Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola confirmed this week that he will indeed be quitting Barcelona at the end of the season.
He stated he is leaving to recharge his batteries because the strain – obviously managing the best players in the world for a team which picks itself is very stressful – has been great on him in the last four years.
Since his announcement and despite him being adamant he wants a break from football the Chelsea rumours have been ripe. Abramovich wants an open, expansive game like Barcelona and Guardiola certainly adopts that philosophy but so did AVB. Despite having won 13 trophies in four years at Barcelona I have to ponder, Guardiola, a great manager or manager of a great team?
No one can deny Guardiola inherited a squad full of world class, well polished superstars and even the average joe on the street could tell you Barcelona’s best team. Put his trophies aside and really think about how much management Guardiola has undertaken in the last four years.
Well his team of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa and Pedro was an unstoppable force winning league titles, cups and the Champions League. Guardiola’s management decisions in this time, zero.
Now this season he decided to take on a, lets say more proactive role as manager. He signed Cesc Fabregas although their was really no starting place on the team sheet for him but at £40m you can’t leave him on the bench. Guardiola took a managerial decision and decided to change the team shape into a diamond to accommodate Fabregas, they will end this season trophy-less.
He had a disagreement with David Villa and before his leg break decided as the manager to take him out of the team and put Lionel Messi as the teams spearhead.
Now Messi’s 63 goals and counting this season would suggest a shrewd move by Pep, however, in the two legs of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea Barcelona enjoyed the whole game, they came out on top on every single stat except goals. Over two legs they had 43 shots at goal but only hit the target 12 times, of these 12 shots only 2 ended in goals. Messi was kept quiet in both legs – individual brilliance aside – and this was due to him playing that centre forward role where he has less space.
I think it was clear in these matches and in the La Liga draws this season that Barcelona are suffering from not having an out an striker in their team, a decision which Guardiola made.
Finally I look at his tactical decisions during the three biggest matches of their season, the Champions League semi-final and El Classico. The first leg at Stamford Bridge Barcelona couldn’t have done much more but score and Guardiola cannot be blamed for the teams poor finishing. During the Classico however, Guardiola prioritised the Champions League over this match and fielded a weakened team despite the fact that a Barca win would have cut Real’s lead to just one point.
This was not a good decision as now after elimination from the CL Barcelona will end the season trophy-less. So to the second leg we go and the formation Guardiola picked was bizarre to say the least.
He decided to go with a back three, a diamond in midfield and a front three, strange. As the game went on and the second half began Barca stopped creating as many chances but Guardiola seemed all out of ideas of how to change the flow of the game.
He couldn’t find a chink in Chelsea’s armour and this ultimately cost them. His last bizarre decision on that night came four minutes from the end. Leading 2-1 and needing one goal to progress Guardiola pushed his team forward. This is what any manager would have done, however, moving into injury time – where Chelsea have suffered so much heart break in the past – he decided that instead of ensuring they conceded no more goals in the hope one of his superstars would find that moment of brilliance and they would progress or at worse they would go out having won the match he left NO ONE back which allowed Fernando Torres to run through unchallenged, round Valdes and ensure Chelsea’s progression with three minutes to spare.
Looking at Guardiola’s trophy cabinet you cannot deny the fantastic job he did at the Camp Nou but if you dig a little deeper and really analyse him as a manager then until he goes elsewhere and succeeds the question will always be…
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