Guardiola signs off in style
Published: 30.05.12 / Written by: David Gold
Pep Guardiola signed off the way he started, with a Copa del Rey.
And against the same opponents as the first – Athletic Bilbao. A 3-0 win secured the team their 14th trophy under Guardiola, but it is the last. From next season a new figure will lead the team into battle as they look for further glory. Tito Vilanova will hope to repeat Guardiola’s efforts.
That will be a gargantuan ask. Guardiola has taken a brilliant team, and made them into one of the best of all time already. To follow him is not a task you would wish on anyone. Guardiola has made the team press and tactically well tuned. He took a team of Frank Riijkard and made it into the world beaters they are today. They may have had many of the personnel, but aside from gelling them on the pitch, Guardiola has made important decisions off it.
Such as deciding to get rid of Deco and Ronaldinho, followed by Samuel Eto’o and then Zlatan Ibrahimovic. All were problematic, and all left with Guardiola reaping the benefits of the improvement in the squad harmony. On the pitch he has made decisive moves too tactically. Earlier this year when they trailed Real Madrid he brilliantly switched the formation to out fox Jose Mourinho and win 3-1 at the Bernabeu.
Vilanova has a hard task living up to his standards. Guardiola was a brilliant manager of a brilliant squad.
He inherits one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen. No pressure then. He has at his disposal some of the finest players in the world, and a couple of the best to have played the game, in Leo Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Yet Barcelona are maybe not quite at as high a level as they were one or two years ago. They have suffered in recent weeks, and Xavi and Iniesta are getting that bit older. Can they rediscover their old form?
If they are going to, they need players like Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara to reach Xavi and Iniesta’s level. IT could just be that the brilliant pair cannot produce the same level every single week. If that is so, then they need the understudies to come in and reach the same level often enough to compensate.
Barcelona also need David Villa back. They have suffered with him injured for half of the season, especially with Pedro also out. This is a team though that may be a little tired and worn, but it certainly has more to give. If Vilanova can get the best out of them next season, their era of dominance is far from over.