Manchester City announced yesterday that they have finally replaced Mikel Arteta by appointing Juan Manuel Lillo as the new assistant to Pep Guardiola.
Arteta left The Etihad in December, returning to his former club Arsenal to take his first role in management. It was the second time they had pursued him, after originally considering him for the role to replace Arsene Wenger before ultimately settling on Unai Emery.
Guardiola was said to have a personal hand in selecting his replacement, finally settling on Lillo to step in. An interesting choice, with the Spaniard unknown to many. So who is he?
Firstly, Juanma Lillo is far from a disciple to Pep Guardiola. The 54 year old was actually the manager of Dorados Sinaloa in 2006, when Pep was plying his trade in the Mexican league with them too. He has also managed several La Liga sides including Real Sociedad and Almeria, while he was in charge of Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe shortly after they completed the signing of ex-Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta.
Lillo has previously worked as an assistant manager for the Chilean National team. Working under Jorge Sampaoli he helped lead them to the Copa America title in 2015, although his main job was to help young players transitioning from the youth squads into the main squad. He then followed Sampaoli to Sevilla in 2016 where they weren’t as successful.
He went back to management after that but has never really been able to make a management role stick. He has never had any sort of success in a management role, although he’s done well as an assistant. It’s interesting to see Guardiola go with someone with next to zero pedigree after Arteta. But what does he see in Lillo?
Guardiola has been quoted in the past stating that Marco Bielsa was an inspiration to him due to his coaching style. Lillo has a similar style, although he’s never been able to garner success with it. Pep would have seen this when he went to Mexico at the end of his career, an experience that clearly stuck with him.
We’ve seen how important Arteta’s role under Pep was to players, constantly producing reports and coming up with plans. But I think Lillo’s experience with helping young players transition to the main squad with Chile could be a big pulling factor for City.
They currently have an ageing squad with Fernandinho, Otamendi, Kyle Walker, Claudio Bravo and David Silva all over 30 years old. In addition to this Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne will all be 29 by the time next season begins. They need to start looking at bringing through some of their younger players.
They already have Phil Foden as a regular in their squads, but he should be playing much more than he has been with the ability he has and the standing of the current squad. Others such as Tosin Adarabioyo and Eric Garcia have had a taste but not regularly enough. While the academy is producing talent such as Adrian Bernabe, Tommy Doyle, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Cole Palmer, there needs to be a clear pathway to the first-team. If they don’t implement that, they’ll see more talent like Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz leave for opportunities elsewhere.
City are about to become a squad in transition, but they’ll be expected to maintain a challenge in every single competition they’re in. Lillo’s addition to the coaching staff may be the first step into doing such a thing.