Now firstly, this isn’t built around a United bias, and I’m not saying he isn’t a good coach. You have to be to win 2 European cups and multiple league titles, however Pep Guardiola could be seen as a master manipulator. Who knows he may have hair somewhere. But on a serious note, Mr Guardiola is someone who has the media under his thumb and has this power based on his revolutionary era at Barcelona, glittered in trophies. I can gladly say that I never wanted him at United especially when it came to replacing Van Gaal. But I want to analyse the myth that has been built around Josep Guardiola.
Undoubtedly whilst at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola changed Spanish football. His tiki taka blueprint was the reason Spain experienced unparalleled success between 2008 and 2012. His Barcelona team took teams apart at will and as much as it hurts, two clear examples of this are in the champions league final of 2009 and 2011 where his Barca team tore apart Sir Alex’s Manchester United. Thierry Henry says they were built around 3 P’s. Possession, Position and Play. Whilst watching Barca, these principles were clear and Barca were fundamentally built around these philosophies. They won 3 league titles and 2 Champions Leagues in his 4 years.
However in his final season, it was clear that tiki taka was starting to be found out. Chelsea proved this in the semi final of the champions league. Chelsea sat with 2 banks of 4 with Drogba up top and basically said come get past us. Over those two legs, they suffocated the likes of Pedro, Messi, and Sanchez. The real issue however lied with Barcelona’s coach. The Philosopher. On the bench, there was no real way of changing the style of play. Did he have a Drogba to get to ball in to or go long? No. Pep’s naivety and commitment to playing this beautiful game is one of the real reasons Barca didn’t retain that Champions League. No plan B
BAYERN-THE FAILURE THEY FAIL TO MENTION
More telling examples of naivety come from his stint at Bayern Munich. Firstly, I don’t care what anyone says, his stint was a failure. The treble winners of 2013 looked a shadow of themselves in the Champions league. He played the best RB in the world in midfield and Spain’s hottest holding mid (Javi Martinez) at CB because of technical ability. Pep loves players who have a footballing brain. It gets him going. But it is this obsession and his stubbornness with tactics that cost him dearly in the Champions League.
Example A- 2013/14 Semi Final vs Real Madrid: Firstly this was also Madrid being completely supreme on the counter. But there are a few things worth noting. Firstly Bayern of course had 65% possession. But were simply not efficient and lost 4-0 at home. Along with this Pep had sold Jupp Heynckes’ plan B in Mario Gomez. Madrid ripped apart Bayern by being simple. Get it to Ronaldo, Di Maria and Bale and abuse the lack of pace in Bayern (shown by Kroos, Dante, Schweinsteiger playing as the spine). There are more clearer examples to show however of Pep being Pep.
B- 2014-15 Semi Final vs Barcelona: Like the year before it was clear that there was a way to beat Guardiola’s Bayern. Pace on the wing and interchanging positions. The newly formed MSN did this perfectly in both legs. Luis Enrique knew he didn’t need all the possession principles that Barca had been built upon with Guardiola. To beat Guardiola was simple. Utilise pace to the max. Have Messi and Neymar abuse the full backs in the channels and transition defence to attack much quicker. Simply put. GET GOALS. They ripped Bayern apart and Pep still stuck to his 3 P’s which weren’t doing anything in the champions league.
C- 2015-16 Semi Final vs Atletico: For me this is the most telling examples of his naivety. More so than the previous 2 examples. His stubbornness is clear to see. Unlike Barca or Real, Simeone’s Atletico are built around defensive principles. Be solid and good on the counter. Bit like Chelsea in 2012, Atleti knew they needed to simply frustrate Bayern as like Chelsea they didn’t possess the quality the Barca and Real had. Atletico won 63% of aerial duels along with a passing ratio of 60%. Atletico knew they could beat Bayern by playing direct and utilising the pace of Griezmann. But this game was lost by Guardiola because of his own naivety. By not utilising the physical assets of Robert Lewandowski and sticking to passing all the time, Atletico stuck to the principles of 2 banks of four and get it up to Griezmann. Atletico went through on away goals.
Pep Guardiola has spent over £1 billion in transfer fees since becoming Barcelona manager in 2008. Among those there have been major successes but also incredible failures. His all conquering Barcelona covered his many big money flops that were bought in mainly as squad players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a stand out one. Parting with £60 million and treble winning key player Samuel Eto’o, who had just scored 36 goals. Now although Zlatan contributed a healthy return of 21 goals, he was played on the wing as second fiddle to the incredible Lionel Messi and was sold after one season. Along with this, Samuel Eto’o went on in the same season to win a second treble with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan scoring 16 goals in the toughest league to score goals in. Along with Zlatan, there were the notable flops of Dmytro Chyrgrynskiy for £23 million and Kerrison. Two upcoming talents that were completely overshadowed by the sheer enormity of talent in Barca’s starting 11. The final noteworthy transfer was Cesc Fabregas who throughout his time back at Barcelona was second choice to Xavi and Iniesta. Xavi played in the role Fabregas wanted as a deep lying playmaker but Fabregas didn’t stand much of a chance because of how good Xavi was.
From Bayern, to be honest, there were very strong signings. I actually can’t say there were many flops. Mario Götze, the golden boy and Börussia Dortmund’s biggest talent was bought for £40 million but didn’t get enough game time and suffered under Guardiola. You can say this is also the players fault but the time clearly wasn’t invested in him and as said wasn’t given enough opportunities. I will also say his sales here were curious. Selling Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger were very peculiar considering they were strong characters in the dressing room. Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez were also peculiar even though he upgraded with Robert Lewandowski, he lost any sort of plan B which is a common factor amongst Guardiola’s squads. A lack of plan B. Emre Can and Luis Gustavo were also noteworthy sales from a squad that had just won the treble.
At City, transfers have been mixed and it has resulted in the media noticing issues with Pep. Firstly, his desperation to have technical players everywhere meant he bought in players like Claudio Bravo and John Stones. Firstly, Claudio Bravo feels like one of the most ridiculous signings in recent memory. He sold Joe Hart for this ball playing keeper but bought a keeper that struggled with every shot on target towards him. To cement how ridiculous this has been, he has now spent a record fee for a keeper a season later for Ederson. John Stones is meant to be the next revolutionary defender for England with his ball playing ability and is meant to be the new Rio Ferdinand. Instead we have seen a player stagnate in his progression. A player full of errors seen at Everton, has continued this at Man City. It is not the boys fault because he has been managed by Roberto Martinez and Pep Guardiola. Two managers who don’t focus on the defensive side of the game. Stones looks like someone who hasn’t learnt a thing in his first year at City. He still overplays on the ball. He still struggles in a positional sense and thats not good enough but the issue is Guardiola still wants him to pick passes out. Yes this is a good trait but the kid needs to be reminded his job is to defend. He will never fulfil his potential until Pep balances his focus on Stones’ ball playing ability along with making him a proper defender.
The biggest myth for me is this idea that Pep invests time in youth and gives them opportunities. He buys youth. There is a massive difference. Yes he shows faith in the ones he buys however of the 21 youth players in the clubs he’s managed that he’s given debuts to. Marc Bartra should be at Barca now and should be playing in that team that is struggling defensively but only made 4 appearances there under Guardiola. Aside from Sergio Busquets, none of the players he has given debuts to are still at those clubs. What happened to Daniel and Mitchell Weiser at Bayern Munich. Joshua Kimmich is not a Bayern product. He is a german product brought in at a young age to Bayern. Look at city, he’s already spent over £300 million and sold one of their bright prospects in Kelechi Iheanancho to Leicester. Alex Garcia won’t get a sniff in that team. Neither will Brahim Diaz. He wants Van Djik when he’s got a great defensive prospect in Jason Denayer. But he complains that they aren’t ready. If they have no chance of getting into the first team because of how much money has been invested, they’ll never become ready.
Overall, although he is a great manager who has won many trophies, it is still clear to see that Pep Guardiola believes his hype too much and the arrogance that comes off him is a massive reason why he didn’t win a champions league at Bayern Munich and why his City team didn’t win a trophy. He believes the hype around his tactics but this is also because the media glorify him. They paper over his cracks and promote the things I mentioned like his youth policy and his tactics. I agree he is a very good coach but he still has so much to prove in England.