Life after Arteta: How Guardiola will react after Arsenal took his right-hand man

Mikel Arteta’s departure to Arsenal will leave a sizeable gap on Manchester City’s bench for the rest of the season.

The newly appointed Gunners boss was a hugely popular figure around the first-team squad and a major influence at the club during Pep Guardiola’s reign of unprecedented success.

But Guardiola has no immediate plans to directly replace him and will wait until the summer before considering bringing a new face into his coaching team.

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City assistant Rodolfo Borrell, who worked with Guardiola briefly at Barcelona, will become the de facto number two, but Guardiola will continue to rely on his close-knit backroom staff.

“We’ll stay with the same people,” Guardiola said before the important Premier League clash with Leicester City. “Right now we are not adding anyone, we’ll work with the people who are here.”

While Guardiola gave his full support and best wishes to Arteta, his departure midway through the season could not have come at a worse time. Bringing in a new coach could potentially disrupt a carefully aligned set-up, while finding someone that would fit into that would be almost impossible.

Guardiola surrounds himself with people he trusts to understand his ideas and how he wants to play the game, but they cannot simply be ‘yes-men’, who will go along with the status quo.

The City boss is prepared to listen to anyone with a fresh perspective, whether it is his closest assistant or a player – even listening to 18-year-old rookie defender Eric Garcia, who made a suggestion before the 8-0 victory over Watford that was acted upon.

“He’s a guy who pays attention to absolutely everything,” Guardiola said of Garcia in September. “For example, he was in the warm-up, and we had doubts about Quique (Sanchez Flores’) line-up, whether he plays four at the back or five at the back. I didn’t know exactly, we didn’t know.

“And [Garcia] came after the warm-up and he said to me, ‘They make some movement defensively with four at the back’. Nobody [else] told me that. He was the guy who told me that.”

There are potential candidates who could step into Arteta’s role as a promising young coach. Former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso was among those linked with the position but it would be a difficult task to integrate him midway through the season.

“Until summer we’ll continue like this with the people that have been here three years. In the summer we will see what to improve, what not to improve and what will happen,” Guardiola added.

Former assistant Domenec Torrent, who left the Etihad in 2017 to take over at New York City FC, was another possibility but he is keen to carry on as a number one and has been linked with the vacant manager’s job at Athletico Paranaense in Brazil.

For now, Guardiola and Borrell will take more of a leading role on the training ground along with fitness coach Lorenzo Bueneventura, who prepares special sessions with the side’s next opponents in mind.

It was suggested that Borrell, 47, could follow Arteta to the Emirates and while City have been left furious at the way the Gunners handled the approach for their coach, Guardiola says he has not spoken about losing another member of his staff. “From now on he will stay with me, we didn’t have any approach from Arsenal for him,” Guardiola said of Borrell.

Borrell has a big reputation for coaching youngsters, having worked at Barca’s famed La Masia academy as well as spending five years at Liverpool before his switch to City.

He has an enviable CV that includes nurturing the talents of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Raheem Sterling. And City are finally starting to see their own academy talents breaking into the first team with Phil Foden, Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis pressing for regular starts.

But behind Borell, Guardiola has an experienced and trusted team that all make a big contribution to his ethos.

Performance analyst Carles Planchart works closely with Guardiola and his assistants to prepare tactical plans ahead of matches and from his lofted position during games, he and his video team feed information to the staff in the dugout.

Rather than analysing the strengths and weaknesses of opponents and their players, Planchart, who has been part of the Catalan’s staff since their days at Barca B, breaks down tactics to try to gain an even greater advantage.

With respected right-hand man Manel Estiarte, goalkeeping coach Xabi Mancisidor and Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant Brian Kidd, Guardiola has a trusted and close backroom staff.

They will get an early test of life after Arteta against a Leicester side well-drilled by Brendan Rodgers, who has his own imaginative ideas and tactics to try and stretch City.

“There’s nobody better than Pep and Arteta, they’re the best pair of Spaniards we know,” the City fans used to sing.

After both his title triumphs, Guardiola praised his entire staff, insisting there was to more to City’s success than just him and his assistant. With Arteta having departed, that idea will now truly be put to the test.

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