Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern Munich: A failure or a success?
A lot of things have happened during Pep Guardiola’s three-year tenure at Bayern Munich, but whether it was “successful” or not – that is obviously a debatable question. In order to judge this, most of us consider only one competition and that is the UEFA Champions League. The critics and haters of Pep, are now judging him over his influence on Bayern Munich in those 180 minutes or to be precise, 90 minutes of football in the Semifinal first leg against Atletico Madrid, where the result could have been anything.
Now if we go back in time and take a quick look at the history of the achievements of the Bavarians we will see that, in the past 20 years before Pep’s arrival at the club, Bayern Munich went into the semis of UCL seven times, they couldn’t progress further in two occasions and ended up as runner’s up thrice, but winning it twice took the pain away of missing out on those occasions! 3 out of 3, Yes, Guardiola has reached the semi-final stage thrice with Bayern during his three-year tenure at the club. Coming that close to being the Champions of Europe was never a formality prior to his arrival, and being consistent is one of the hardest things to be in football but Guardiola has done it in about every three years.
It was never easy for the former Barcelona coach, especially not with an injured squad, which he had to manage for these years. But still the Spaniard did exceptionally well in major competitions. Just imagine if Robben could feature in last year’s semi-final with Ribery on the left, causing problems down the flanks that too against a Barcelona without their main man Neymar and Messi, who were the key behind Barca’s 5 goals in that Semi Final.
Let us have a more detailed view of how one single injury can change the whole outcome of a game. Robert Lewandowski got injured on 30th of April 2015, in the DFB Pokal Semifinal against Borussia Dortmund. The Polish striker suffered a series of injuries altogether, nasal fracture, a fractured jaw, AC joint contusion, rib bruise and concussion. Lewandowski was playing against Barcelona at the Nou Camp after 7 days and a moment of brilliance from Thomas Muller allowed him to beat Jordi Alba and put in a delicious cross for Lewandowski. But the Polish forward was pretty late to react to it, had he not missed that chance Bayern could have been ahead and an early lead of 1-0 would have been enough to change the outcome. But what was the reason behind Lewa’s miss? Was it the concussion? Or he had an impede vision due to the mask he wore to cover the facial injury? But who knows, maybe that single goal could have led Bayern to win the UCL, and we wouldn’t have been judging him over here now! A small difference of 3-5 centimeters between Lewa’s foot and the ball can not be the base on which we should judge Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern.
Football is a game of conquering mistakes and grabbing opportunities, there comes countless opportunities that can change the outcome of a game, a single shot in some other direction or a pass with a different intent can change the game instantly. If we talk about the first leg semi-final of last year, Mario Götze had a golden chance to score but could not find the back of the net, but if he did and Bayern returned to the Allianz arena with an away goal advantage for the second leg, it might have allowed Pep to plot a more defensive formation instead of an aggressive and offensive 4-2-4 that he played. In the second leg, Bayern needed to attack and penetrate the Catalan defence from the kick off the whistle, but Pep changes his mind again and instead of a 3-4-3 he opts a but defensive 4-2-3-1 which needed the patience to hold the ball and find opportunities, but after some time, he went for the 4-2-4 formation. The exact same one which he played in July 2013 against Dortmund, in his debut match, Guardiola gets stuck between patience and passion and ends up choosing passion over patience.
Undoubtedly Guardiola is a tireless worker, he is a perfectionist. The work ethic and preparation pay off in the long run, not in one or two matches. Surely Guardiola has been unfortunate, playing big matches without the big guns of the squad can lead to any scoreline. Pep does all the hard work of thinking, planning and preparation before the game but after the kick off whistle, it is all about how the players execute those tactics, which is clearly out of the manager’s hands.
During his stay at Munich, Guardiola’s Bayern Munich had 120 wins, 15 draws, and 20 losses. So judging him over the last 180 minutes of play will be a very wrong decision. Pep is aiming to win the next league game and the Bundesliga, then he will wait for the ball to roll in for the next season and manage Manchester City.
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