Pep Guardiola – A qualified success at Bayern Munich

It was always going to be the case that Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich legacy would for so many revolve around the Champions League.

Winning the Bundesliga was expected. To prove his greatness, he needed to bring the European Cup to the Allianz Arena.

 

His failure to do that certainly leaves question marks over his time in Germany, indeed over his managerial career.

We know the questions. Is he really as good as we thought he was? How responsible was he for Barcelona coming to conquer Europe and the world? Was he just lucky to inherit Messi, Iniesta and Xavi at the height of their powers? Hasn’t the fact that he failed to scale those same heights with Bayern proven that?

The answers will likely depend on how you view the role of the football manager and on whether you quantify success only in terms of trophies.

It may simply come down to whether you like a particular manager and his style of football.

The answers may be heavily subjective – unless you insist on winning as being the only unit of measure.

Perhaps at the levels at which Guardiola operates, it’s easier to seize on the “failures” as proof of something than the successes.

After all, successes can be written off as being down to the power of the club, the money available to the manager and the players he can choose.

Fail in any competition, despite the fact that only one club can win any football competition, and all those resources can easily be used against you.

As ever, the answer usually lies between the black and the white.

Yes, Guardiola was blessed with the talent available at the Camp Nou. But his role was not irrelevant.

His work in crafting a team and a way of working that brought out the very best from those players and produced football the like of which we had never seen before should not be so easily dismissed.

Looking at Pep’s time in Germany, what do we see? Three league titles in three seasons. Titles won either at a canter or at least in relative comfort.

Titles won with the most goals scored and the fewest conceded in each season. Titles won while making the semi finals of the Champions League in each term.

The base requirement, yes, but met in impressive style.

In Europe, Bayern’s three semi final defeats, whilst disappointing, represented arguably the club’s most consistent period in the European Cup since the mid 1970s.

That said, the Spaniard’s inability to win the competition will represent a major professional disappointment – particularly the embarrassing manner of their 2013/14 and 2014/15 exits at the feet of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

 

Both semis represent Guardiola’s real failure in Munich – his attempt to impose the tiki taka style of his great Barca team on players, albeit very talented ones, who were ill suited for the task.

Bayern’s quality was more than good enough for their Bundesliga opponents and for most everyone else in Europe.

But at the highest level, their inability to penetrate in the ways that Messi and Iniesta did under Pep saw the German giants picked off time and again on the break by the Spanish giants.

The 5-0 and 5-3 aggregate score lines barely tell of the humiliation.

Last week’s defeat to Atletico Madrid was a different story, however; one that shines a more favourable light on Guardiola as he prepares to depart Bavaria.

In three halves of the semi final clash with probably the most feared team in Europe, Bayern were the better side.

Their display in trying to overturn the 1-0 first leg deficit was quite possibly one of their best under the Spaniard.

It showed the German side as probably the most rounded in the game, attacking from all angles – direct and indirect – stretching Simeone’s men in ways rarely seen.

No longer did Bayern appear wedded to one style, displaying the kind of predictability and vulnerability that Real and Barca exposed previously.

Had they been playing either of the other two semi finalists, Bayern would surely be in the final. As the game transpired, it all came down to very fine margins.

For some that still represents failure. For me, the clear development in Bayern’s play this season, the fact that they were now playing to the players’ strengths showed that both the squad and Guardiola have developed and grown.

Bayern have benefitted and will continue to benefit from his time there. Failure is too simple, too harsh, too bald an assessment.

Author Details

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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