a year ago

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp - pioneering the modern day managerial rivalry

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Remember the fierce rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United that spanned nearly one decade? 

Remember the magicians in the dugout—Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson — probably the last managerial duo in the premier league era to form a rivalry that everyone seeks inspiration from? 

It was always the old school rivalry that had everything in it - physical and verbal altercations, disagreements on and off the pitch and 'giving everything on the pitch' mentality from their players that ruled almost the era of the late 2000s and early 2010s before Arsenal grew into an inferior force.

Perhaps, most fans in this era know about the rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in Spain, where football's two of the greatest teams fought each other. The rivalry saw intense battles on the field, consistent display of elite-level technicality and more importantly, top-class coaching from Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. 

Real Madrid's Lethal Counter attacking football led by Cristiano Ronaldo vs TikiTaka of Barcelona with Messi being the poster boy of the team. 

But where does Pep Guardiola vs Jurgen Klopp stand among the greatest managerial rivalries in football? 

Surely Pep Guardiola hasn't changed much with his footballing philosophy but has Liverpool's generational team matched Pep's Manchester City? In his words, yes, since he labelled Liverpool a ‘pain in the ass.’

Stats don't lie. Starting from August 2018, Liverpool amassed a whopping 338 points, 1 less than the leaders, Manchester City. In the same period, Liverpool suffered 15 losses, more jaw-dropping is that 12 out of these 15 losses came early last year when Liverpool were held back by injuries to crucial players that included six consecutive home losses. 

Chelsea comes third in the list with a point tally of 267 in the same period, 71 behind Liverpool's total; this speaks volumes about how these two created a league of their own. 

From October onwards, Liverpool have played 23 matches, winning 20 of them. However, they are still one point behind the league leaders Manchester City who, apart from a sudden drop off in energy, for instance, against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park or Tottenham Hotspurs at the Etihad, have maintained a top level of football. 

Especially for Liverpool, it was difficult to maintain the top level of football week in and week out with an ageing squad. Fortunately, with the additions of Ibrahima Konate and Luis Diaz, their squad depth now looks balanced. 

Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are eyeing an impossible treble, and at Liverpool, they are dreaming of a quadruple. One can shatter the other's dream to achieve theirs. And This phenomenon is hardly seen in the Premier League. 

Easily, one could find the similarities with the top rivalries in terms of intensity, performance and consistency but not so with the toxicity in the forms of abusive on-field gestures and off-field remarks. 

Apparently, the two legends have immense respect for each other and Pep's shake of hands at the end of their match-up at Etihad symbolises the respect they have for each other. 

The afternoon on 10th April at Etihad showed why Liverpool is the only team capable of fighting neck to neck with Manchester City with a highline at their den. Perhaps, Manchester City played superior football that afternoon, But Klopp's Liverpool were resilient. 

The FA Cup semi-final, if not anything, shows why Liverpool have been the greatest rival to Pep's City. The first-half performance at Wembley was the best 45 minutes of football they played in recent times. It was monumental because they just survived two difficult games against the same City and Benfica.

Klopp has 10 wins against Pep and Pep has 9 against that. Assuming they both remain in English football for another two or three years, this will go down as one of the greatest managerial rivalries in the history of football. Because the quality of football both teams are delivering is unbelievable. 

Tofael Mahmud is a final year student at the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka

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