“The intention is not to move the ball, Rather it is to move the opposition.”
The current Manchester City manager is the master of controlling games by the complete domination of the ball.
But how does he do it? It isn’t a skill that can be learned by any player in a night. The most critical part of Guardiola’s training routine is the rondo, which he used in Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and currently at Manchester City.
So what is a Rondo?
Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who implemented the rondo at Barcelona, explained the drill: “Everything that goes on in a match, except shooting, you can do in a rondo.
Its a game of piggy in the middle played with the feet, Mostly Guardiola uses an 8 vs. 2 Rondo. 8 Players stand in a circle and endeavor to pass to each other while the other two try to steal or intercept their passes. The goal of the 8 players in the circle is to reach an absolute no of passes, usually 30 or 40. If one of the two players in the middle retrieves the ball, the drill restarts with the player that was in the fault of dispossessing the ball being replaced with the player who recovered the ball.
Every training session at Manchester City begins with a Rondo; there are variations too, sometimes its 6 vs. 2, 5 vs. 2, and even 3 vs. 1 And sometimes Guardiola switches to a positional Rondo similar to a traditional rondo but with a twist.
The drill starts with a 4 vs. 4, there are 3 extra players too which take the side of that team, which has the possession of the ball, so it turns to a 7 vs. 4. The 4 vs. 4 + 3 rondo allows players to learn the width, depth, and length to create passing angles and distances. They always look to create diamond and triangle patterns to support each other by creating a numerical advantage.
Advantages of a Rondo
The rondo has multiple benefits- It includes a technique in tight areas, encourages quick movement and passing in the triangle, which can be seen from the way Manchester City play these days.
The best example of how the rondo was used to dominate and win games is the 2011 Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona, where the Catalan club played three midfielders against the Red Devil’s two. Sergio Busquets, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta against Park Ji-sung and Michael Carrick.
What happened that night at Wembley is well documented. Barca had 19 efforts on goal to United’s four, had 67 percent of the possession, performed 667 passes to United’s 301, and eventually won their fourth European Cup.
The rondo, an uncomplicated training drill, has been a vital part of the team’s growth over the past two years. It remains an encapsulation of Pep Guardiola’s coaching philosophy, a channel through which his fundamental principles are directed onto the pitch.