*DISCLAIMER – This is not a real story.*
I like to imagine that at some point shortly after his appointment at Manchester City Pep Guardiola was shown a map of the UK and some of the lesser-known Premier League homes were pointed out…
A clued-up Manchester City assistant decides to start by introducing Staffordshire and Stoke City; a location Guardiola would be paying a visit to at the end of August.
‘Forget what you have heard about Stoke, Pep. They are a different club these days. We will have too much class for them’.
The entirely fictitious conversation moves south to Wales and Swansea City.
‘Swansea poses little threat to us, Pep. We shall easily defeat them and their manager will be sacked. We will force them into hiring a peculiar American replacement.’
Guardiola is pleased with what he is hearing. ‘Where next?’ he smiles.
‘To North London’ his assistant explains. ‘But not to Arsenal. It is Tottenham we should fear this season. It is here we will lose our 100% record, Pep. They will not fear the way we play’.
‘We’ll see’ Guardiola grunts.
Moving a short distance down the map the pair reach Selhurst Park.
‘Our squad will be low on confidence here, Pep. It may be a good idea to recall Yaya’
Guardiola laughs. ‘We won’t be needing him this year. Where else are we visiting?’
‘Burnley’ the would-be assistant reveals. ‘Not too far from our home ground’.
‘Who?’ spurts the new City manager. ‘I haven’t heard of any of these players. We will win easily, for sure. And if they put up a fight we can always blame the ref. Tell me, when do we visit the Premier League Champions?’
The assistant steadies himself. ‘Leicester will pose a counter-attacking threat, Pep…’
‘Nonsense! We will restore order to this division. I may not even start two recognised centre-halves. John can do a perfectly good job by himself. Besides, we have Claudio in goal should they manage a shot on target’
The assistant struggles to stop himself from laughing.
‘Sorry Pep, maybe you’re right. We will also visit Anfield before New Year. I expect Jurgen will have improved his side this year…’
‘No, no. Don’t be silly – have you seen their defence? We shall out-score them. We have Sergio. They have Dejan Lovren. What about their neighbours?’
The assistant takes a deep breath.
‘It’s at Everton where every fault you’ve ignored, dismissed or forgotten about over the first five months of the season will come together in one 90-minute period. We’ll have all of the ball and do nothing with it. We won’t deal with their direct approach and our defenders will be pressured into serious mistakes. Our team will lack focus and we won’t be able to ignore our unbalanced squad any longer. A debuting teenager will come on as a substitute and nutmeg Claudio Bravo. It will be one of the worst results in your managerial career’
Guardiola had left the room.
‘What do you think of this roll neck?’