Thursday, 17 January 2013

Guardiola - Answers or More Questions?

Pep Guardiola ended months of speculation yesterday by agreeing to join Bayern Munich from next season.

In doing so he delivered a huge blow to the aspirations of many teams, including some of the biggest clubs in England who had harboured dreams of having him as their manager.

So another epic footballing saga comes to a conclusion. Or does it?

Bayern Munich has been seen by some observers to be an ‘easy’ option and they could have a point. Munich are one of the major forces in European Football. They are well run from top to bottom, can boast a passionate and loyal board and an excellent youth setup. They are expected to challenge and win the Bundesliga every year as well as appear in the latter stages of the Champions League.

They can call upon the services of some quality players with the likes of Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez, Philipp Lahm and Xherdan Shaqiri and have the financial backing and pulling power to attract further world class players.

They are expected to appear in the latter stages of the Champions League as well as challenge and win the Bundesliga every year. And they only really have Borussia Dortmund as a genuine national challenger.

So Guardiola goes there with a level of expectation that is on paper a lot less than England for example.

It will also suit him from a personal point of view. Despite the cynics who say anyone could have succeeded the fact is he did a stellar job at Barcelona. But after that and a year away from the game he knew he would be under a lot of pressure to replicate his success, wherever he went. Bayern offers the perfect atmosphere to keep his reputation intact.

It has been seen as a snub to England and the Premier League but this is a bit harsh. Guardiola is still young. He celebrates his 42nd birthday tomorrow and even with a 3 year contract behind him would only be 45 when that comes to an end. Had he taken a job in England he would be the 4th youngest of current premier league bosses.

So there’s plenty of time for him to try his hand in England if he so desires. If Bayern is classed as a ‘soft’ and ‘easy’ option then so be it but it also seems to be the most sensible available to him at this time.

But another question this all raises is where does it leave those teams in England?

Chelsea and Arsenal were both said to be interested in his signature as were the two Manchester clubs. Now that this avenue has been closed to them who do they turn to now, if indeed they want to make a change.

Chelsea seemed to be in the pole position of the English teams. Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking and the seemingly universal disapproval of Chelsea fans to Rafa Benitez meant that a summer move for Guardiola made sense. But perhaps the ruthlessness of Roman Abramovich was too much pressure.

He is now left with an option of keeping Benitez and run the risk of further alienating Chelsea fans or looking elsewhere for what would be the 7th manager in just 5 years.

Arsenal were apparently mulling over ending Arsene Wenger’s 16 year tenure at the club. A stuttering league campaign and rumblings of discontent over the current playing staff and recent transfer policy may have caused Arsenal shareholders to cast glances elsewhere. But perhaps therein lies the problem. Again boardroom arguments and power struggles may not have made the Emirates a palatable option for Pep.

Arsenal therefore will probably hold onto Wenger, unless the fans really turn against him.

In both cases though a lot depends on each club’s finishing position in both the League and the Champions League. Failure to secure a berth for next season’s premier European competition could see either manager depart.

Manchester City are in a similar boat. Roberto Mancini probably earned himself a stay of execution by winning the Championship. But his failure to lead his team to the knockout stages of this years competition could count against him. The loyalty of the clubs Arabian owners have yet to be tested fully.

Sir Alex Ferguson seems to be showing no sign of retiring but there will be moves behind the scenes to plan for his eventual departure. Had Guardiola been a potential option then I’m sure it would have been looked at thoroughly and the Scot's retirement rushed forwards.

So decisions will need to be made over the next few months in the boardrooms of these clubs by the very people who possibly were the reason for Guardiola choosing Munich. The potential managerial merry-go-round that was predicted by many to be scheduled for the summer has not been cancelled but it has been postponed for a little while.

It could still well happen. Jose Mourinhio at the present time looks to be leaving Real Madrid and has made no secret of his desire to return to England. And with Carlo Ancelotti’s position at Paris St.Germain not exactly safe there may still be movement among Europe’s big clubs.

As for Pep Guardiola he will move to Munich, safe in the knowledge that he has probably made the right decision, and safe from the turmoil and questions that still exist elsewhere.

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