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Could Brendan Rodgers replace Guardiola at Man City?

Even before Pep Guardiola was appointed Manchester City manager in 2016, they were a club moulded in his image.

The man who had crafted a transformative Barcelona team was always the top target, following the club’s rise in profile and, in order to get him, City appointed the likes of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiritain. Two men who had worked with Guardiola at Camp Nou, everything was prepared for his arrival.

So then, with years spent building up to the Guardiola era, as well as what will be seven years enjoying the success of it, the notion of City being without the Spaniard on the touchline feels incredibly strange.

Where they are now a relentless winning machine, it’s easy to forget City’s struggles to wholly convince without him. As thoroughly entertaining as the title races in 2012 and 2014 were, they did not speak to a club who had the kind of stranglehold on the Premier League they do now. Here’s where it might get interesting.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has been touted as an eventual heir to the Guardiola throne at Man City. Having rebuilt his reputation at first Celtic and now at the King Power Stadium, the former Liverpool manager is certainly a logical candidate.

Still, it’s hard not to imagine a dip in performance, should that play out as expected. Indeed, as we saw during the 2019/20 campaign, even a 10-20% decline can mean a title rival finishes way out in front, such is the strength of the top teams at the moment.

Rodgers, after all, is yet to convince over a whole season himself. That may sound harsh given how close he took Liverpool to the title, as well as almost securing Champions League qualification on two occasions at Leicester, but we’re talking about the truly elite here. ‘Close’ is not good enough.

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Obviously, whoever replaces Guardiola faces a nigh-on impossible task to match him in terms of trophies and, perhaps more importantly, style. While it’s not quite the same as replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s an equally unenviable task.

The options at that level are limited. Antonio Conte might bring with him a track record of winning titles but the Italian’s style of play isn’t as attractive as Guardiola’s. Jurgen Klopp is a non-starter given his connection with Liverpool while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have secured the two other managers on the cutting edge of the game.

This is not an easy situation to manage for the decision-makers at the club. Rodgers’ brand of football certainly makes him standout as a realistic candidate. It’s just everything else doesn’t.

Those are the levels City will hold themselves to. They’ve entered a new stratosphere since appointing Guardiola, where winning isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s how convincingly you do it.

That’s not to suggest Rodgers can’t improve of course. It’s just that, having effectively built a dynasty in the Premier League since 2016, to put that in the hands of a man yet to prove he can get over the proverbial line is an almighty risk. For the rest of the Premier League, it could be a blessing.

At the moment, it seems the best hope for anyone outside of City to win the league is an internal problem at the Etihad Stadium. Whether it be a big injury or a missed transfer, something needs to go wrong at the club for them not to win the league in the Guardiola era.

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That won’t be the case forever, particularly if Rodgers is trying to make the step up and effectively learn on the job. Replacing Guardiola looks like the most difficult task City have faced in the modern era.

 


 

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