
With Sergio Aguero approaching the end of his tenure at the club, a severe lack of potency in front of goal will be a priority in the coming transfer windows, while left-back continues to prove a problem position.
Undoubtedly, recruitment will need to improve if they are to reignite their title-winning form.
There is one man, who you may have heard of, that Pep may turn to: Lionel Messi.
Similarly, the Barcelona icon is also going through something of a rough patch. A series of disappointing Champions League campaigns and failure to retain La Liga last season meant he handed in a transfer request in August.
Manchester City certainly flirted with idea of a Messi-Guardiola reunion, and after the latter’s commitment to the club, do not be surprised if they decide to make the first move.
What’s more, both have a mutual desire: The Champions League.
However, while Messi may be desperate to lift the trophy one last time, it is not essential for Pep to rediscover his European glory.
Many fans and critics of Guardiola have pointed out the glaring European cup shaped hole in their trophy cabinet
Many fans and critics of Guardiola have pointed out the glaring European cup shaped hole in their trophy cabinet, arguing that Pep could not be considered a success until he delivers Europe’s most coveted club prize.
Guardiola’s contract extension does provide a couple more stabs at European glory, but he has already proved his worth tenfold in the Premier League.
Manchester City were the ‘noisy neighbours’ before their takeover. Fast-forward 10 years, they transformed into one of best teams in the world. The best team that does not always win the Champions League (Liverpool lost half of their group games during their successful 2018/19 campaign).
Pep Guardiola is already a success in Manchester, he does not need to win the Champions League.
More pertinently, he faces a much tougher challenge: To lead Manchester City into a new era of dominance.