A day after seeing his Bayern side knocked out of the Champions League semifinal for a third consecutive season, Pep Guardiola may have watched with some concern as his future team produced an uninspiring attacking display in a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Gareth Bale's deflected cross off Fernando proved to be the decider as Manchester City bowed out of Europe to the ten-time holders in a relatively poor match where both sides struggled to carve out meaningful chances.
This was a match between two sides whose central midfield trios possessed remarkably different characteristics from one another. In Yaya Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando, Manchester City used three midfielders noted for their power and size but not for their vision or range of passing. Conversely Real Madrid used Luka Modric, Isco and Tony Kroos, three players with decidedly normal physical attributes that possess tremendous composure on the ball. In other words, Real Madrid boasted a midfield that would fit perfectly into the soon-to-be new Manchester City manager Guardiola's footballing philosophy while City's midfield was far more functional and reactive- something more akin to what you'd see from Guardiola's rival Jose Mourinho.
In Marti Paranau's behind the scenes account of Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich, Pep Confidential, Guardiola discusses how he adopted his footballing philosophy to take advantage of the strengths of German football but will always insist his side's control matches. So while Guardiola's Bayern side played with more width and hit more crosses into the box than his Barcelona, they still dominated possession. Likewise, you'd expect Pep's City to maintain some of the physicality and pace of the English game while keeping the overarching philosophy of controlling the tempo. With the lack of deeper lying midfielders able to control a match currently on the books at City, Guardiola will need to make overhauling that area of the pitch a top priority.
Toure will leave in the summer and it's difficult to imagine a place for a player as one dimensional as Fernando, particularly given Guardiola's insistence of playing a pivote at the base of midfield capable of keeping possession ticking over in the mold of himself, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso or Philip Lahm. Fernandinho has been solid and will contribute to the squad but his energetic bursts forward from deep areas will likely be less of a feature in a Guardiola side that will dominate possession. Guardiola does have a knack for converting players into new positions in new systems however so it's not too difficult seeing Fernandinho having a role to play somewhere on the pitch.
Guardiola will have no shortage of resources available to him and in Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Kelechie Iheanacho he has an immensely talented core of still relatively young attacking players. However, there are significant holes to be filled elsewhere on the pitch and it will be fascinating to see how he builds this team in the summer.