Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Rhythm, size of squads, and the schedule

September 30, 2023 — Pep Guardiola, when asked if he needs a bigger squad to cope with the number of games and the short time between them, stated, “[If] I can’t handle managing games with just 11-14 players for a long time, I don’t want to be a manager.”

“It’s not sustainable for the clubs. Yeah the people say you have 90, 80, 90 players, okay or 20, and then after you have one year, six injuries. Uh — you should fill a longer squad, but what happened after that when you have injured someone says, ‘You have 25 players’. [If] I can’t handle manage playing with just 11-14 players during a long long time, I don’t want to be a manager. If I suffer, who knows, I prefer that situation. It’s a risk, it’s okay. It is more sustainable for the clubs because every new player is a transfer, he’s a salaries, and whatever.

That’s why your equipment has to be okay. This player can play in three or four positions, Bernardo can two or three, Phil can play two, three, or four positions, Julian as well can pay different position, Oscar Bobb for example can play three positions, so you don’t need an extra.”

This is the versatility that Manchester City and many other top teams have. Players who can play in multiple positions. Not quantity, but players who can play two, three, or more positions. A team that can shift and change without warning. This is the most unpredictable Manchester City team in recent history, more so than last season, but they lost experience in Ilkay Gündoğan.

“The people say ‘I want two players for each position.’ I’m not agree with that. I’m not agree because at the end, to be effective, you have to have a regularly steady 11 and make two or three substitutions. When you make a rotation, six or seven every week, it doesn’t work well because the mechanism, they accept it’s a lot of games, and they are exhausted. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Pep is referring to the traditional old-school philosophy that many teams employ. Two examples are Arsenal and Newcastle.

Mikel Arteta stated, “We wanted to build a squad with two quality players in each position, with different characteristics, and we have got that now. And to maximize that, they have to play games, and we have a lot of things coming up now.”

Eddie Howe said his Newcastle side had the “perfect depth” with two players fit to play each position.

They have the depth, how will they use it? Will they stick to just one or two changes or will they make many changes, even changing their goalkeeper, like Mikel Arteta has hinted he might do with Aaron Ramsdale and David Raya? How they cope with necessary rotation determines where they finish this season.

“If I won less games, go [manage another] team. If they want me not playing European competitions, and after would be long weeks, so that’s for sure. But when you’re playing top teams, and you are lucky to play European competitions; when that happened and then I’ll have to accept it. I put on the table but I’m saying that I know it’s not going to be changed, so I accept it.

I’ve done in my career, 12 or 30 years being a manager, even when I was a football player in Barcelona, and I believed that all the time. It’s just now the rhythm is more, the rest between games is less, and you know that is the only big difference, but always I live it and it was quite well, honestly.”

Two to three changes max and maintain rhythm. Manchester City can be unpredictable because of the versatility in the squad, with players changing position to rest other players, but no wholesale changes every match.

Figure 1.1 - Premier League, European, and Cup matches for Premier League teams from GW7-GW16. Visual made by @Legomane_FPL

Manchester City is the Premier League team that is best prepared for this upcoming stretch of matches in the Champions League with 2-3 days rest in between. They have years of experience managing this intense schedule. It won’t affect them as much; this is just another year.

The rest of the teams will be either heavily injured like Manchester United, learning as they go like Arsenal and Newcastle, or both injured and learning. That’s why I think Manchester United, Arsenal, and Newcastle might struggle more than in previous seasons.

Watch the full Pep Guardiola Press Conference referenced

Preview image by Owen Humphreys/PA via AP

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