By Faraz T. Toor
No one was surprised Monday when Manchester City announced that Pep Guardiola would take over as the club’s manager at the end of June; Manchester United and Chelsea may have been pawing at his heels, hoping he would notice their wagging tails, but the expected decision was that he would go to City.
Those examining other teams may be surprised by the time that summer comes around, though; Guardiola is sure to change the foundation of his new club, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be the only new manager to do that.
That’s right. Come all, come all, sit, grab a bag of popcorn, and watch as the drama of mass change unfolds this summer at Manchester United and Chelsea as well.
The foremost and most interesting summer changes to entice you are the obvious ones that a Guardiola-run Barclays Premier League club will bring. Guardiola, a cerebral manager who wants his clubs to fit his formulas, will surely greatly alter the roster of the Citizens. He may not fish away a few gigantic names away from rival European clubs like fans hope, but he is sure to change the roster from top-down.
Guardiola’s years at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, perhaps before anything else, even the tiki-taka, have been marked with remarkably stingy defenses. Barca allowed more than 30 goals in a La Liga season only once during Guardiola’s time as the manager, and never have Bayern surrendered more than 23 goals in a league season. City averaging a goal a game against in the Premier League, more than any other club in the EPL top five outside of Leicester City, is unlikely to sit well with Guardiola, then.
More passers will be brought in to City by Guardiola as well. The club may average 559.5 passes a game (per Danny Murphy of the BBC), but that’s still a few paces below Guardiola’s standards.
To crank out about 100 more passes a game, the new manager will want even more patient and skilled facilitators to stretch defenses, which, in turn, will result in fewer goals against Joe Hart. As a result, Yaya Touré, Jesús Navas, and Fernandinho are on notice, along with possibly David Silva.
It would look like a markedly different Man. City this summer. The club brought in a bevy of star players in the early part of the decade before it won its first Premier League title, but it has mostly curbed its spending the last few years because of financial fair play restrictions.
Ever since the Citizens started regularly appearing at the top of the Premier League table, they have had at least their core of Touré, Silva, and Vincent Kompany. However, most of that will likely be sold away in the summer, the last links of the previous style of City.
On the other side of Manchester are the quieter neighbors. Many thought there would be noise soon with the resignation or sacking of manager Louis van Gaal, but his ground hasn’t collapsed just yet.
He is fully expected to be gone by his choice of the team’s, however, by the time the summer comes around as Manchester United labor outside of the top four. When that time comes, then, when yet another manager is given the task of reclaiming the club’s former glory, mass change will come in tow.
While not as drastic as the predicted overhauling of Man. City, the new Red Devils’ manager will have to drastically adjust the team’s style. United’s offensive approach has been exceptionally tepid this season, cracking the back of opponents’ net just 31 times in the league campaign so far, despite having strong talent up front with Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, and Juan Mata.
Given that United scored only 62 goals in the Premiership last season, the fewest of the top four teams, the new manager will be heavily pressured to change van Gaal’s philosophy and push the players forward more. Regardless of how that may impact the defense, it would be quite the summer change for Manchester United supporters to not be bored to sleep when they see their club play.
But there’s more that could change the team this summer. For months, the Red Devils have been linked with hiring José Mourinho as their next manager. While Mourinho likely would not transform the roster like Guardiola would do with City, his very presence would change the perception everyone would have of United, and would significantly awaken many supporters from their three-year-long slumber. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Man. United’s manager after the 2012-2013 season, the club has felt lackluster.
It may still have star players, Ferguson may not have been a boisterous manager, and van Gaal has usually been an effective manager, but the team has not had a major reason to be excited since Ferguson’s last match. Mourinho would change that in an instant and would suddenly make the club more relevant than it has since 2013.
In West London, mass change has already begun at Chelsea, but it will not reach its peak until the summer. By then, Chelsea fans will see a club that they have not witnessed since the 1990s: a club out of European football and without John Terry, a new club that will have had to fully move on from the hope that the second Mourinho age brought — the hope of many more trophies and stability in the managerial spot.
The Blues will be giants again — there’s not a great deal of anxiety about that given how much talent and resources they have — but they will have to pick up the pieces and look at a club not on the rise, but one that will try to get back to its old place towards the top of Europe. Chelsea may not sell their best stars, but the stars of the transfer market may not come to them as willingly when they see a team that will not play European football in the 2016-2017 season.
The biggest changes that Chelsea will see by this summer, though, will be in their culture. If Terry indeed moves on as he said he will, the old age will officially be gone. With Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Petr Čech, and Mourinho already gone, the captain was the last link to the core of Chelsea stars that vaulted the team into world relevance.
The departure of Terry may just represent a symbolic loss. The club mostly relied on transfers rather than homegrown players to build their previous core, and it could theoretically have a new nucleus in place with Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Thibaut Courtois if those youngsters stick with the club long-term like Terry, Drogba, Lampard, and Čech did.
But the official loss of the old guard, especially since it is coming in unceremonious fashion for Terry, is going to hurt fans and represent a mass change nonetheless. No longer can Chelsea supporters look at Terry and the old stars to represent a bridge between the classic team and the new one; the changes that the team has made to the roster over the past few years will be complete once Terry leaves.
None of these mass changes will be crippling, and in most cases they are going to be beneficial for City, United, and Chelsea. But they will leave the soccer world with vastly different teams. Manchester City could be the new tiki-taka club of Europe, Chelsea could lose some of their appeal without Terry and European football, and Manchester United could be in the hands of, gasp, their old rival from West London. Rewind to August, and those would have been stunning claims. That’s the drama one summer can bring.