How Pep Guardiola Improves His Players

How Pep Guardiola Improves His Players


“The intention is not to move the ball,”
Pep Guardiola once said. “Rather, it is to move the opposition.”
The Catalan coach is a master of controlling games through complete domination of the ball,
but it’s not something his teams pick up overnight. It takes constant work on the training
ground, and high levels of concentration and tactical understanding from his players.
The most significant and important of Guardiola’s training ground routines is the Rondo, which
he has used at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City with great success. As
with many of his ideas, Guardiola was influenced in his use of the Rondo by the great Johan
Cruyff. “Our model was imposed by Cruyff,” said
midfielder Xavi Hernandez when Guardiola was at Barcelona. “It’s an Ajax model. It’s
all about rondos. Rondo, Rondo, Rondo. Every single day. It’s the best exercise there
is. You learn responsibility and not to lose the ball. If you go in the middle, it’s
humiliating. The others applaud and laugh at you.”
So what is the Rondo? In effect, it is a game of piggy in the middle, only played with the
feet and with almost inconceivable levels of technical proficiency.
Most commonly, Guardiola uses an 8 vs 2 Rondo: eight players stand in a circle and attempt
to pass to each other, while the two in the middle aim to dispossess them. It’s a simple
drill but one that has proved highly effective. The goal of the players on the outside of
the circle is to reach a target: usually 30 passes. If one of the players in the middle
retrieves the ball, the drill restarts, and the man responsible for losing the ball takes
his place. For Guardiola and his players, the Rondo has
multiple benefits: it improves technique in tight areas, encourages intelligent movement
and forces players to pass the ball in neat triangles. All of this is in evidence when
his teams take to the pitch, and Manchester City’s improvement in these areas is clear
to see. From a defensive point of view, the Rondo
is perhaps even more valuable. Those in the middle learn to press with maximum efficacy,
closing down passing lanes and attempting to read the intentions of the player on the
ball. “Everything that goes on in a match, except
shooting, you can do in a rondo,” Cruyff once said. “The competitive aspect, fighting
to make space, what to do when in possession and what to do when you haven’t got the
ball, how to play ‘one touch’ football, how to counteract the tight marking and how
to win the ball back.” Guardiola clearly took this to heart. Every
training session at Manchester City – and at Barcelona and Bayern – begins with a
Rondo. There are variations, too: sometimes it may be a 6 vs 2, a 5 vs 2 or a 3 vs 1 Rondo.
And sometimes Guardiola switches to a positional game, similar to a traditional Rondo but with
an added element. The drill is 4 vs 4 with three ‘neutral’ players, who take the
side of whichever team has the ball. In effect, it becomes 7 vs 4, although when one team
wins the ball back the drill continues. The team who have lost the ball can immediately
counter-press in an attempt to win it back. More than anything, it teaches the players
to move intelligently off the ball. The intensity of the drills is crucial, too.
Guardiola insists on maximum focus, not allowing any player to slack off or joke around. “Even
the rondos: it’s with 100% effort or you don’t do them at all,” he has said. “If
the players don’t like them then they are welcome to go mountain running, but in that
case we’ll never reach our potential.” Gradually, after the initial shock, the players
become accustomed to the intensity required in Guardiola’s rondos. It’s not a casual
exercise to warm the players up before the training session begins. It is, without doubt,
a fundamental part of the development of Guardiola’s teams.
A story told by Domènec Torrent, a former coach at Barcelona and Bayern, shows the process
that took place after Guardiola arrived in Munich. In Martí Perarnau’s book, Pep Guardiola:
The Evolution, Torrent explains the transformation on the training pitch.
“What happened with the rondos is probably the best example of the process of adaption
they all went through,” he said. “The players started out seeing them as a bit of
a laugh, a good way to start and end the warm-ups. The ball could end up ten metres outside the
perimeter of the rondo circle without ever having touched the ground. But from day one
Pep insisted that they pay attention to how they positioned themselves, how they received
the ball, whether they controlled it with their left or right foot.
“The Bayern players grasped his point very quickly. I remember one day comparing the
rondos of the early days with what they had become by the end. It was amazing. Like looking
at two entirely different exercises. By the end of our time there, that ball was flying.”
The same level of discipline has been instilled at Manchester City. And the players, already
performing at an extraordinarily high level, will only get better as time progresses.
The Rondo, a humble training drill, has been a crucial part of the team’s improvement
over the last two years. It is an encapsulation of Pep Guardiola’s coaching philosophy,
a conduit through which his basic principles are channelled onto the pitch.

100 thoughts on “How Pep Guardiola Improves His Players

  1. Since watching this video we've been implementing the Rondo in every soccer practice; before practice and after practice. Our player have been much sharper. Thank you

  2. Pep is a brilliant manager, however, I believe it's his player recruitment that makes him so good. No other manager can find a player so suited to his style which then not only improves the player but makes his philosophy so much better.

  3. Get out of here. This Rondo of yours has been there since football began. Why do people keep claiming Guardiola is a genius? He coached Messi. Even Enrique won the treble in 2015 is he genius too?

  4. Thanks for the upload. In my opinion, I think the aim of the video is not about the Rondo as a drill. It's about the education and philosophy of the training. Pep educates the players to see the VALUE of what they are doing and then incorporates this philosophy into everything they do. Everything they do in training is for progression and consequently improvement on the pitch. As a coach in my past life, I can tell you that players don't like repetition – they get bored, especially when they have to do it every training session. Pep has taught them that this drill IS the training and not a pre-cursor. The key to it all though is – if the players go with it, they have to see improvements themselves – otherwise the trust is gone in the drill and the coach. Thanks for the video – would like anything on the man management of players by these top coaches if you have any? Many thanks

  5. You should have spent the last minute reorganizing the library behind..🙈 Just kidding good vid!

  6. Great Vid.
    Suffolk Community College '99. Brentwood NY. Thats exactly how we trained, Rondo. It took a month or so to be comfortable but we did it and we were passing teams off the park. If we werent a two yr school we would have win a national title. An amazing way to learn to play top level

  7. Great video (as always) with loads of interesting information.
    Plus a Youtuber who has got great delivery, pacing and tone in his voice. A good watch and crucially, listen 👍

  8. Good day tifo football
    I'm a big fan of yours, i enjoy your videos My name is omotade I'm twenty years old and I have a dream of becoming a football manager
    How can I work towards this please 🙏

  9. How Pep Guardiola Improves His Players
    – he buys better players…
    Pep is the best at winning inferior teams with a superior team

  10. Great video. When I coached a youth travel team, I implemented the Rondo and variations of it in my practices. I did a lot of reading in books that showed different types of Rondo's. One of them was 3 grids [ 1 [2] 3 ] In all 3 grids, 1, 2, and 3 you would have 5 players each. Grid 2 is smaller then the other two. Let's say grid 1 starts with the ball, as soon as they start, 2 players from grid number 2 would go into grid number 1 and apply pressure trying to win the ball back as soon as possible. Meanwhile the 3 other defenders in grid 2 cannot move out of their grid, but they are looking to cut the passing lanes as the team in grid 1 are also trying to play passes through grid 2 to the other side to the players in grid 3. When the ball is played into grid 3, the two defenders go back into grid 2 to shut down the passing lanes as two other defenders go into grid 3 and try to win the ball back.

    If the defenders get control of the ball or are able to knock the ball out of the grid, the team that was responsible for losing the ball, then takes place of the defending teams role as the previous defenders now fall into the grid of the team that lost the ball. It has to be fast as play needs to keep going.

    I did this drill quite a lot as I wanted to focus on possession of the ball, getting them accustomed to passing under pressure and their first touch had to be right in tight spaces. As time went on with this drill, I saw very good improvements with my players. They were about 12 years of age and as time went on, I saw them piece wonderful passes together between one another in the same grid, to splitting the defenders and getting the ball to the other grid.

    Of course I always did the original Rondo with 8 players in a circle and 2 defenders in the middle. At a young age it's important to show them what to do as you don't want both defenders trying to apply pressure to the same player but have them understand that as 1 player is going to apply pressure, the other defender is looking to cut down passing lanes and read where the ball may go next and intercept it. The kids always liked playing rondo and no one wanted to be in the middle so they did not slack off as they were trying to get back to the outside lol.

  11. Actually rondo is a standard & normal pass & press drills used by all good teams to start their training session since time immemorial,,, it wasnt something invented by Johan Cruyff & Ajax…

  12. £500m+ on a squad which was already challenging for the league title. Boom and that's how you improve your players. Sign every club's breakout superstar. I bet even Big Sam will win every domestic league with that kind of investment.

  13. He's a glorified fitness instructor, soccer is a game for simpletons. Finally u people are seeing the nfl is a superior sport. U r adapting nfl faster then we are adapting your ping pong simpleton sport.

  14. And out here our great man utd players can't even decide who should be taking penalties … Good bless united 😔

  15. After watching Spurs lose to Newcastle today, this video made a real impact. They – Spurs – need some major rondo work in order to instill discipline and intelligent movement & positioning off the ball. Much as I love Poch, we don't hold a candle to Citee & Liverpool in terms of tactics, football intelligence, and teamwork designed to produce goals. It's a pleasure to watch coaches & teams at the very highest level even if their winning becomes monotonous.

  16. But when you lose the ball, you better have a high speed and good physics because your opponent will do quick counter and hard tackle to break it

  17. This is nonsense
    These players are already great however they play.
    Well id call his tactics superior if they are successful with avearage players. Or make av. players great

  18. In Kenya the Rondo is called "Hema". But with a few twists. When you are nutmegged you are supposed to recover the ball thrice. Also when someone gets the ball over your head and makes contact with it before it touches the ground,aka kanzu (which is a rob worn by swahili men/muslims through the head)you have to recover the ball five times.

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