A genius. An innovator. A generational talent. When Manchester City win,
these are all superlatives lavished on Pep Guardiola.

When they lose? Pep Roulette is to blame, he's an over-thinker and the
most scathing of all, he's a fraud.

Whatever you think of Guardiola, one thing that can't be disputed is his
impact on the tactical evolution of football ever since his time at

Ball-playing goalkeepers and obsessive possession dominance are both
recognisable hallmarks of all his teams, but it is his vision and
implementation of the full-back role that perhaps defines him most.


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The modern-day requirements of the position are to be as good going
forward – sometimes better – as defending against an opponent, often
having to patrol a whole flank alone, with inverted wingers now the order
of the day.

But Guardiola regularly bucks that trend, instead opting for inverted full-
backs to give his side superiority in the centre of the pitch and create the
overloads he is known for.

Ahead of City's Premier League clash with Newcastle, live on BT Sport 1
from 11.30am on Saturday, the 52-year-old sat down for an exclusive
interview with BTSport.com to expand on how and why he employs this

Pep Guardiola applauds Manchester City's fans after the team's FA Cup win over Bristol City
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are fighting on three fronts heading into the last few months of the season

"For the problems the opponents create. I have to adapt some movements
of them [full-backs] to be safer in counter-attacks and in the way we want
to play," says the former Bayern Munich boss.

"I learned in Germany and the problems I suffered in these positions, but
here I've used it many times with Fabian Delph to help win our first
Premier League title, afterwards with Alex Zinchenko for many years. Now he's doing the same at Arsenal.

"We have to put a player there not just to defend, but also to help us play
and have the ability to do it.

"We adapt to the qualities of the players we have right now - it's different to previous seasons. And of course, the opponent, they deserve to be watched."

With Joao Cancelo departing for Bayern on loan in January, City only have two senior recognised full-backs in Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake – although the latter is predominantly a centre-back.

Sergio Gomez, signed in the summer, is playing only his second season as
a left-back having made the transition from attacking midfielder under
former City captain Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht last term.

And then there's 18-year-old academy graduate Rico Lewis, who has
emerged into the first-team picture this season, so Guardiola's options in
those positions look very different to previous campaigns.

Hence his decision to turn to Bernardo Silva. Always a tenacious attacking
midfielder, the Portuguese has been asked to play the inverted left-back
role in recent weeks, most notably away at league leaders Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola speaks to Bernardo Silva during Manchester City's game at Chelsea in January
Bernardo Silva has needed to demonstrated his tactical versatility in recent weeks as an inverted left-back

"I have an idea and if I need a player to play in a position they're not used
to, I talk to him to verbalise my thoughts," Guardiola explains of the
transition process.

"I ask how he would feel in this role and he visualises what I ask because
it's not normal for him, but mainly the reason he'll play there is because I
know he can do it.

"Afterwards, I take their feedback and decide if I continue with that
decision, or I change again.

"I know Rico [Lewis] is a full-back and after [watching him in] training sessions I know how he moves in central positions.

"There are players that are not used to playing in central positions and
how they're supposed to do it, but after training sessions and some
games I said: 'That guy moves perfectly here.'

"So I visualised that and said: 'OK, he can do it!' There are other players
that move inside in the smaller spaces and they are not able to do it and
we'd need another type of player to do this."

So what qualities do those type of players who are able to transition
seamlessly from full-back to central midfield – or vice versa – need?
For Guardiola, the answer, if not the execution, is simple.

Rico Lewis dribbles away from Bournemouth's Dango Ouattara
Teenager Rico Lewis has burst onto the scene this season and has the technical ability to play further forward

"Intelligence in players is the most important attribute a manager - well at
least for me - can look for," he continues.

"When a player is intelligent, you don't even have to train, you can just
explain it to him and he understands.

"Normally a football player says: 'I'm a right-back and I only know how to
play at right-back.' There are players that understand the game for themselves and don't understand what is going on in every second, every minute, every action and how to solve it properly.

"Knowing this is intelligence in a football player and it's an attribute – in
my point of view – that a player should have.

"All players are fast - yes some are faster than others - but intelligent players know exactly when they have to run or when you have to dribble or when you have to do any of these things.

"But it's not easy, it's not easy."

It's tough to second-guess who Guardiola will select at full-back for the visit of Newcastle, but one thing's for sure, the demands on those players will be high and if City are to be victorious, their impact will be key.

Watch Manchester City v Newcastle live on BT Sport 1 from
11.30am on Saturday 4th March.