Pep Guardiola’s trophy laden managerial career is something to be marvelled at, to win 19 trophies in 8 years of management -not to mention the sabbatical year he took off in the middle – firmly establishes him as one of the best managers of all-time. However, it is this same trophy collection that has clouded the judgement of pundits and fans alike, especially when it comes to how we view his time in charge of Bayern Munich.
As we anxiously wait to see how Pep Guardiola takes to his first job in the Premier League as Manchester City manager, let’s examine the failures of his spell at Bayern Munich that have either gone unnoticed or been ignored by the rest of the footballing world.
1. Failed To Bring Through Youth
Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Christian Tello, Marc Bartra, Thiago Alcantara, what do all of these players have in common? They’re all players that Pep Guardiola brought through to the first-team within his first 2 seasons at Barcelona. 3 seasons into his tenure at Bayern and there were no such signs that the same trend continued…
You could argue that Bayern’s academy just isn’t as good as Barcelona’s, most academies aren’t, but to say that Pep Guardiola could not find one player in the youth set-up he thought was good enough to stake a claim for the Bayern first team is difficult to comprehend. This has to be seen as a failing on Guardiola’s part, because the talent was definitely there, he just chose not to take advantage of it!
This is not like Real Madrid or Manchester City where talent is imported from the furthest corners of the globe on a regular basis. Bayern Munich have, or better yet ‘had’, a long-standing tradition of bringing through world-class talent. Even up until recently products of the Bayern youth academy have provided the back bone of the German national team (Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger), but under Guardiola developing young players of this calibre was never high on the agenda.
2. Lack of Success in the Transfer Market
The success that Bayern did enjoy under Pep Guardiola was largely part built off of the back of existing players; which would be fine if Pep’s aim was to keep the team as it was (I mean, the man did inherit a Champions League/treble winning side). However, that wasn’t the case. Pep did try to make changes to the side and they just didn’t work. This resulted in him having to stick with a near identical starting 11 to the one he met when joined the club back in 2013.
Bar the signing of Robert Lewandowski, many of his dealings in the transfer market haven’t had the impact their price tags warranted. Bayern forked out £31.5 million to secure the signature of Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze in the summer of 2013 (a record fee for a German player at the time), but since his arrival he has largely underperformed for the Bavarian outfit and has seen his name listed on the substitute bench more often than not.
The same could be said of Thiago Alcantara, Guardiola’s marquee signing when he joined in 2013, despite a promising start to his Bundesliga career, several serious injuries have since scuppered his progress and even he hasn’t managed to reach the heights expected of him when he first signed.
His outgoing transfers have been just as questionable as his incoming ones, namely the sale of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German international had been something of a talisman for Bayern Munich over the last decade and was one of the first names on the team sheet during his time at the club. However, Pep’s arrival soon put an end to this.
Schweinsteiger had struggled with injuries in recent years, but at the the age of 30 he was by no means a spent force and could have still had an impact on the pitch if he was used sparingly, not to mention his contribution to the dressing room as a natural leader.
3. Introduced an overcomplicated style of play (‘Tikki-takka or Bust’)
The direct approach of Jupp Heyneckes team was a refreshing change from the Barcelona ‘tikki-takka’ style of play that football fans had been subjected to over the previous 4 years and then what does Pep go and do, you guessed it… he introduces the same very style of play we had all come to loathe. The entertainment value of this brand of football is debatable, some people see the beauty in possession-based play while others prefer watching quick counter-attacking football. However, what is not debatable is the ‘tikki-takka’ style’s sharp decline in effectiveness over the last few seasons, both on a club level and on an international level.
The main advocates of this style of play (Bayern Munich and the Spainish national team) have both come unstuck in recent years by counter-attacking opposition.
By switching to the ‘tikki-takka’ style, Guardiola removed the directness and speed which made Bayern so formidable under Jupp Heyneckes, essentially swapping wins for a higher pass completion rate/possession.
Not to say that this style doesn’t win matches. Under Guardiola Bayern went on the longest unbeaten league run in the club’s history (53 matches), but when it really mattered against top-tier opposition in Europe, this style of play just didn’t cut it -and when ‘tikki-takka’ didn’t work, Guardiola’s side had never seemed to have a ‘plan b’.
4. Did not find adequate replacements for Robben or Ribery
In Franck Ribery (aged 33) and Arjen Robben (aged 32), Bayern Munich have been blessed with arguably the best two wingers of the last 10 years. There lies the problem… 10 years is a long time in football!
The Ribery and Robben partnership – or ‘Robbery’ as they’re known – have provided the creative spark for Bayern since their respective arrivals in 2007 and 2009. Whilst other attacking options have come and gone (Ivica Olic, Mario Gomez, Mario Mandžukić, to name but a few), they have remained ever-present. But with their injury problems becoming more serious and ever more recurrent over the past few seasons it appears that their time may have also come and gone.
Despite their decline, Guardiola has failed to set Bayern Munich up for a future without the duo; another major oversight of his time in charge.
As consistent as both players have been for Bayern Munich during their spells, it’s only a matter of time before they are either offloaded to clubs back in their native countries or leave of their own accord and the attempts to replace both of them thus far have failed miserably (e.g. Xherdan Shaqiri).
However, to his credit Guardiola did make a point of signing Douglas Costa (25) and Kingsley Coman (20) as potential replacements for Robben and Ribery last season, but with only one season together under their belts, it remains to be seen if they will be adequate replacements for the two or just ‘stop-gaps’ whilst the search continues.
5. Failed To Win The Champions League
Domestic success is always expected at Bayern Munich, in fact it is the bare minimum. Where their success is really judged is on their performance in Europe, namely the Champions League.
Guardiola was never able to take Bayern to Champions League glory, so can can his time there really be looked at as a success?
During Guardiola’s 3 years in charge he was only ever able to take the club to the semi-final stage (3 seasons, 3 semi-finals). Three successive semi-finals would be seen as an achievement by most managers and matter a fact most clubs, but this isn’t just any manager or any club, this is Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich!
Before Guardiola took charge of Bayern in 2013, they had just won their first Champions League title in 13 years and were on course to dominate Europe for the foreseeable future, much like Barcelona had in the years before. This never materialised. During Pep Guardiola’s tenure, Bayern regressed from being the best team in Europe to just another team in the chasing pack.
To be fair, Bayern came up against tough Spanish opposition in each of their last three semi-finals (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively), but a team of Bayern’s quality would have been expected to advance through to the final on at least one of those occasions.
Pep Guardiola’s failure to build on Jupp Heyneckes’ Champions League success will probably be looked at as the biggest failure of his time in charge.