The first season Pep Guardiola managed FC Barcelona in 2008-09, his side became the first Spanish squad to accomplish the continental treble. Currently in his first year at the helm of Bayern Munich, the Catalan native is on pace to accomplish the same feat. While he’s only halfway through his debut with Die Roten, an interesting debate has arisen about which Guardiola-led team is better.
We’ve broken down each team into four categories to decide which side is superior. At the beginning of the “match” between both of these sides, the score is nil-nil.
Guardiola’s Barca team ran a 4-3-3 formation. His interpretation of the system followed in the philosophy of his former manager, the icon Johan Cruyff. Crisp short passing, possession, and attacking were the main objective with two creative midfielders and a holding midfielder dictating the pace. In 2011 he stated,
“Since I took the job, our play has been marked by brave, attacking football. Sometimes we’ve been bold and, occasionally, I think we’ve played audaciously. It’s a philosophy of football. Win or lose I want us to show who we are and what kind of football we believe in. I want my team to go out and be themselves.”
This mentality hurt the team occasionally when teams “parked the bus” by playing their whole squad deep and conceding possession for counter-attacking chances. At Bayern, Guardiola has implemented the 4-1-4-1 formation. Pundits questioned the switch but the setup gives his side more flexibility to see what the opposition decides to do and whether to swap to a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or even a 4-4-2 based on how the players read the pitch.
Phillip Lahm told Four Four Two Magazine
“Also, outwardly it appears as if we’ve changed our system, but if you look more closely we still have three central midfielders on the pitch. Whether there’s one No.6 [a primarily defensive holding midfielder] and two No.10s [offensive midfielders], or one No.6 and two No.8s [more creative holding midfielders] or maybe one No.8, one No.6 and one No.10 – there are three players in central midfield. To give you an example, last season Toni Kroos [a typical No.10] sometimes played in the No.6 position alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. It’s open to debate whether or not you could have spoken of two No. 6 players in those moments. So each of the three players fills the position with his own identity and his characteristics. That is what counts.”
The versatility of the formation gives Bayern the advantage.
Winner: Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga team takes an early lead. Barca 0 – Bayern 1.
2. Goalkeeping and defense
In the 2008-09 La Liga season, Barcelona gave up 35 goals in 38 matches. Their backline consisted of Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, and Carles Puyol. Alves and Abidal were critical in helping build play and Alves was the most durable footballer for the side appearing in 54 matches, starting all but two. Goalkeeper Victor Valdés saw limited action his way due to the possession his team dominated and he won the Zamora Trophy, which is awarded by Spanish newspaper Marca to the goalie with the lowest goals-to-games ratio.