Guardiola’s tactical journey from Barca to Bayern and why he is destined to fail at Manchester City


There was a moment after Bayern Munich’s 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga at the Allianz Arena, when Pep Guardiola trudged off with his head down towards the exit and his name was called out. He looked up surprised, and realised the caller was Andre Schubert (Monchengladbach’s manager). Guardiola looked genuinely abashed as he rectified his mistake and exchanged his pleasantries. For a moment he looked utterly human, a man who looked genuinely engrossed in his own thoughts. It reminded me of a moment, 7 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Iniesta’s stoppage time strike against Chelsea at the Bridge. This goal is often considered to the watershed moment in the European football landscape over the last decade. Right after the goal, everyone on the Barcelona bench sprinted towards the corner flag. The celebrations were frantic for a minute. As the staff and substitutes ran back to the dugout, Sylvinho came charging towards Guardiola. We can only speculate as to the words said, but Guardiola looks utterly bewildered as Sylvinho speaks and just nods, wild-eyed. A moment later, Sylvinho is stripped and ready. These were two moments from Pep Guardiola’s supernatural coaching career which were amusing. But these were also moments, when he looked what the footballing fraternity has increasingly suspected him to be over the past couple of year…not in control of his destiny.

Bayern were knocked out of this year’s Champions’ League on Tuesday and it’s now confirmed that Guardiola will leave the Bavarian giants without having accomplished what his primary objective was, ensuring continued European success. He has already been announced as Manuel Pellegrini’s successor at the Etihad Stadium for next season. Pep’s tenure at Bayern Munich has divided opinion over his three-year regime there. He was introduced in extremely unusual circumstances (how many teams have a new manager by choice after a historic treble?) and to uniform fanfare. It was clear that Bayern’s bosses, Messrs. Beckenbauer, Hoeness, Ruminegge et al had been sold on the idea of a self-sustaining footballing model like Barcelona. The same seems to have happened to convince Manchester City’s bosses to hire him. It’s been obvious for a while that City are desperate to replicate as many of Barcelona’s facets as possible. This led them to appoint Aitor ‘Txiki’ Begiristain as the Director of Football and Ferran Soriano as the CEO of their operations. Txiki Begiristain, especially, is known to be close to Guardiola. Back in 2012, when he was appointed, Mancini was the manager for the Blues but assumption everyone made was that Guardiola was going to be on his way soon. He is almost there, albeit after a three-year pit-stop at Munich.

Let’s get to the football specifics, what defines Guardiola? Trophies, you might say. But let’s first understand his football philosophy. It’s important to remember that he’s a proud alum of La Masia himself and perhaps Johan Cruyff’s most illustrious disciple. He managed Barcelona in the 2008-12 period and then Bayern from 2013-16. We will first look at some facets of his game-plan which seems to have been retained across both tenures:

  • Presence of a pivot/quarterback: The position is common nowadays. It wasn’t till the early 90s. Guardiola himself was perhaps one of the first. As the legend goes, Cruyff himself saw him play for the youth team in right midfield and put him in the centre. The position demands all that Pep Guardiola showed as a player, balance, vision, excellent passing range, ability to dictate the pace of the game, decent tackling and strong reading of the game. As a manager, Pep requires this position. Much is rightly said about Messi at Barcelona. But it can be argued that Sergio Busquets is their most influential player on the field. He dictates the tempo, vital for Barcelona. He is the singular reason for ensuring high possession. Busquests is responsible for breaking up play often and then a quick turnover. Guardiola never quite found a natural pivot at Bayern. But he tried, with varying degrees of success, Philip Lahm, Javi Martinez, Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal in that position.


  • Charging full-backs: Another factor which contributed to Barcelona’s success was the presence of the attacking wingbacks. In fact, in Guardiola’s setup, these players have a much greater role offensively than otherwise. One of Guardiola’s first signings as Barcelona manager was Dani Alves from Sevilla. At Barca, he balanced Alves’ marauding presence with Abidal’s sedate one. At Bayern, he balances Bernat or Alaba with Lahm. Earlier, he also used Rafinha at Bayern, another fullback who doesn’t quite try to earn his salary defending.


  • Ball-playing centre-backs: It’s a testament to Cruyff and the success of his total football that centre-backs are expected to be good with the ball at their feet. To this effect, Guardiola brought Gerard Pique back to Camp Nou to pair him with the tough-tackling Puyol. Later, he converted Javier Mascherano just to make use of his ability with the ball at his feet. At Bayern, Boateng developed brilliantly to fulfil this role. At other times, Guardiola has used Alaba as a centre-back for his dribbling and passing abilities.


  • Inverted Wingers:It would be a disservice to call Messi one, but he did start out as one. Indeed, established strikers like Thierry Henry and David Villa transformed into inside forwards playing in the wrong channel. This provided Barca with numbers in attacking without compromising on the width due to the attacking fullbacks. At Bayern, this has been equally pronounced with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, XherdanShaqiri, Douglas Costa, KingsleyComan playing the role rather successfully at various points of time.
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  • The False 9: Yes, Guardiola needs this role played to perfection. In fact, he needs it more than an outright forward. At Barcelona, Messi did it at towards the middle part of his tenure and later he even tried to fit Cesc Fabregas in the role with unspectacular results. At Bayern Munich, the inimitable Thomas Mueller does it for him to perfection.

pep guardiola tactics barcelona                                                                              Barcelona 2008-09 Initial Setup


pep guardiola tactics barcelona                                                                                      Barcelona in possession

Has Guardiola been successful? It’s a foolish question. The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. He won 14 trophies for Barcelona in 4 years playing a brand of football which was glorious to behold. Has he succeeded at Bayern Munich? This is much trickier. The statistics suggest that he has been. But too many factors go against him in this judgement:

  • Failure in Champions’ League: Yes, three semi-final appearances in three years is failure if you are at Bayern. With a status as one of the three biggest clubs in the world currently, this is failure given that the other two members of that exclusive club have won the trophy in the last two years.
  • Inheritance of a treble-winning team: Guardiola took over an underperforming team at Barcelona when he took over from Frank Riijkard. On the contrary, at Bayern he got JuppHeynckes’ all conquering team, a team which had made three European finals in four years preceding Guardiola’s arrival.
  • Weakening of the field: In the three years before Guardiola’s arrival, Bayern truly had a challenge in Bundesliga in the form of Borussia Dortmund. Juergen Klopp’s rapid counter-attacking team had rampaged to a couple of leagues including a domestic double and ran them ragged in the 2012-13 league season before succumbing in the final moments of the Champions League final. Since then, Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski swapped the Signal Iduna Park for Allianz Arena in Guardiola’s first two years. This has not just strengthened Bayern, it weakened Bayern’s principal league opponents.

All this just bring us to the most pertinent point, WILL Pep Guardiola succeed at Manchester City? Looking at the silverware he has won, it only seems to be a matter of time. However, take into account the two stints at the two European giants, and it does not seem to be such a clear eventuality. In fact, my prediction is that Pep will struggle. Both in the league as well as in Europe. My arguments backing such a bold statement:

  • Guardiola is tactically inflexible: Yes, he extended the success of a glorious school of football. He’s Johann Cruyff’s true heir and perhaps the finest proponent of their possession based tiki-taka football. But his experience at Bayern Munich suggests that he’s only looking to apply the same template wherever he goes. He does not seem to be very capable or keen on bringing in a new philosophy, either because he believes the strategy might still work or that it can actually be applied everywhere. At Bayern, especially in the last season, there has been a new feature of play, crossing from the wings. Especially, in-swinging crosses after cutting in. Credit to him for the success it has got him. However, yet again, he has shown an over-reliance on the tactic. For more than a game and a half, Juventus sorted them out. Benfica too, almost. Ultimately, Atleti did too, in the first leg especially.
  • There is no Plan B: in the 2009-10 season, Barcelona were drawing the Clasico at Camp Nou when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was introduced from the bench. About 15 minutes later, he scored from a deep cross from the wings. Till his introduction, it had all ben short intricate passing and Real coped with it. The change made all the difference. Curiously though, Guardiola has rarely changed the dynamics of his team’s play during a match in this way. It’s almost always like-for-like with substitutions. Coman-for-Costa, Shaqiri-for-Robben, Thiago Alcantara/Seydou Keita-for-Iniesta/Xavi/ Alonso. Nor does he change the shape of his team much during the match. It’s like ‘keep calm and hope it finally works’.
  • Guardiola’s transfer record is mediocre, at best: At the start of the 2009-10 season, Barcelona made two big money signings at two ends of the field. Chyrginsky from Shakhtar in defence, and of course the legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic in player-and-cash deal for Samuel Eto’o. At the end of that season, Chygrinsky was back in Donetsk and Zlatan was back in Milan (though he swapped the blue-black for red-black). Of all the signings he made at Barca, only Dani Alves became a truly integral part of the team. Pique was already well versed in their ways and hardly was a fish out of water. Mascherano floundered for a year before pulling things together and Villa did well as a straight-replacement for Henry. At Bayern, his record is even patchier. Lewandowski and Costa may be considered his only successes. Again, as straight replacements with Lewandowski just continuing what he was flourishing at. Vidal seems to be a classic case of an albatross-around-his-neck. Often misread as a ball winner and thus, a quarterback, Vidal’s positional indiscipline almost cost Bayern the round-of-16 tie against Juventus. Alonso has been a stop-gap but without spectacular impact. In other words, for the hundreds of millions that Pep Guardiola has spent, he has NO game-changer to show for other than Dani Alves. He has three other successes at best. His failures include Zlatan, Fabregas, Goetze, Benatia, Hleb, Shaqiri.
  • He forces his system on players, which doesn’t always work: Guardiola called Philip Lahm the most intelligent player that he’d ever worked with in his first year at Bayern. Classic man-management? Or maybe he was just being grateful as the formidable right-back had accepted the task of playing the pivot’s role. Guardiola believed that Lahm was only one fit, physically and in terms of talent, to play that demanding role. He brought in Fabregas to replace either Xavi/Iniesta in the XI. It was clear that he couldn’t, that was not his game. Pep failed to tweak anything to suit Fabregas.
  • Guardiola is a naïve manager defensively: Strong statement? Yes. But let’s look at it, it’s clear that Guardiola believes defence to be a necessary evil in the game of football and as a result, is willing to put only the bare minimum thought and effort and even respect into it. He believes defensive midfielders or wingbacks are fine in central defence. The result, Inter unlocking his team with simple, direct attack. Morata making a mockery of his centre-backs during that virtuoso run. He’s unwilling to splurge for an established defensive general. That could be because he inherited talented players in that position in the form of Puyol or Boateng. But none of his teams look comfortable under sustained pressure. True, he hardly ever faces it with 75% possession but he can be hit on the break. As Real Madrid had devastatingly proved three years back, as Barca and Dortmund (Pokal Semi) showed last year and as Juventus and Atletico Madrid realised again this year. On the counter, there is no organisation, there is no leadership barring one player. This is all the more pertinent knowing Manchester City’s innumerable defensive clowns. Mangala, Demichelis, Otamendi have all taken it in turns to mess up. Guardiola might not be the man to address it.
  • Manchester City plays in EPL, NOT Bundesliga or La Liga: Yes, the EPL is more competitive. It might not have the same quality as a few teams from other leagues, but it’s far more intense. It’s infinitely more difficult to opt for tiki-taka when the opposition are not interested in the ball. Can they do it on a cold, wet afternoon at Stoke? Probably not. Can they do it on a sunny day at the Hawthorne? Still unlikely. The possession based football needs deft touches, late release. In the tough tackling Premier League, that will just mean injuries. Just ask Arsene.
  • He needs tiki-taka, which comes with time:Man City might buy any players, but it cannot buy a lifetime of understanding which clubs like Bayern and Barca can afford. At both, with a robust youth system, players come up through the ranks, have played for years together. He’s not going to get any such partnership at Man City.
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All said and done, Pep Guardiola remains a massive figure in the world of football. He cannot be called anything but successful and must be given his due. He has his limitations though. The story goes that Txiki and his board were in search of a replacement for Riijkard. They approached the super-agent of a truly reputed manager who was available. A stop and presentation followed in Portugal. A truly impressive presentation and the board were convinced that this manager would win them trophies undoubtedly. But was it enough? Not for Barcelona according to Txiki and Soriano. ‘Més que un club’, ‘more than a club’ as they say. Thus, they needed to more than just win. They looked closer home and took a gamble upon one of their own. A balding student of the game. A year later, they were triumphant in their choice with Josep Guardiola having led his team to European glory and a treble in his first season itself. More glory did follow. But on a balmy night in Catalonia in April 2010, Mr. Guardiola tore out the remaining few strands of hair on his head as his team were thwarted at every step by a stubborn Inter Milan. Inter played with 10 men for 70 minutes after Thiago Motta was sent off as an appreciation for Busquests’ theatrics. But Barcelona got just one goal, a scrappy goal from Pique. Upon the final whistle to mark Barca’s improbably tame elimination, one man ran onto the pitch with a clenched fist and sheer jubilation. The very reputed manager from Portugal had been rejected by a club where he was once a translator. He took his revenge, Jose Mourinho had returned to haunt his former employers and the man they chose over him. Maybe Guardiola’s teams play more beautiful football. But sometimes, to win, you have to play ugly. Mourinho knows that, he perfected that art in England. Over to Guardiola to see what he can do in the city of Manchester.

25 Responses

  1. guardiola a failure at bayern what joke article ,this guy is man utd supporter hard luck you did not get him.

    1. Hey Kevin. I am a Liverpool supporter and was a Guardiola fan for years. Now, I have my reservations, which you know by now.

  2. Well, the titles Pep won at Bayern, any Football Manager player would have won if he had been the coach.

  3. Good article, I disagree with your views on his transfer record. Many top managers have made far more and far worse signings. He knows what he needs and normally finds that type of player quite quickly.

    I think Bayern are a stronger team because of him, but his teams are susceptible to counter attacks.

    Will be interesting to see his first transfer window, the Man City team really isn’t setup for his formation at present especially in midfield and on the wings.

  4. Wait and see Pep will amaze you at Manchester city. Bayern are Bayern at city pep will control city from the ground up and build a dynasty. Yes we have some very poor players but we will sign some and add some from the academy and blend together

  5. So Mr Jayeek here clearly does not understand pep’s abilities. In my opinion most of the content here is viceral and not well researched. Regarding tiki-taka, its very easy for an outsider to say that pep loves tick-taka because his teams dominate possession of the ball in most games, while there might be a correlation between both it is hardly a causal relationship. In fact pep hates tiki-taka, something he is found telling repeatedly in the book Pep Confidential. Yes Man city plays in EPL, yes most teams dont need the ball to win, but guess what, its the same in Germany. He even goes on and says that teams in Bundesliga can launch a counter in 3 Sec and and play with intensity, its very easy to belittle a league just because it isn’t as glamorous as the rest. Thirdly, the author mentions that pep is defensively naive, a bold statement to make especially after pep has gone on record to say that he spends most of his time setting his team up for the defensive part of the game. Just because a team does not play a Defensive Mid does not mean they are defensively naive, the Real Madrid team which won La Decima didnt play an outright DM either. Regarding the Real game which he lost, the reason which mostly quoted by experts and himself is that he didnt play Lahm as Pivote that day thereby losing control in the midfield. The author also goes on to say that City are blessed with defensive “CLOWNS” i hope he can justify that with clear hard facts. The funniest part of this whole set of platitudes is the fact that the author believes that Pep is tactically inflexible. Surely you are joking right? He has switched his formations, instruction on a game to game basis to suit the opponent and the players available to him. The author goes on to say that he goes on and forces his system on his players, clearly No! In Pep Confidential he says that he tailor makes his instruction depending on the players. Short direct instructions to ribery whereas long more detailed ones to lahm, simply because lahm has a penchant for it, he also says that he tried Muller in Mid-Field for a couple of games and had to change his plans because he didnt work there. There is one thing id like to remind the author before i end, firstly one needs more that tactics, man-management, skills to win in a knockout competition like the champions league , its called LUCK. For the amount of chances they had and penalty they missed the game could have 3, 4 goals. So, please stop saying that it was a failure.

    1. You’ve made a few good points. Now for starters, I was a Pep fan. Till two years back. For another, I’ve read ‘Pep Confidential’ but don’t consider it to be the last word. Why? Coz it’s essentially his words. As for tiki-taka, no I do not believe it to be the same as a possession based game. However, under high pressing, that’s exactly what you need to maintain high possession.
      Talking about defensive naivete, it’s not about not having a defensive midfielder. For the record, Pep favors one. Busquets is the best example. It’s about playing ball players in defence, but realising that you need tacklers and defensive organisers at the back. You need a Puyol beside every Pique.
      As for inflexibility, I understand your concern over the word. However, length of instructions don’t constitute tactics I feel. It’s about the shape of his team, the tempo they play with, and the type of personnel he uses. In all three, I feel there’s been remarkable resistance to change.
      All these I feel are debatable, I respect your arguments. As for luck, I disagree completely. Bayern were outplayed in the first and were lucky to not be two goals down. On the contrary, in the second leg, Oblak had only two top saves to make. Penalties cancel each other out. As for City and their defense, I get your consternation. However, their performances have been lauded using similar words by much greater men than me. I hope you’ll forgive me doing the same.

      1. And one more thing, I do not think Bundesliga is to be belittled nor do my words mean that. I mean to distinguish, I believe you’ll agree that the tackling acceptable in EPL is far different from all other leagues. Tackling which makes a certain type of game very risky. I think Arsenal’s record, injuries and otherwise, testifies.

  6. I get what the author is trying to say but some parts of the article are very poorly worded.
    Of all people,you can’t call Pep, “tactically inflexible”. Of course, one big problem he has which you have clearly mentioned is his hate for defenders which is a big problem. Defending is part of Football, Pep fanbois will claim only possesion and attaking football is beautiful which is utter bull shit. Pep wanting his teams only to play tiki taka is another wrong point. Pep wants his teams to have the ball,true but possesion and tiki taka are not the same. The current bayern team doesn’t play tiki-taka. Even false-9, Pep’s team in 2009 didn’t feature one and the current Bayern team doesnt have one,can’t understand why the author thinks otherwise. This article deserves a revised edition i feel. i see a lot of hurt bayern,barca, and city fanbois crying the comments. Finally Pep WAS A FAILURE AT BAYERN,i could have won the bundesliga thrice with Bayern’s squad,

    1. Hi. Thanks for your comment. Just a clarification, I do not feel that he uses tiki-taka always at Bayern. He did try though, partly why he splurged on Thiago. He quit when he failed but maintained a game of intricate passing around the opposition box AT TIMES. But that’s the reason he can’t implement the high possession game against high pressing teams. My point here is that he NEEDS tiki taka. To cut through organised or hounding teams in the opposition third, you need swift interchange, which he cannot teach overnight as I mentioned. Which is why he had introduced the crossing, previously not a feature of his teams. But there again, there is an over reliance. Evidence, I think there were 17 crosses against Benfica in the first leg. There were a similar number against Atleti in the first leg. Hence, the use of the word inflexibility. Not in his whole career though he hasn’t undergone much of a change. My point is within a season, he starts out with a plan and generally refuses to alter it according to opposition or situation. As for the false nine, I believe Messi played the role around 2009-11. As did Fabregas at times in the second half of 2011-12. I also feel that Mueller’s position may be considered under this bracket. Just my opinion this last part.

  7. [Copied from reddit. I got a little angry, so the tone is harsher than it was meant to be, sorry for that.]

    This is a bad article regurgitating some of the same ol’ misconceptions about Guardiola and his tenure at Bayern. When the author talks about Guardiola’s primary objective being “ensuring continued success” the author’s definition of success hast to consist of nothing less than winning the trophy, as I can think of no way reaching three semi-finals in a row wouldn’t be considered anything other than success. Considering only a trophy-winning year to be successful is extremely narrow-minded and ignorant to random factors of a knock-out competition like luck, injury, refereeing and what opponents you get. You want to tell me that Real Madrid’s CL-campaign this season should be held in higher regard when their opponents were Roma, Wolfsburg and Manchester City? What matters are the actual performances of your team, not how far you progress. Good performances are sustainable, reaching a semi final can happen to any half decent team with enough luck, see Manchester City this season. Reaching three semi-finals in three years based on good performances is a whole nother deal. Yes, Barcelona have won the trophy in the last years, but they also went out two times in the quarter-finals. Both times against Ateltico Madrid, you might say, which exactly the point I made earlier. If we’re adding all three seasons up, wasn’t the Bayern team as successful then? If we’re not adding up, then I have to say again that only giving credit to a title-winning campaign does not make sense, no manager in the world can guarantee you that. Also, I highly doubt that the Bayern bosses are disappointed of Pep because of the lack of a CL-title, as they seemed eager to extend his contract and always emphasized how pleased they are with his work. He did exactly what he came for: further establish Bayern as an international top-team, strengthen the team in terms of variability and refine the identity of its style of play.

    I won’t go into detail on every single position/role mentioned, just a few. When talking about the false nine teh author says that Guardiola “needs this role played to perfection”, which is not true. Playing Messi as a false nine was more of an exception than the norm in his first two years at Barcelona, in which the team won 4 major trophies. I don’t even know what the author’s defintion of a ‘false nine’ is, as Thomas Müller almost never played one in terms of position, role or both. Playing Lewandowski up front means the usual space of a striker is occupied for most of the time, which negates a key characteristic of playing a false nine. Attacking wing-backs are definitely not something Guardiola always retains as he played Alaba and Lahm as inside fullbacks, occupying the half-spaces next to the 6, for some time.

    Yes, Pep took over a treble-winning team, the best in Europe that season. The thing is, other teams haven gotten much stronger: Barcelona, Atletico, Juventus, Real Madrid (arguably). In my opinion, Guardiola’s Bayern are a better team than Heynckes’ Bayern. Even if you don’t agree, their relative strength has changed, they are not alone at the top anymore. Borussia Dortmund had one weaker year, but I’d say that Tuchel made them a better team than they ever were under Klopp. Under the assumption, of course, that reaching a CL-final does not mean that that team is automatically better. In the Bundesliga, they definitely weren’t.

    “Guardiola is tactically inflexible. […] Curiously though, Guardiola has rarely changed the dynamics of his team’s play during a match in this way. […] Nor does he change the shape of his team much during the match.”

    I can’t believe a website focused on tactics published this. I hear this a lot from normal fans, and with them I suspect they haven’t watched a lot of games or don’t focus on the tactical aspects. But this comes from a website about football tactics. This is truly shocking to me. Guardiola, the man who switches formations, roles, positions seemingly without effort, up to several times in a single half, adjusts his team according to the opponent like no other, popularized the three at the back in the bundesliga, introduced inside full-backs and invented a completely new role for Alaba as a half-space sweeper, gets called tactically inflexible. The last two sentences are as utterly wrong as anything can be. It’s like calling Steph Curry a bad 3-point shooter. Please read any three articles on spielverlagerung on matches with Guardiola on the sideline.
    To say that Guardiola relies on just one philosophy is generalizing to a point of nonsense. When you know what you are doing, perfecting one style of play is actually something to strive for, as it helps you in recruiting, continuity in the managers, the players and the youth teams. Who needs a Plan B, when he has 20 equally deadly Plan As in his pocket? (This wonderful metaphor is not from me, and I sadly can’t remember where I got it from. Mike L. Goodman, maybe?) I think that’s where the key point of the flexibility debate lies. For me, flexibility means not only changing the team’s play from possession-heavy to sitting deep and waiting for the counter, or from patient buildup with flat passes through the middle to crossing from the wider areas, but also shifting the focus area in build-up play, adjusting the role of single players, changing small details in the pressing etc. Microchanges can be as effective as macrochanges.

    To say that his teams can’t handle sustained pressure, when Bayern play in the Bundesliga, the league with a approach focused more on pressing than any other. His goals-against in the Bundesliga are historically low. Guardiola’s gegenpressing is fantastic, which is a key part of modern defending.

    In my mind, the characteristics of the Premier League, kick’n’rush, badly organized pressing, less organization in attack in general, will mean that he will need a bit longer to bring the team to the level of his former two, but also that his abilities put his team miles ahead of the average side and he wi..

    “Can they do it on a cold, wet afternoon at Stoke? Probably not.”

    Oh my god why the fuck did I spend so much time on a reply when you could’ve told me from the beginning that this article was satire?

    1. Pep took apart a perfectly working efficient monster of a treble winning team and ended up getting destroyed by Real Madrid,do you call it success? The author calls him tactically unflexible because of this very reason. Pep couldn’t play to the team’s strengths which was built on a solid defense and devastating counter,he simply had to change it around so that they play “beautiful football” and for three long years he couldn’t figure out how to stop a counterattack. The goal they conceded against Atletico in Munich was such bad defending/positioning. Boateng went forward to press after he gave away possession, but there was nobody to cover for him. Whose fault is it? Pep simply hates to play Javi Maritnez in midfield? Why? Martinez and Bastian were the best double pivot in Europe during Jupp’s time. Just because Pep found success playing in a certain way at Barca doesn’t mean he will always. It is tool early say what will happen at City, i don’t agree with the article in this regard. Wilshere being eternally injured because it is EPL is a load of BS. Look at Mahrez and the whole team of leicester. Of course EPL is known for harder tackling but Wilshere is simply injury prone and most of his injuries are not impact ones.

      1. A perfectly working efficient monster in that season, yes. Not the season before and not guaranteed to be the season after. In general, you have to change every team’s style regularly at least a little bit to prevent your opponents figuring out the one way to beat you. There’s a big misception about how much Pep actually changed the team. Bayern was absolutely not a team “built on a solid defense and devastating counter”. They could do that on the highest level of course, but what the team has been actually built on since Van Gaal is dominance in possession and breakthroughs on the wings. The only two games Bayern relied heavily on counter-attacks in the two seasons under Heynckes were the two games against Barcelona.
        No, getting destroyed by Real Madrid is not success. Yes, I agree that Pep made huge mistakes in how he set the team up in that game, and he himself conceded that publicly. Would his first season been called successful, if he lost to Real Madrid with a lower score? Cosidering how this year’s semi-final played out and the reactions to it, I guess not. Which brings us again to the point I made earlier about judging a season on how far you progress in a competition so dependent on luck. No team has ever won the CL twice in a row. No matter how dominant they were the year before. Do you at least agree with me that, in general, a team’s performances should matter more than how far they progress?

        Most Bundesliga teams heavily rely on pressing. Every team in the Bundesliga pretty much exclusively counters against Bayern. Bayern crushed the league in every single year under Pep. How can you say that he hasn’t found a way to stop counters? Under Pep, Bayern played a ridiculously high backline most of the time. This means that when a counterattack from the opponent manages to beat the last line, they will be in a very good position to score. But the high line also means that Bayern have a very good foundation to stop every counter attack from the get-go with their gegenpressing. Which they do the majority of the time. This means that the only counter-attacks you notice are the counter-attacks that go through, which ceates the false impression that Bayern are more vulnerable in that regard than they actually are. Which does’t mean that they aren’t overall, just less than is perceived. Yes, Atletico’s counter was deadly and Bayern’s fault, but keep in mind that Bayern allowed only three good counter attacks across both legs. Against one of the best counter-attacking teams in the world. Not bad for a side bad at defending counters, isn’t it?

        Pep did change how he plays under Bayern compared to Barcelona. He used different formations and focused a lot more on the wings. There were several other microtactical changes. You even complain about changes he made. Why call him unflexible then? Yes, his general philosophy stays the same, but please tell me 3 coaches who completely overhauled their philosophy.

    2. So do you predict that City are going to win the league in the first season? That’s a bold prediction, and one I’d not be placing any money on. You seem to have less or no respect for the Premier League by the tone of your post. Probably you think that the lack of success of any PL team in Europe in the recent years (up to last season) indicates that the league has weakened. And it probably has, in terms of world-class players. But in terms of competition? Not at all. And almost everybody misunderstands the term “competition” here. They assume that 20 mediocre teams at or near the same level will obviously fight it out more closely. That is not the main point. Understand that the Premier League teams play in two cup competitions, one of which does not have the concept of “extra time” until teams play each other twice, potentially leading to a lot more matches. Plus, teams cannot afford to rest key players or play a B-team any day of the week, because every team has the potential to beat any other team. Meaning that EPL teams cannot always have a fresh XI playing CL games the way Barcelona and Real Madrid can. And this is because TV money is not equally distributed in La Liga, leading to a case of “rich getting richer, poor getting poorer”. This is awful for league football. Thankfully, the Premier League believes in an equal cut for each of the 20 teams. The winner of the Premier League this season (Leicester City) will take home more than £100 million in earnings, just from TV money. Adding to this the unexpected windfall the likes of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur will receive from their appearance in Champions League, they will have more than a fair amount of money to spend on quality players during the summer. Can you ever envision something like this happening in La Liga? Granted, Wolfsburg and Deportivo La Coruña won the Bundesliga and La Liga respectively not too long ago, but what happened to these clubs after their success? Their best players snatched away due to big-money offers from bigger clubs, as a result of these league champions not having enough money to offer their own big players. Naturally the club weakens and loses its chance of sustained success. Now I’m not saying I expect Leicester City to achieve sustained success, but at least they have money they can put on their best players as a result of a very very successful season. Meaning that they have a chance to create something for these players by way of continued success or, at the very least, the chance of playing in the biggest competitions without fear of the “bench-warmer” tag. This is why the EPL is the most competitive and interesting league to watch.

      To conclude, I’d be feeling quite sorry for you if Man City lose next season at the Britannia or the Hawthorns. Maybe that could lead to a bit of rethinking on your part.

      1. I’m assuming they will buy some fitting players in the summer (they need a good midfielder ASAP), then I’m pretty sure they will win the league. In any case, ManCity is my clear favourite. I, too, hope that my opinion is not set in stone and I can adjust accordingly. (Actually, I’m not happy with everything from Guardiola’s years at Bayern: injuries, playing Xabi Alonso, being too concerned for safety in away games and overall in this season’s second half.) Conversely, I hope you do that, too, if City wins the league, and don’t blame it solely on the quality of the players.

        Yes, I haven’t much respect for the Premier League – in terms of tactics. Their lack of success in Europe is very much an indication how far they are behind the top teams in Spain and Germany tactically. It may be the most competitive league, but it’s definitely not the most interesting to watch for those who care about well organized teams. (For a good explanation of the problems I’m talking about, read ). Hopefully that will change with the influx of money and most importantly excellent coaches (Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino, Conte) next season.

    3. “as I can think of no way reaching three semi-finals in a row wouldn’t be considered anything other than success. Considering only a trophy-winning year to be successful is extremely narrow-minded and ignorant”

      Would you really like your team to lose three semi-finals of CL, rather than win one CL and exit two in group stage?

      “as Thomas Müller almost never played one in terms of position, role or both. ”

      Yes, he did play.

      “Guardiola’s Bayern are a better team than Heynckes’ Bayern.”

      I can’t believe you would say that.

      “Borussia Dortmund had one weaker year, but I’d say that Tuchel made them a better team than they ever were under Klopp.”

      NO he didn’t. Watch few games, from both’s era, you will change your mind.

      “introduced inside full-backs”

      No, he didn’t. Dettmar Cramer introduced inside full-backs.

      YES, Guardiola IS tactically inflexible. He can change a lot of formations, so many. BUT, he still playes exactly the same style of football. No matter what formation, he still playes the same. Formation wise, very flexible. Tactically, inflexible.

      If Guardiola took over Leicester, he would try to play tiki-taka. Again. And he would fail so bad. Leicester would get 30points max from 38 games. He wouldn’t try to play his team’s strenghts, pace, good long range passing, strong defenders. Imagine Huth starting attacks, yes Guardiola would try to learn him that.

      He can’t play his his team’s strenghts. For God’s sake, he sold Ronaldinho cause he didn’t fit in tiki-taka style.

      1. To be honest, i want going to say anything but your last statement on El Dinho totally infuriated me and this is coming from someone who adores Ronaldinho and is also a barca fan. To say that Dinho doesn’t fit a possession based style of play is a massive atrocity, and the reason he was sold had nothing, nothing i repeat for emphasis to do with his game but rather off the field issues.
        And lastly, your statements about Guardiola begs the question if you have actually watched and thoroughly analysed Bayern in the last few years..

      2. “Would you really like your team to lose three semi-finals of CL, rather than win one CL and exit two in group stage?”

        Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Without context, yes, as they more likely signify a consistently high level of the team. Personally, above all I want to see good performances and high quality football. I do like seeing the clubs I’m a fan of succeed and win titles, but I’m a fan of those clubs because of their style of play, and a title for me should honour that. A campaign like Chelsea’s in 2011/12 would have very little value to me. I realize that I’m in a small minority with such a relationship to fandom, and I acknowledge the historic value a CL-title has to the club and the real fans. This is not what we are discussing, though. We’re trying to evaluate whether Guardiola at Bayern was a success. Had he won a treble in his first season and failed at the group stages the next two seasons with horrible football, this would’ve meant he weakened the team and therefore effected the short- to mid-term quality of the team. Once again, a CL-title can’t be guaranteed and can be won with luck. Improving, or at least holding the team at the highest level is a far better fundament for future success. That’s what Guardiola came for and that’s what he achieved. In other words: success.

        “Yes, he did play.”

        A few times, that’s why I said “almost never”. By far not often enough to support the author’s statement that Guardiola needs a false nine.

        “I can’t believe you would say that.”

        It’s clear that I don’t have the slightest chance to convince anybody here so I won’t try, besides that it’s a statement of personal preference, so disagreeing with it is perfectly valid. I just like that Guardiola’s team was far more flexible and its highest highs were closer to perfection than the ones under Heynckes.

        “NO he didn’t. Watch few games, from both’s era, you will change your mind.”

        I did, otherwise I wouldn’t say something like that. Again, largely a thing of personal taste, although the highest points total of a BVB team and the highest of a second-placed Bundesliga team (they would’ve been the champions in all but ~five seasons) ever says a lot.

        “No, he didn’t. Dettmar Cramer introduced inside full-backs.”

        I can’t answer that, as I have no knowledge about it. Did he really have fullbacks who occupied the spaces of a defensive midfielder for most of the time? Could you point me to certain games, I’m genuinely curious.

        “YES, Guardiola IS tactically inflexible. He can change a lot of formations, so many. BUT, he still playes exactly the same style of football. No matter what formation, he still playes the same. Formation wise, very flexible. Tactically, inflexible.”

        There’s a misunderstanding in terms of terminology. Being tactically flexible for me means being able to change and adjust details in how individual players and how a group of players behave during one game. For example, letting Alaba play as a normal fullback who runs across the sideline, then letting him make his runs diagonally into the zone of the offensive midfielder, then play him as an inside fullback who makes the majority of his passes from the central are, means making tactical changes. Switching the focus in build-up from the left halfspace to the right one means making a tactical change. Guardiola does a lot of them, in every game. He also switches his formation up all the time. His general philosophy, though, stays roughly the same. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way. Simeone is also inflexible in that regard. Cruyff was.

        “If Guardiola took over Leicester, he would try to play tiki-taka. Again. And he would fail so bad. Leicester would get 30points max from 38 games. He wouldn’t try to play his team’s strenghts, pace, good long range passing, strong defenders. Imagine Huth starting attacks, yes Guardiola would try to learn him that.”

        What hast that to do with his stint at Bayern? That’s a hypothetical question and not as easy to answer as you think it is. Automatically assuming he would fail reveals a little bit of bias against him, don’t you think?

        “He can’t play his his team’s strenghts. For God’s sake, he sold Ronaldinho cause he didn’t fit in tiki-taka style.”

        Who wasn’t the best player on the planet anymore. Anyway, lots of managers have players they prefer and players they don’t. Winning a treble right after means it at least wasn’t a huge mistake, you agree?

  8. People have spent more time writing the comments than the author has on his article

  9. He struggles against counter attacks, simply put. And EPL is all about end-to-end.

  10. typical English mentality – there is more than enough to prove of such “shrewdness” in the form of England’s “achievements” in Euro or Gary Neville’s accomplishments as a manager or Perhaps Phill Neville’s – though tackling eh? lets see

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