There is an old adage in the workforce. When all else fails, hire the best person available. German soccer giants Bayern Munich did just that, hiring Pep Guardiola as their new manager starting in the 2013-14 season. Guardiola will replace the retiring Jupp Heynckes who will step down once all competitions have concluded.
Guardiola comes in after taking some time off from his previous job at Barcelona where he enjoyed immense success. Under Pep, the Blaugrana collected 14 trophies, in a 4 year span. Barcelona won 3 La Liga titles, 2 Champions League crowns, 2 Copa Del Reys, 3 Spanish Super Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cups and 2 FIFA Club World Cups. An impressive resume. Yes it helped that Guardiola had superstar players like Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol on the pitch, but it was Guardiola’s tactics and leadership that pushed Barcelona over the top.
Now Guardiola comes to Bavaria with high expectations. Bayern Munich want not one, but multiple Champions League trophies, and they’re hoping Guardiola is the one to push them over the top.
There is no shortage of talent on Bayern Munich. With the likes of Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben, there is no shortage of riches in the Bayern treasure chest. But what will Guardiola do with these riches?
While at Barcelona, Guardiola favoured a 4-3-3 formation, sometimes using the infamous “false nine” that he has been given credit for inventing. Bayern Munich however, like to use a 4-2-3-1 formation that favours holding midfielders and one lone striker to put pressure on opposing defenders. While both formations will use the flanks to attack, the 4-2-3-1 demands the wingers play back and be more responsible with their defensive markings. In the 4-3-3 the wingers can go forward deeper and move into more goal scoring opportunities. It puts more pressure on the midfielders who have to show perfect timing on when to attack. It also means passing is vital. At Barcelona, Gaurdiola had the two best passing midfielders in the world in Xavi and Iniesta. Bayern also has exquisite passers in Schweinsteiger, Ribery and Robben but they prefer to play deep balls into the strikers, instead of low through balls that find seems in the defence.
If Guardiola does use the 4-3-3, does he move Ribery and Robben up to forward positions? Will he move either Gomez or Mandzukic to the flank? Or does Guardiola adapt to what he has at Bayern, and stick with the 4-1-3-2 formation that has worked wonders for Bayern?
Whatever Guardiola decides to do with tactics, it will be results that will count in the end. Bayern Munich are poised to win their 23rd Bundesliga crown, as they sit 9 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen in the table. In the Champions League, Bayern Munich are formidable favourites to dispatch Arsenal in the knockout stage, which will begin February 19. Should Bayern go through to the quarterfinals, it is a possibility they may encounter Barcelona, Guaridola’s former squad. Many are hoping for a dream final between Die Roten and La Blaugrana. It would be the most anticipated Champions League Final in many years. It will be more anticipated next season, when Guardiola is on the touchline for Bayern Munich.
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