How Guardiola shows us it's not just a case of starting Chaplin

All I do is look at the opponent and try to demolish them.

Thursday, 15th September 2016, 6:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:18 pm
Conor Chaplin is congratulated by his team-mates follwoing his goal against Wycombe last Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler

Pep Guardiola, the most revered club manager in the game, built his reputation at Barcelona on a free-flowing brand of football.

The revered tiki-taka is a term the Spaniard rejects. He insists his philosophy is to pass and play with a purpose.

Yet, there is a view Guardiola operated with a carefree, idealistic approach in his time at the Nou Camp.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The perception is his football is gung-ho and cavalier, with an ideology of attack at all costs resulting in 14 trophies in four seasons.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Guardiola, to the surprise of many, is obsessed by the analysis of the opposition.

Those introductory words are an insight into how he devours information on his rivals in his search for the best way to win a game.

That’s because different opponents present different problems – and different strengths and weaknesses to contend with and exploit.

Which leads us, in a roundabout way, to Conor Chaplin and the big talking point among Pompey fans at present.

The clamour for the Academy product to start for Cook’s side has grown stronger than ever off the back of his impact against Wycombe last weekend.

The emotive nature of his homegrown education, along with obvious talent and clinical eye for goal, are central factors in the argument.

Chaplin’s ability was showcased in his man-of-the-match performance against the Chairboys.

But is Accrington the right place for the 19-year-old to start?

That is the question Cook is mulling over as he, like thousands of managers in the game, searches for a winning formula this weekend.

And, make no mistake, Cook will be obsessing over these kind of issues, and which way is the right one to give his team the edge.

While us simpletons of the game honed on Football Manager think it’s a case of play 4-4-2, start Chaplin and be done with it, Cook’s thinking will take in factors and detail we perhaps don’t see.

What do their centre-halves want to play against? What do they fear?

Can Conor do 90 minutes at full tilt? Will he hurt them more off the bench?

Didn’t Michael Smith bully them at their place last season? Who’s looking sharp in training?

Despite the growing myth, Cook is a paid-up member of the Conor Chaplin fan club. There is no agenda against him.

Selection issues such as whether to start Chaplin are made with the best intention of winning the game.

And they are reached with the kind of consideration and attention to detail we don’t always comprehend.