Examining the Pep Guardiola paradox

While the Red side of Manchester may finally have a glimpse of hope follow­ing the Red Devil’s outstanding performance against Stoke this past week, their Sky Blue counterparts have even more reason for joy and high hopes.

It was confirmed this past Monday that Pep Guardiola will be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the 2016-2017 season for a three-year contract with Manchester City. Highly regarded as one of the best managers in the world, Pep Guardiola not only excels in taking his teams to extraordinary heights in Europe but also amazes with his marvelous “tiki-taka” style of soccer.

As if the news of Guardiola’s signing wasn’t news enough to cause an above-average Mon­day night rush hour for Manchester pubs, City also announced that an astounding £150 mil­lion, or $244 million, would be made available for Guardiola. With this mountain of moolah, Guardiola will be able to handpick players to add to the already star-laden squad that Man­chester City has, with players such as Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Raheem Ster­ling.

Despite the good news for Guardiola, the appointment will only add to the growing list of criticism for the Catalonian, saying that “he has never had a true challenge.” The argument boils down to the fact that Guardiola has al­ways landed in cushy, “easy” situations. Here, the challenge of greatness is much more easily achieved than if Guardiola had managed a pe­rennially mediocre team such as West Brom or, as any sane person in London would agree, Tottenham.

From the beginning of his managerial ca­reer, Guardiola has always been characterized as a spoiled child with a silver spoon in his mouth. He managed Lionel Messi during his outright ridiculous streak of four Ballon d’Or titles in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He managed an incredible Barcelona to glory with 14 to­tal pieces of silverware, including two UEFA Champions league titles and three La Liga ti­tles. And now with Bayern Munich, Guardio­la now leads more incredible players such as Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Neuer, etc.

And with the case of City, it would be too tantalizing an opportunity for Guardiola to refuse, especially when his yearly salary is ru­mored to be an absurd £25 million. To put that price in perspective, if you combined all the salaries of each manager in the Italian Serie A, it would total to around £20.5 million. The po­tent combination of a fat paycheck and a very talented squad would have any manager sal­ivating more than a love child of Luis Suarez and Hannibal Lecter would when faced with a Chilean-flavored liver with fava beans.

As mentioned before, the style of play that Guardiola implements with his teams is known as “tiki-taka”. When perfected and pro­duced consistently, tiki-taka is as imperious as it is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing for avid soccer fans and the casual viewer. Con­sisting of constant possession of the ball and frequent one-touch passing with a lot of off-the-ball movement from surrounding players, tiki-taka is also an incredibly challenging strat­egy to employ.

This is one of its major pitfalls. It is very dif­ficult to maintain the performance of tiki-taka at the professional level. And when it fails, it fails miserably. Because of this, if Guardiola were to take over a team such as West Brom in the Premier League or Hamburger FC in the Bundesliga, it would be so much more of a challenge on both the behalves of the play­ers and Guardiola himself. He would require much more time to successfully coach the players into his strategy and then applying it successfully in league play.

Unfortunately, in most managerial positions in the modern era of European soccer, the pri­ority is placed on short-term results rather than long-term club development. Even if he were to join a club that would recognize him as a savior from above, Guardiola would still not be given nearly enough time to effective­ly complete the application of his managerial methods.

This dearth of time for Guardiola would also highlight the major pitfall of Guardiola. This pitfall has been exploited before, most notably by the mercurial Jose Mourinho in the Champions League semifinal in 2010. Mourin­ho’s incredible defense effectively negated Guardiola’s potent attack and nicked a 32 ag­gregate victory over two games. Guardiola was perplexed, because his team simply had no secondary option of playing style to turn to. Guardiola has thus been labeled as a one-trick pony.

With Guardiola’s lack of ability, or desire, to coach any style of soccer different from tiki-ta­ka, his path towards exit from a lower-tier club would only be even more accelerated. Because of this, it is impossible to ever believe that Guardiola would not manage any one of the largest clubs in Europe. Not only is it too easy for a manager of Guardiola’s status to find jobs with any of the best and wealthiest clubs in Europe, he probably doesn’t want to as well. Who would turn down working with Aguero when you could work with the globally recog­nized talent such as José Salomón Rondón?

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