Why 'telepathy' is Pep Guardiola and Man City's secret weapon in Premier League title race - Alex Brotherton

Manchester|January 14, 2022

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Manchester City are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 17 games left to play, but Guardiola has been around long enough to know that the title race is far from over.

On Saturday his City side face second-place Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, in a high-stakes battle that Pep will be desperate not to lose.

Given Guardiola spent much of this week in isolation after a positive coronavirus test and was only able to lead one training session in preparation for the game, he would've been forgiven for appearing a little fraught. The reality was quite the opposite.

"We were in touch with Zoom preparing training session," Guardiola revealed when asked how his team had prepared for Chelsea under the unusual circumstances, with trusted assistant Juanma Lillo also an absentee on COVID-19 grounds.

"Rodo [Borrell], Carlos [Vicens] and the other guys were there. We know each other for six years so with one eye contact we know exactly what we have to do."

The telepathic connection Pep suggested he and his assistants share is obviously a slight exaggeration, but in that anecdote he revealed the unlikely advantage that City hold over their Premier League rivals.

Never before has there been an elite level football team where every part is interchangeable without compromising results or success. The way in which City have remodelled the club around Guardiola's ideology has allowed the coach to assemble a squad of elite footballers who can play anywhere in his system depending on the circumstances of each match.

The same can now be said of Guardiola's team of assistants, even if that has been put into practice out of necessity rather than choice.

As Guardiola alluded to, he and his assistant coaches have worked together for many years.

Assistant coaches Borrell has worked alongside Guardiola since his arrival in 2016, while Vicens arrived initially on a work experience placement the following year and has enjoyed a rapid rise since working the under-12 and under-13 sides.

Both boast a great understanding of how Pep wants the club's young talents to be educated in his positional style of football.

The likes of Carles Planchart, Lorenzo Buenaventura and Manel Estiarte followed Guardiola from Barcelona to Bayern Munich and then City, while Lillo has been one of Guardiola's key inspirations since the start of his coaching career.

The professional and personal friendships that Guardiola has formed with his supporting staff over the years has led to a situation where they all perfectly understand his vision and ideas, and are always singing from the same hymn sheet.

The same likely cannot be said for City's title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool. Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp are both fantastic tacticians in their own right, and often - in the rare games when things aren't going right for their teams - it's noticeable when they make a tactical tweak or adjustment.

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At City though, mid-game adjustments are just as likely to come from Borrell or Lillo as they are Guardiola.

Speaking after City's FA Cup win against Swindon last week - which Guardiola missed due to covid isolation - Borrell said: "He trusts us a lot and all the backroom staff and said, 'Listen, just go with what you believe and what you feel and if you need me you can call me any time'."

The fruits of six years of intense work in Manchester are a City team that can essentially be left to its own devices.

So, had Guardiola missed the Chelsea game too, would he have put his feet up?

"No, I did not enjoy it!," Pep said of his week off.

In typical workaholic fashion, he spent the week reviewing game footage from the comfort of his home. Relaxing the Guardiola way!

Do you think that having Guardiola in the dugout against Chelsea is a boost for City? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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