Can Pep Guardiola Replicate His Barcelona Success At Bayern Munich?

Pep GuardiolaAfter months of speculation and just hours after quoting that he would be interested in coaching in England, Pep Guardiola agreed to manage the German giants, Bayern Munich, signing a 3 year deal that will keep him at the Allianz Arena until 2016. FC Bayern are currently under the stewardship of Jupp Heynckes who took over the helms in the summer of 2011, leading Bayern to a strong season, but was unfortunate to miss out on silverware. Bayern currently sit top of the Bundesliga, enjoying a 9 point lead over 2nd placed Leverkusen and have already qualified for the knockout stages and quarterfinals in the UEFA Champions League and DFB Pokal respectively.

Pep Guardiola of course comes in with an impeccable record, having led FC Barcelona to 15 trophies in just 4 years which includes 2 Champions league titles, 2 Club World Cups and 3 La Liga titles. More importantly he introduced the world to a brand of football that was seldom used in modern times and took an already brilliant Barcelona side to the echelons of invincibility. One might argue that the Catalan coach was lucky enough to inherit a side that had the class of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Messi when he took over the managerial post at Barcelona in the summer of 2008. But its one thing to have class and another to use it effectively. Guardiola did exactly that with the men from Camp Nou and in his very first season, brought home a record 6 trophies. His use of a withdrawn striker or a false nine coupled with Messi’s brilliance in that position foxed most his oppositions just not in talent but also in tactics.

Pep’s fluid 4-3-3 at Barcelona almost gave us a sense of the Total Football played by the famed Dutch sides of 70’s, with full backs pushing well up the pitch and midfielders effectively playing defensive roles to break the otherwise rigidity of formations in modern football. The concept of possession football was very much embedded into the Barcelona style of playing and with Bayern Munich also favoring ball possession, the double Champions League winner can surely influence Bayern’s fortunes as well.

Bayern over the seasons

Bayern over the past two years have heavily favoured the 4-2-3-1 system, employing quick wing play, a classic center forward, couple of midfield playmakers and a defensive midfielder to shield the back four. Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal was instrumental in bringing this model into Bayern back in the 2009-10 season when he employed inverted wingers in Ribery and Robben with Olic/Gomez playing the center forward role and young Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger bringing in the creative element from the middle of the pitch. This system of play has certainly gotten Bayern into the list of the ‘most attractive teams to watch’ but hasn’t really translated into trophies or titles over the last 2 years. The emergence of Toni Kroos and the recruitment of Javi Martinez, Dante and Shaqiri in the summer has definitely made Bayern a formidable force this season. Bayern, thus have stuck to their rigid 4-2-3-1 and the playing style and philosophy have been very much implanted into the mindsets of the players. Their main threat has generally come from their wingers Ribery and Robben/Muller and more recently the creativity and vision of Kroos and Schweinstiger has added an extra tooth to the attack. In consideration, Bayern have developed a successful model for themselves over the last few years which centers around a strong sense of organization and a definite though process.

Factors that lured Guardiola to Bayern

  • Bayern have always had a very stable back room running the club that emanates a strong sense of organization, financial stability and a constant thirst for success. Any manager would love to handle a club that has a definitive vision and complete support from its board of directors.
  • Die Roten’s policy over the years of developing talents in their nursery rather than buy them out suits Pep Guardiola’s style of management. He was Barcelona’s B team or youth team coach before being handed the reins of the senior team back in 2008. The idea of nurturing young players and implanting a particular style of playing the beautiful game into their minds suits both quite well.
  • Come July 1st, the new manager will take over a squad that is built around a solid core of players like Lahm, Schweinstiger, Ribery, Muller and Badstuber to name a few. Back at the Catalans, he built his tactics and strategies around a similar core.
  • A key feature in Pep’s regime at Barcelona was the contributions of full backs Dani Alves and Eric Abidal in propagating the attack. It was not uncommon to see either one of them well up the pitch with defensive midfielders Busquets and Keita dropping well back to form a 3-man defensive line. The pace and dribbling skills of both full backs was quite crucial to Barcelona’s fluid system. Bayern’s current full backs posses the same qualities that Pep favours. Bayern’s skipper and right back , Lahm certainly brings in the qualities of pace and dribbling down the right flank and young David Alaba is slowly turning into one of the best at the left back role.
  • Barcelona’s engine was powered by the brilliance of Xavi and Iniesta with the duo effectively running the show on the offensive and when not in possession. Bayern’s midfield duo of Kroos and Schweinstiger may not quite be at the same level but are arguably one of the best today in midfield. Guardiola’s system will unquestionably be centered on these two German internationals.
  • “Robbery” – comprised of Frenchmen Frank Ribery and Dutch Arjen Robben, have the pace, shooting ability and dribbling skills that Pep wants from his wide men. Thomas Muller will also fit this category having performed brilliantly at right wing this season.
  • Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita were used as modern day liberos by the former Barcelona manager, aiding the team in attack and to a large extent in defense. Bayern’s 40 million man Javi Martinez , Luis Gustavo and young midfielder Emre can fit this bill perfectly.

Overall the rooster Pep Guardiola is going to inherit does have the qualities of the Barcelona team he so well managed and led to success. There are of course cons to Pep taking over proceedings at a club of Bayern’s stature. The language barrier is probably the simplest issue that would worry Pep as compared to the aura of high expectations that will surround him the minute he lands in Munich.

Will Pep’s Bayern look like this?

Guardiola’s arrival as new manager does not necessarily guarantee success considering his model and Bayern’s philosophy are quite different in some aspects. It will be interesting to see if the new manager models his tactics around Bayern’s brand of football or if the Bavarians change their style of play after the Spaniard’s principles. Either way the players, patrons and fans of the club are going to embark into an exciting phase in their history.