Pep Guardiola hopes to clinch an historic treble for Manchester City in the Champions League final having been accused of ‘overthinking’ his tactics in the past
Manchester City are one game away from greatness, so it is curious that the manager who has taken them to this point is also seen by many as a potential obstacle at the finish line.
Such is the narrative that has built up around Pep Guardiola overthinking his tactics in big games. Manchester City head into the Champions League final having already won a domestic double but, in this competition, they – and their manager – have baggage.
Much of it comes from their last appearance in the final. City were strong favourites to beat Chelsea in 2021, just as they are against Inter Milan now, but instead suffered a loss which felt self-inflicted as Guardiola opted to start without a natural holding midfielder.
It was just the latest in a long line of surprising tactical changes by Guardiola on the European stage and fed into a reputation for over-elaborating which at once amuses and frustrates him. “I love to overthink and create stupid tactics,” he said sarcastically last year.The accusations of overthinking actually began during his time in charge of Bayern Munich, where he started to mix things up more readily, having rarely deviated from his preferred 4-3-3 formation while at Barcelona, winning two Champions Leagues in four years.
The increased tactical flexibility helped Bayern dominate domestically, but it came to be seen as a flaw in Europe, starting in his first season, when he opted to play four forwards, rather than three, for the home leg of their semi-final against Real Madrid.
The decision had disastrous consequences, with Bayern, beaten only 1-0 in the first leg, suffering a chastening 4-0 loss at the Allianz Arena and Guardiola describing his decision to switch to a 4-2-4 formation, having resisted it all season, as “a complete ****-up”.