Today’s announcement of Pep Guardiola as new Bayern München coach for the next season will most likely have every single Bayern fan dancing around their living room. To many it might come as a surprise, but to those of us lucky enough to have seen Guardiola rise from a young kid pushing for a place in Johan Cruyff’s Barça in the early 90s to one of the most successful coaches in football, it all makes sense.
Bayern is a natural fit for Guardiola
Guardiola is not like most people involved in football. He is a well-spoken, cultured and respectful man, perhaps too much sometimes when it comes to praising the opposition, and unlike some of his managerial colleagues, he won’t jump at the first big pay cheque thrown his way. It was always clear that Pep was going to go to a club with winning tradition, a big club whose success hasn’t been achieved because of oligarchs and big businessmen, but a club in a league with passionate supporters and a new footballing experience for him in an environment he hadn’t previously worked in.
That left only England and Germany as potential possibilities and only the City and Chelsea jobs, out of all the big clubs in England, were going to have vacancies in the summer. Neither club fit the profile he was looking for though and neither seemed as good a fit as Bayern.
Another point in Bayern’s favour is the strong youth system that they have in place. Guardiola considers that having a good youth system as a foundation is essential to the success of a team. Yes, Bayern may be the biggest spenders in the Bundesliga but they have players such as Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller among others in their first team, and whilst Pep has been known to spend a buck or two, he considers home-grown players to be the pillar of building a team. You can expect to see more players coming up during his reign at Säbener Straße.
In terms of play, Bayern will most likely go from their 4-2-3-1 system to Pep’s more familiar 4-3-3 and perhaps even the more adventurous and infamous 3-4-3. At Barça, Pep enjoyed having ball-playing midfielders at centre back, full backs who push forward and overlap, an anchoring defensive midfielder and perhaps even a false number 9, although with the strikers on the books at Bayern that looks highly unlikely. The interesting question will be where Javi Martínez will play next season. He can easily slot in at centre back but might be employed in the ‘Busquets role’ due to his excellent first touch.
Martinez perhaps more than anyone exemplifies the type of player that Guardiola likes, a versatile player who can play in various positions when called upon and feels comfortable doing so without a drop in performance. Bayern’s possession stats will are probably expected rise to mid to upper 60’s and even 70% (even though they are already second to only Barcelona in this category in Europe), and this is where the Cruyff philosophy of “if you have the ball, the other team doesn’t and therefore can’t score” comes into play. Barça’s best defenders were their attackers, pressing up the field when the opposition was bringing the ball out of defence. This means that Bayern’s front three will have to work defensively as well as offensively, and there will be no room for those who don’t press. Arjen Robben, you have been warned.
Bold Managerial Style
An interesting point will also be his relationship with Uli Hoeneß. Guardiola is a man who will allow no interference from the board in his handling and managing of the first team, and we all know that Hoeneß is prone to the odd bit of intruding (as Louis van Gaal quickly found out). Rumour has it that his relationship with former Barcelona president Joan Laporta hit a sticky patch after attempting to bring in players in dubious transfers, such as the arrivals of Keirrison and Henrique from Brazil, two players who cost a combined € 36m and never made a single competitive appearance for the club.
Make of that what you will, although it definitely didn’t go with Guardiola’s philosophy of running a club it should be said. His relationship with current president Sandro Rosell is also rumoured not to have gone swimmingly, especially after Rosell’s continued attempts to bring in Neymar. In other words, any intrusion in transfers and first-team affairs will not be gladly received.
In the dressing room, Guardiola won’t allow for any prima donnas. His first action as Barça manager when he arrived was to get rid of Ronaldinho and Deco, and then Samuel Eto’o a year later despite the striker having enjoyed an excellent first season under Guardiola. Guardiola is bold but strong in his convictions, especially when it comes to the harmony and culture within the squad. Deco, Ronadlinho and Eto’o were three figures who were prone to disrupting the harmony in the dressing room and were a bad influence to young players coming up.
Guardiola also doesn’t tolerate loud-mouthed agents and will have no qualms in selling a player if his agent is equally disruptive. Everyone knows that Ibrahimovic left Barça due to having personal problems with Guardiola but Maxwell was also shipped out soon after since his and Zlatan’s agent, Mino Raiola, was not welcome at the club anymore. Another sale prompted by the bad behaviour from an agent was Yaya Touré’s to Manchester City, after his Ukrainian agent Dimitri Seluk also caused disruption at the club and in the media. Many will argue that Busquets had already made the starting place his and that Manchester City’s offer was too good to turn down but the truth is that Barça were looking for a buyer for Touré the summer before that. Guardiola’s bold managerial style fully on display.
All in all, Guardiola is definitely a man of principles, a man who doesn’t like outsiders meddling in his work and who expects his players to work hard for each other and play as a team. Perhaps Arjen Robben will have trouble with that and Guardiola’s apppointment definitely puts a question mark on the Dutchman’s future at the club if he cannot change his ways quickly, but Bayern will definitely improve as a club and the Bundesliga will finally get all the foreign media attention that it deserves.