Pep Guardiola is one of the most decorated managers in club football, largely due to his exploits at Barcelona, where he blew teams away with a masterclass of possession-based, attacking football. But in recent years he has failed to live up to expectations; pedestrian success at Bayern Munich was followed by a tepid first season at Manchester City. Here are the things he is doing wrong…
Imposition of the Barcelona style on Bayern Munich and Manchester City. As earlier noted, Guardiola inherited a system at Barcelona that supplied the players who fit the football philosophy he is comfortable with. The directors of Bayern complained when he arrived in Germany, that he is changing the way they play their football; then, he tried to ‘play from the back’ in England, and imported a ‘sweeper-keeper’. He won domestic trophies at Bayern because of the squad depth, but failed in Europe. The jury is still out in England, but the first season was a humbling experience. Perhaps if he had tried to adapt or create a new style at these clubs, the story may have been different.
Messiah Complex. When Guardiola took a year sabbatical, team lined up all the way from Anchorage to Zululand, all queuing up for his services. The Barcelona success was seductive, and Guardiola played on it. When the complaints started at Bayern, he ignored it. He sent a list of players and conditions ahead of his arrival at Man City. And don’t let us forget the way he deals with players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Etoo, Yaya Toure, Joe Hart…all received the Guardiola treatment. Players like to feel appreciated; ‘big’ players always think they deserve different treatment; the only player Pep molly-cuddled is Lionel Messi. Some of the players he treated badly would have helped his cause.
Failure to acknowledge other parts of the game: Once bitten, twice shy, so goes the saying, but Pep has been bitten on several occasions and has failed to heed the lessons. Defending, like scoring, is an art of football that Guardiola has surprisingly failed to embrace. His three semi-final exits in the UCL during his Bayern days were largely due to defensive lapses. It was the case again last season against Monaco, where his City could not hold onto a 2 goal lead in the 2nd leg. Recent EPL champions have had to battle to 1-0 victories on their way to success. Claudio Ranieri, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, all did. But City under Pep just could not defend for the points.
A History of Poor recruitment: From his days at Barcelona and Bayern Guardiola has struggled to get it right with transfers. The trend is repeating itself again in England. After spending close to 400 million pounds, City still look vulnerable. It would only take an injury to Sergio Aguero/Gabriel Jesus and the goals would dry up; in defence Otamendi and Stones have failed to find their feet and Kompany is injury prone.
This is not an indictment of Guardiola’s tactical prowess, but ego driven decisions were the recipe for his failure in the past (Toure and Hart come to mind). Luckily he has enough transfer funds to play with. However, if the Spaniard fails to evolve this new season, and doesn’t win the league, the knives will be out.