Cul­ture clash: It’s Pulis vs. Guardi­ola

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

One coach will be wear­ing a base­ball cap, track­suit and sneak­ers. The other is usu­ally sharply dressed in a suit, tie and shoes.

One team will be de­fen­sively ro­bust, di­rect and likely re­ly­ing on goals from set pieces. The op­po­nent is highly tech­ni­cal, ob­sessed with pos­ses­sion and easy on the eye.

Tony Pulis vs. Pep Guardi­ola. West Bromwich Al­bion vs. Manch­ester City.

Get ready for the Pre­mier League’s ul­ti­mate cul­ture clash.

Upon ar­riv­ing at City this off­sea­son, Guardi­ola said one of his big chal­lenges was to prove to him­self and the world that his new team can play beau­ti­ful soc­cer no mat­ter what time of year, no mat­ter who the op­po­si­tion.

To­day, then, might be his most in­ter­est­ing test so far.

The 58-year-old Pulis is part of the fur­ni­ture in the Pre­mier League, a coach who has taken charge of more than 1,000 first­team games in Eng­land and has proved to be the clos­est thing to a guar­an­tee against rel­e­ga­tion af­ter spells at Stoke, Crys­tal Palace and now West Brom.

Us­ing a prag­matic strat­egy, he knows how to get per­for­mances from lim­ited play­ers and re­sults for teams.

At West Brom, he has of­ten played a de­fense con­tain­ing four cen­ter backs and his side has the big­gest aerial threat in the league, with four of its 10 league goals this sea­son com­ing from set pieces. Tall cen­tral de­fender Gareth McAuley has al­ready scored three.

Un­beaten Tot­ten­ham needed a last-minute goal to draw 1-1 at The Hawthorns two weeks ago, while West Brom was com­pletely dom­i­nated in a 2-1 loss at Liver­pool last week­end, only to score late — from a cor­ner — and set up a tense fin­ish.

“West Brom use Pulis’ style mar­velously,” Guardi­ola said Fri­day. “I saw them against Tot­ten­ham — they use the long ball and they de­fend (deep). We have to adapt.”

That’s just what Guardi­ola is do­ing as he gets to grips with the re­lent­less de­mands of the English soc­cer cal­en­dar, which is dif­fer­ent to what he ex­pe­ri­enced at Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich.

The Span­ish coach started with 10 straight vic­to­ries at City but a League Cup loss to Manch­ester United on Wed­nes­day took the team’s win­less run to six games, the worst streak of Guardi­ola’s man­age­rial ca­reer.

A match at West Brom might be a cul­ture shock to Guardi­ola and a strong ex­am­i­na­tion of a City de­fense that has kept only one clean sheet in the league. Goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo, in par­tic­u­lar, ap­pears vul­ner­a­ble un­der the high ball, so West Brom surely will put pres­sure on the Chilean.

“They are strug­gling at the mo­ment, from what ev­ery­body tells me,” Pulis said sar­cas­ti­cally, ref­er­enc­ing that City is still first in the Pre­mier League af­ter nine games. “They are top of the league, they only just got beat by Man United by play­ing their sec­ond team on Wed­nes­day.

“They will play their first team against us def­i­nitely. It will be a tough game.”

But don’t ex­pect Guardi­ola to adapt his usual game plan just be­cause it’s West Brom.

Asked last week if the down­turn in re­sults has caused him to think about a change in style, Guardi­ola re­sponded: “I think about that, yes. But af­ter that, the so­lu­tion is not bet­ter than what I be­lieve. So I can­not.

“That is why Manch­ester City called me (to be its coach), to try to play in the way I be­lieve with the play­ers that I have.”

Pep Guardi­ola

Tony Pulis

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