Pep Guardiola’s stance on B Teams in the EFL may have been undermined by his own academy’s performance after their U23s were thrashed 5-0 by League One Rotherham in the EFL Trophy
Pep Guardiola caused a stir last month when he reignited the debate over Premier League B teams infiltrating the EFL.
The Manchester City boss has repeatedly been one of the biggest advocates in England for adopting a continental approach when it comes to elite club’s younger players.
Guardiola’s stance has triggered tension with a host of Football League figures over the years – but he may be regretting his previous claims after City’s U23s were on the end of a 5-0 drubbing against League One side Rotherham United in the Papa Johns Trophy.
City’s young guns were schooled by the Millers, with Kieran Sadlier firing a clinical treble alongside goals from Will Grigg and Jake Hull.
And it’s a result that leaves Guardiola’s previous comments, where he insisted that his youngsters should be playing “in the Championship”, looking just a tad optimistic.
“They should play every day in the Championship or League One,” the Spaniard said last month when discussing his development team. “That should be the best level for English football, that would be the best.
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“Not playing against these players who are 17 or 18 or 19 winning 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, 7-0 every single day… that is not good for them.”
Although Guardiola’s comments were hinting that he wanted his burgeoning young talents to face real adversity, he certainly wouldn’t have had a thumping like the one they received in Yorkshire in mind.
Rotherham have proved to be a yo-yo team over the past few years after rebounding between the second and third tiers – with Paul Warne’s side already beginning to look a safe bet to seal what would be a third promotion from League One in just five years.
The heavy defeat leaves City’s development squad on the brink of an early exit from the EFL Trophy, which was revamped back in 2016 to allow a number of Premier League’s academy teams into the competition.
It was a switch that caused outrage amongst bosses and fans of EFL clubs across the land, with many deeming the proposals to be the death knell of a competition that was admittedly already on its knees.
But in a weird way, the EFL Trophy’s new format has actually done fans of EFL clubs a favour when it comes to the argument over B teams.
Rather than acting as the gateway for B teams to be introduced into the EFL as it was initially perceived, results like Manchester City’s on Tuesday night instead have helped highlight why it just wouldn’t work in England.
And whether Guardiola likes that or not, it’s hard to argue. Wanting his academy stars to face adversity is one thing, but would they really benefit from being on the end of results like that every week?
City’s kids are some of the best in England, but they’ve highlighted that Premier League’s academy stars aren’t up to the standard to mix it with real football league clubs – no matter how good they may be.
And despite what Guardiola may believe, that’s not actually a problem.
Premier League youngsters will be fine without any alterations being made to the football pyramid, especially City’s, where they even hired an EFL boss this summer in Brian Barry-Murphy to oversee their elite development squad.
The former Rochdale boss garnered a burgeoning reputation for playing like Guardiola-like football in the depths of a third-tier relegation battle last year.
But that doesn’t mean City’s kids need an EFL spot just because they have an EFL boss. It won’t do them any harm to tread the path of various other youngsters who have made temporary visits to the EFL on loan – the majority of the current England squad can prove testament to that.
And even staying at City can have its benefits, with the opportunity to be nurtured by one of the Premier League’s finest managers not to be sniffed at.
It certainly didn’t do Phil Foden any harm.