Why England should pass on Pep Guardiola
Footage of Pep Guardiola making an early exit from his Bayern Munich press conference took the internet by storm this weekend, as the former Barcelona manager didn’t take kindly to being linked with the England management job. Pep is of course currently managing Bayern Munich, although a cloud remains over his future in Bavaria, with the Spaniard yet to sign the contract that has been offered to him, and his current deal coming to an end in the summer of 2016. Guardiola shouldn’t have much trouble finding a new club should he leave Germany, with a whole host of European giants eyeing up the 44-year-old. The F.A. though, are apparently confident that they can persuade Pep that his future lies in England and with the countries national team. Having plucked Roy Hodgson from West Bromwich Albion, why couldn’t they do the same with Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
The general mood surrounding Roy Hodgson has been far from buoyant. From the second he was appointed, to his miserable World Cup and his impressive qualifying campaign, the general feel among English football fans has remained a rather sombre one. As such, it was no surprise when some found the idea of the two-time Champions League winner a mouthwatering prospect. I must admit to having visions myself of James Milner and Fabian Delph playing a series of one-two’s before sliding the ball into Jamie Vardy to provide a precise finish from point blank range in true tika-taka style. But once the dust settles and you have a real think about it, it seems rather more likely that the appointment of the Spaniard would do precious little to change England’s fortunes.
If England’s interest in Guardiola is genuine, it is one which reeks of desperation and papering over the cracks in England’s football system. It falls down on almost every level. Firstly, why would Guardiola accept the role. At Bayern Munich he has a squad of world class players, far superior to any other squad in the division. With every other Bundesliga side having their best talents poached most summers, Bayern tend to have the league effectively wrapped up by February or March, by which time Manuel Neuer has had to make about 7 saves. Secondly, what good could he do in a few weeks with a squad who have almost no familiarity playing the style of play in which Guardiola likes to operate, and lastly, and pardon my blasphemy, how good really is Guardiola?
I shall address that last point first, before I lose you for making such an outrageous statement. I have no doubt that Guardiola is a world class coach. He has a vision of how the game should be played and he is highly effective in implementing that style of play. Yet, one can’t help but feel he has hardly taken on the most difficult jobs in football. He took the reigns at Barcelona when they had the most talented squad in world football, and whilst he did superbly, he was expected to win most of the trophies he did. Having done so, Pep left Barca, claiming he was in need of challenge. Taking over a Bayern Munich team which had just won the treble doesn’t strike me as the biggest challenge in the game. In the season before his arrival, Bayern won the Champions League, beating Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the process. In his first season, they were knocked out 5-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid and in his third they conceded 5 once more, on the end of a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Barcelona. Of course, he has won two Bundesliga titles in his two seasons at Bayern, but one suspects Roy could do that too, and falter equally as greatly in Europe.
In a way, the Bayern Munich and England jobs have a great deal in common, in that both are tediously predictable. At Bayern Munich, Pep knows he will win the league and reach the final or semi-final of the Champions League. With England, he would breeze through qualifying before being dumped out in either the group stages or the Quarter-Finals. Guardiola may be a world class coach, but his results are built on the training ground. He plays a type of football which requires absolute familiarity of roles and confidence in carrying them out. If Pep could get the England squad playing like Bayern Munich or Barcelona after 3 weeks a year with his team, then he would be well worth the £10 million-a-year contract that is being suggested, but the pessimist in me suspects that task may be beyond any who are not blessed with supernatural powers. Lest we forget, Fabio Capello had won seven league titles and one Champions League before taking the reigns with the English national team.
England’s failures run far deeper than that of the manager, and I say that as someone who could not be any less enthusiastic about Roy Hodgson. In terms of management, the F.A. have tried every trick in the book. They have tried man managers, tacticians, Englishman, foreigners and everything in between, with the results rarely changing. It doesn’t require a great deal of insight to see that the problem does not lie directly at the door of the England manager. The discussion regarding what does need to be done is one that has been done to death, but clearly England’s problems are evident right from the grass roots of the game. Pep Guardiola then would not be the saviour, but rather a poor attempt to paper over the cracks in the English game, and an expensive one at that.
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