Guardiola arrives at Bayern looking to build on perfection
Published: 02.07.13 / Written by: David Gold
If Bayern Munich wanted to improve on the perfection they achieved last year, having swarmed over all opponents last season and claimed every trophy available, they chose the right man.
Pep Guardiola, the perfectionist that he is, has been spending his time since it was confirmed that he would be Bayern Munich manager learning German. And so when he sat down for his press conference earlier this week to be introduced as their new coach, he was able of course to converse in his new language.
Guardiola being Guardiola, there is no sense that it is his way or the high way. He will adapt, he insisted, despite his remarkable record at Barcelona.
"I will adapt 100% to the high quality of players who are here, they are different to the Barcelona players. Football obeys the players, not the managers. The fans come to see the players, not me."
Acknowledging that this is not Barcelona is easy enough, but Guardiola did have a very defined style of play at Barcelona and will be looking to implement that at Bayern. His teams like to dominate possession and look to play in their opponents half of the pitch. There are key differences with the Bayern of last season. Under Jupp Heynckes Bayern showed that they were happy when necessary to sit back in their opponents half and wait for a mistake before pouncing – that was how they beat Barcelona of course in the semi finals of the Champions League.
Of course it will be sensible to start off with incremental changes. This Bayern team is highly effective of course – why break what is working so well? Changes may be limited to the position at the top of the pitch where the centre forward plays. Mario Mandzukic was superb last season but he conceivably is the likeliest of Bayern’s players to lose his spot in the team. Guardiola loves the ‘false nine’ idea, and has reportedly toyed with playing Franck Ribery in that position. Mario Gotze, arriving from Borussia Dortmund, is another who could possibly perform that role. So Guardiola has options if he wishes to remould his front line.
Other players whose futures could be intriguing include Thomas Muller. It is hard to imagine the German youngster falling out of Guardiola’s plans, as he is so effective – clever, tactically astute and such a hard worker. Yet he lacks the technical ability that you would associate with a typical Guardiola player. But if there is anything that Guardiola prioritises over technique, it is hard work and commitment. Bastian Schweinsteiger should have a role to play but he is not in the Xavi or Andres Iniesta mould of small nimble playmakers. He is a more physical specimen of the game, and you wonder whether Guardiola will be tempted to move him on long term.
In Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos Guardiola has two perfect midfielders for his system. Martinez is so proficient in possession and the ideal man to sit at the base of the midfield. Guardiola likes his teams to be tactically flexible – to have full backs pushing on and a defensive midfielder who can drop into the centre back role, and Martinez can do that. He can also push forward and pass well, make that crucial first pass that Guardiola could produce so well.
So there are plenty of questions to ponder for the Catalan maestro as he works on his new team and a new challenge. Guardiola has rarely plied his trade outside of the Barcelona system, and so this is an intriguing test of his capabilities. You sense that someone as dedicated, hard working, intelligent and adaptable as him should succeed regardless.