In yesterday's Life After Arsene, Carlo Ancelotti's lengthy, successful managerial career was looked at when determining if he would be the perfect replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Today we cover Pep Guardiola's short, but legendary, list of credentials.
Brief managerial background: Success. Lots and lots of sweet, delicious success.
At Barcelona, in only five seasons in charge after guiding Barcelona B for a singular season, he turned La Masia graduate Lionel Messi into arguably the greatest player to ever play the sport while winning everything in sight. Back-to-back-to-back La Liga titles. Two Champions League trophies to go along with two Copa del Rey cups, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. At the young age of 41, in 2012, with the success he brought to the club that raised him from his youth days, he stepped down as manager of Barcelona to take a sabbatical of sorts in order to figure out the next stage of his career.
Following a year away, Guardiola emerged as Jupp Heynckes' successor at Bayern Munich and promptly went about winning four cups in his first season, including the league title and domestic cup. Howver, Munich were soundly beaten by Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals as Guardiola's tactics and lineups came under more scrutiny than he's received in the past.
Is there an Arsenal connection? No.
Does he have a connection to Arsene Wenger? No.
Pros: Again, as mentioned above, Guardiola will bring about a resume full of success, youth development, and the program and foundation it takes to win shiny pots. His possession-driven offense coupled with a defense hellbent on pressure is both lauded and ridiculed, but what can't be argued is that it hasn't been one of the leading drivers of the success he's experienced.
Armed with midfielders capable of finding space between defenders, linking each other through an extreme amount of short passes, and possessing the ability to free forwards into space, Pep revolutionized tiki-taka in the modern game - a style that many observers date back to Johan Cruyff's time managing Barcelona in the late 80's/early 90's, a time when Pep was a regular mainstay in their starting XI.
Guardiola's largely unafraid to dismiss the conventional if he spots a trait that can be utilized best in another role. After scoring 36 goals in all competitions and helping fire Barcelona to the Champions League title in 2009, Guardiola sold his leading goal-scorer, Samuel Eto'o, to Inter Milan; Pep's hunch was that Eto'o - a natural striker - was too much in the way of Lionel Messi's development from a winger to a centrally-located forward/false nine. Quite the hunch. At Munich, Pep took one of the best fullbacks in the world, Philipp Lahm, and moved him to a centrally-located defensive midfield role to take advantage of his consistency across the pitch.
Cons: Guardiola walked away from Barcelona, the club he came up through, after only five seasons and success any manager dreams of achieving, to go to Bayern Munich - a club that expects the sort of success he's provided throughout his short managerial career. While having a manager like Guardiola at Arsenal would definitely be a plus, there's a sense that his eyes and motivation might wander more than what fans and his employers like.
Additionally, there's the little matter that Guardiola would even choose Arsenal if/when he decided to leave Munich. Outside of a couple clubs who are fierce rivals of the two teams he's managed, he has the luxury of picking his next destination. If, say, Arsenal's attempting to compete against Manchester City and their billions for Guardiola's next stop? It'd be pretty hard to envision Pep choosing Arsenal and their conservative financial nature over the lavish spending Sky Blues. Pep's been at two clubs where he's received the funds needed to help transform the squad into his ideal makeup, and there's little to suggest he'd choose the only "big" club that practices sound financial prudence.
Overall assessment: Many believe the long-awaited death of tiki-taka occurred when Bayern Munich were steamrolled by Real Madrid last April, but Guardiola's taken Munich back to their customary, near-insurmountable position atop the Bundesliga table and yet another first-place finish in their Champions League group this season. His players still switch up their spots on the pitch to the point that customary formations don't come close to identifying their initial setup. And Guardiola's still insisting on a driving, possession-based attack and philosophy that, thanks to having Manuel Neuer in the back to clean up any ideas the opposition have at lofting long balls over his defenders' heads, allows him the freedom to thumb his nose at the critics who believe today's game should mirror one closer to what Jose Mourinho or Diego Simeone's created and succeeded with.
Like him or not for his methods, Pep Guardiola would be a damn-near perfect replacement for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, another manager with very similar managerial ethos. Whether or not he'd ever accept an appointment at Arsenal when many other clubs, with far more disposable money, would invariably call him up is another thing.
In tomorrow's Life After Arsene, we arrive at our second-most likely candidate to replace Arsene Wenger, a man who seems almost too good to be true on the surface.