Currently, Pep Guardiola is one of greatest managers on the planet, if not the greatest. He dominated world soccer, taking Barcelona to new heights and possibly turning them into one of the most dominant and greatest teams the world has ever seen. Now, he has left Barcelona and looks to carry on his dominance with Bayern Munich.
Pep Guardiola is uber-professional, a man who is addicted to in-depth analysis of soccer tactics, and perfects every corner of his team’s game and opponent’s game. Guardiola resists complacency and respects every team his side come up against, be it Manchester City in the Champions League or Osnabrück in the German Third Division. Underestimating a team or a certain individual was and is extremely dangerous to Pep and this is why he perfects everything.
Guardiola is a massive perfectionist. He isn’t one to be scared to make a controversial decision, which he showed when he let go of Deco and Ronaldinho when he took over Barcelona in 2008.
Pep only wants players who work tirelessly for the cause and put in the effort for the club. “Play for the name on the front, and they’ll remember the one on the back” is a famous quote that, to me, Guardiola adheres to.
Currently, Barcelona is swirling through a downward spiral without Pep’s guidance and oversight. The intensity is gone; the firepower is gone. Under Pep, Barcelona was able to exploit space much more efficiently and with more infiltration. The passes were more efficient, accurate and quick. Pep’s Barcelona managed to panic anyone who collected the ball and pressure them into making a mistake.
Clearly, Guardiola drills these tactics into his players. He makes them press high and work hard; keep the ball and control the game with and without the ball. The influence of Guardiola’s tactics can be seen by comparing Lionel Messi’s pressing and interception rate during Pep’s reign to his current season. In 2010-11, when Barcelona was still managed by Guardiola, the rate of interceptions and tackles Messi made was 2.1 per league game to a 0.5 for the current season, under Tata Martino’s management.
Now that Pep has moved over to Germany and taken over Bayern Munich, he has deployed the same style of play. The same “tiki-taka” passing football with high intensity and high energy pressing of opponents has been drilled into Pep’s new team.
Bayern have already won the league in a record breaking time, and many expect them to win many more honors under the Spaniard. Bayern are still in the Champions League and in the German Cup, the treble is on for this season and many people can see it happening. Can Pep’s Bayern be the first team to retain the Champions League? Quite possibly, yes.
Even though Pep Guardiola has managed to win the league and extend Bayern’s unbeaten run beyond 50 matches, some are still complaining. Bayern fans complain because they aren’t seeing the fluency they did last season under Heynckes. Many put this down to Pep Guardiola’s consistent changing and tweaking of the starting XI.
Pep has a very large Bayern squad at his disposal and has to see what works best, and which players gel and which players repel to make sure his squad are perfect for dominating world football. Change was apparent when Pep dropped Mario Mandzukic from the starting XI, after it was announced that Robert Lewandowski would arrive at Munich in the summer. Pep then included Mandzukic in the starting line-up in February, and saw him score 6 goals in 5 games.
This shows that Pep Guardiola can keep his team fresh and determined to improve. More importantly, this shows the willingness of players to work with Pep’s tactical changes, and for those left on the bench to work harder to earn a place in the starting XI. The tweaks and changes that Guardiola makes keep everyone on their toes, and to the credit of the critics they have sacrificed some of his fluidity of a settled side.
Pep Guardiola’s genius is balancing fluidity with hunger for success. He may seem a lucky man, having inherited such great squads (Barcelona and Bayern Munich), but it’s what he does with these squads, the way he makes them play and interact, that’s the genius part of his game that he drives to perfection.