Bayern Munich: Why change a winning formula?

by Alan Feehely

Guardiola BayernImmediately after watching Bayern Munich absolutely destroy Barcelona in every sense of the word in both legs of this season’s Champions League semi-final, my thoughts quickly turned to the future.

Not the Champions League final however. Yes, Bayern will travel to London brimming with confidence and their clash with Dortmund will make a fascinating spectacle for all football fans, but I was really thinking a little more long-term.

First up, what does this mean for Barcelona, the very side that has thrilled us with their beautiful branch of tiki-taka ever since they appointed one Pep Guardiola as head coach way back in 2008.

The Catalonians have given us a lifetime of memories to cherish, something to tell our grandchildren about. They conquered all in their spell of superiority, and will probably go down as they greatest side to ever grace a football field.

But what does the future hold? Guardiola, the architect of this great side, will be joining the German revolution next season, and he has left behind in Spain an ageing team with a playing style that seems to have been found out by their adversaries.

Under Tito Villanova, Barca don’t quite have the same panache about them. They began 2012/13 in record breaking form of course, but as the season wore on (and Villanova suffered another cancer relapse) they seemed different. Lethargic, and lacking the effervescent pressing game that has become their trademark.

Many have claimed that the 7-0 aggregate thrashing of them by Bayern marks the end of a blue and red era, with characters that have epitomised the Guardiola revolution of how football is played, i.e. Xavi and Carlos Puyol, ageing and unable to sustain the performance levels previously shown.

But this particular article isn’t about Barcelona, or the somewhat worrying future their supporters have to face. No, this is about the hot topic of European football, Bayern Munich, and whether or not bringing Pep Guardiola to the Allianz Arena is a smart move.

After reading the previous sentence, you must surely be thinking that I’ve lost all sense of reason. After all, Guardiola is the hottest managerial product in world football, and Bayern are arguably the best football team on the continent at this moment in time.

But just take a step back and think. Jupp Heynckes’s team, the one that has so dazzled the watching world this season, is built on two principal beliefs – supreme defensive organisation and lightning quick counter-attacking skills.

That is simplifying the tactics employed by the Bavarians of course, but that’s the general idea. The question I want to pose it this: Why do Bayern need to bring Guardiola to the club? They have already romped to the Bundesliga title, and at the time or writing are preparing for a Champions League final date with Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

The aforementioned style suits the team down to the ground. In fact, it was the exact tactics Heynckes employed that saw off Barcelona with such ease. Can Guardiola take control of the team when he arrives in Germany and improve on it? I don’t think so.

Allow me to first get this out of the way. I am a huge fan of Guardiola’s football philosophy, and seriously admire his sometimes obsessive management style. One part of his armour that is lacking however, and he will freely admit it, is his knowledge and ability to coach defensively.

A large part of the success Munich have enjoyed in recent years is down to a watertight rear-guard, one that is probably the best in the whole of Europe. I would have serious doubts as to whether Pep could come into the club and keep that defensive structure up.

Another feature of their play is the rapid transition from defence to attack, shown in its quintessential and absolutely ideal form during each of the two legs against Barcelona. They complement a turgid defence with a lethal presence in the final third, which when in full flight is a true work of art.

When Guardiola arrives at the club, will he be able to continue this? He tends to favour his teams to play a little slower and technical approach, rather than utilising the frightening pace of two wide players, in this case Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

He prefers to complicate the play, pass the opposition into submission before striking with a moment of sheer class. With his Barcelona at the peak of their powers this was of course scintillating to witness, but question marks remain over whether or not he’ll be able to integrate this into a group of players used to a more direct and quick approach.

As well as whether or not he’ll be able to, you would have to wonder should he? Heynckes has built an incredible squad of players all playing to a common goal and succeeding – this has not happened overnight, more of a steady but equally effective process. After all, how often do you see Robben chasing back for the good of the team?

It must really sting him as a football manager to be forced to leave his team not of his own accord, just when they are on the peak of greatness.

For this correspondent, I cannot help but wonder if, for all of the undisputed brilliance that goes on in the mind of one Josep Guardiola, it could be a mistake on the part of those running FC Bayern Munich to change a winning formula.

1 Response

  1. Austin says:

    Finally I have found someone who is questioning the pep guardiola decision. Arjen Robben had a revelation against Juve in the CL quarter final yet he has been transfer listed. He is no longer the selfish player that he once was. He also wants to bring in Suarez and take away all of the momentum that Mandzukic had built up this season. In my opinion I think that they should look to extend this dominance and not take the chance of altering and in the end ruining it with the tiki taka systems code ,which as of the murder of barcelona, has been cracked. Please come back Jupp.

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