Where next for Pep Guardiola? We analyze in detail – Sorry Chelsea

Tapan Jindal / 23 December 2015

The Bayern Munich manager is out of contract the coming summer and with his team dominating all the tournaments they are currently participating in, it will be a rat race for the interested clubs to acquire his services post the season. Teams interested include Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain. Let’s try on Pep’s shoes for a while and analyse the most suitable destination as it stands for the Spaniard.

1. The basics:

Pep Guardiola’s teams play a very fluid form of football but ironically the manager is as stubborn on his tactics being the right way to play as he possibly can be. Unlike someone like Jose Mourinho who moulds his style of play to suit the opposition, Pep feels his tactics one and all. Over the years, he has been overly successful as a coach but the last couple of seasons with Bayern have seemed like a let-down with their failure to capture the European title with a stellar squad and this seems like the reason for his departure from the prestigious club.

2. Style of play:

Pep employs an extremely fluid style of play for his teams. Positions are extremely malleable over the pitch and interesting combinations and movements from the players are used to carve open opponents.

  1.        Defence: Pep employed a 4 man defence at Barcelona with two centre backs and a couple of fullbacks but at Bayern, due to Neuer’s excellent sweeper skills, Bayern play a 3 man defence with all of them centre backs. For protection over the flanks, wingbacks are employed with an extremely high work rate and Muller plus Lewandowski form the initial press. A 3-5-2 provides Bayern with immense midfield control to perform overloads and dispossess opponents. The defence sits deep but the press begins very high up the pitch (a la Mourinho) with the tireless Ribery and Muller harassing players as Lewandowski closes off passing lanes.
  2.       Transition: In transition, the team is allowed to think themselves and each player is provided with the aim that if he finds space, he needs to attack it. This creates for a liberal system where wingbacks can end up as midfielders high up the pitch. Unlike a rigid system, in which this movement would create a hole at the wingback’s position, in Pep’s system, the midfielder drops in the centre while a centre back drops to the wingback’s position to fill up the gap in case a counter breaks out.
  3.        Attack: This fluid play makes the best of Lewandowski’s and Muller’s abilities as they are extremely prudent at finding space and hence be a constant upsetting force for the opponent defence. This movement from them requires another body to be dealt with and hence frees up Bayern’s wingback. In case the opponent defend is refused support the Bayern fullback simply finds Muller or Lewandowski with a cross or a pass and they find the net. If Bayern had been playing their usual 4 man defence, the midfield would cover either/both of Muller and Lewandowski but the fact that there are 5 midfielders for the opponents to worry about gives them a quandary. If the opponent midfield marks Lewa/Muller, a Bayern midfielder makes a run inside and gets a pass and if the opponent mark the Bayern mid, there is the constant threat of Lewa and Muller scoring.

3. Suitors:

There are three clubs in the running for Pep’s signature as of writing with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea sounding out the Spaniard about his services post this season.

     a.       Chelsea:

 It has been the worst third of a season in this millennium for Chelsea under Mourinho and even amid such bad results, the fans were clearly loyal to the greatest manager in their history simply because in the players’ performances, it could be seen that there was an extreme lack of intensity. Hence it is felt that it was wrong for Mourinho to go because maybe it was the players’ fault this time.

The Blues have been long time admirers of Pep Guardiola over the couple of seasons before Mourinho retook command at Chelsea and are supposedly willing to do anything to acquire his services.

The current squad of Chelsea at first glance looks like it is typically suited to a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 but at a longer look, it is clear that Pep would relish this squad. The attacking midfielders of Eden Hazard, Pedro, Oscar and Willian are the typical Pep players which can interchange positions, rotate and create havoc for opponent defences. Matic and Fabregas are capable dribblers and excellent passers meanwhile Azpilicueta is a complete player which would probably represent Philip Lahm as a parallel to Pep’s current squad. Courtois is simply the best keeper in the Premier League and Zouma is the next great French centre back.

The only gripe Pep might have is about the striker and the defence partner for Zouma. With the promise of an unlimited transfer budget, it can’t be difficult to overcome those issues.

     b.     Manchester City:

Manchester City have been great under Pellegrini but disappointment in Europe over and over again means that he has to go in case Pep is available. The squad is studded with superstars right from Aguero up top down to Hart in the goal.

The team plays an attacking form of football under Pellegrini but is not very fluid in play, instead depending on clever runs to carve open chances or waiting for Silva, Toure or Aguero to create their moments of magic. This team can be seen as the spiritual successors to Mourinho’s first dabble with Chelsea.

Silva, Aguero and de Bruyne would definitely relish Pep’s arrival but that might mean the end for Toure, Sagna, Navas and Bony amongst others. Meanwhile Hart has been dodgy to say the least and could also see his position under threat. With a move to City guaranteeing unprecedented transfer budget, Pep might have a hard decision between City and Chelsea going into the summer.

     c.      Manchester United:

The Red Devils have often flattered to deceive under Louis van Gaal and with Martial going off the boil with his goalscoring form, it might be really soon the ban Gaal loses his job for Giggs to step in or Mourinho to take over.

United looks like the least likely destination for Pep as they have been over the process of rebuilding and with van Gaal this season were expecting top honours but now that he has flopped, the last couple of seasons should not be allowed to go to waste and hence Mourinho with his instant success recipe might be much more attractive for Ed Woodward and co.

Also with a squad comprising of extremely sub-par attacking players like Depay, Young, Valencia and Fellaini, it might be hard to convince Pep over making the side play like would want them to. Also the fact that the squad is currently struggling to implement a fluid style of play under LvG can be a clear red flag for Pep. A monstrous transfer outlay might undermine his legacy as the manager who prefers to build from within and hence this union is extremely unlikely.

4. Conclusion

It is clear that Pep is in high demand simply because he and Mourinho are the only two managers who can guarantee a title and all the suitors in question are desperate to regain their domestic and European might as soon as possible. It is said that City are frontrunners but with the squad kept in mind, it would be hard for Guardiola to see over Chelsea as his next destination.

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