Could the former Barcelona manager achieve success in England with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur?
Despite current realities, hypothetical situations will never cease. As Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich completely dominated and obliterated Manchester City in the Champions League, a hypothetical question arose in my mind.
How would Guardiola fair in the Premier League?
It is a question that quite frankly has no definitive answer. He has not yet managed in England even though prior to being announced as the next Bayern Munich manager in January of this year, he stated that it was his dream to do so.
That dream would have been a reality had he – as was widely rumoured – chosen Manchester City over Bayern Munich. There were also suggestions that Sir Alex Ferguson had strung him along to believe that he would have the Manchester United job after the Old Scot retired. Similarly, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a keen admirer of the Catalan and has pursued him in the past – and will presumably do so in future. Pep could even succeed Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
Linked in various ways to the top four teams in England is a great compliment. But would he cope with the Premier League? Would pace outdo his philosophy of passing? Would the physical demands of pressing manage to last a whole season? Would his fantasy end up being outdone by the force of some Premier League teams?
All this is hypothetical. The closest however that we have to forming any case for or against this is his performance against English clubs in competitive fixtures.
This brings about his record in the Champions League. As such, this line of thought is devoid of certain salient features of a League competition. By being a cup competition, there is a world of difference between relegation and knock out. There is more inconsistency to the performances of singular nights than there is consistency to weekly encounters. However, this still remains the clearest indicator.
Guardiola v English Clubs
Dominating Manchester City at the Etihad echoed the domination his Barcelona sides had handed to Manchester United in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League Finals. The pattern is also extended by a trip by a 2010 to the Emirates. Totally outclassing the Gunners, Barcelona took a 2-0 lead early on in the second half.
But then, the high levels of pressing early on in the game meant that they tired towards the end. Arsenal fought back – pulled a goal back and then managed to force Barca into an error that saw Carles Puyol receive a red card for a professional foul. Cesc Fabregas dispatched the penalty for the
In the same way, Bayern seemed to burn out towards the last quarter of an hour against City and it even resulted in a sending off for Jerome Boateng for a professional foul.
That same burn out was a feature in 2011 when Barcelona for the second year in a row visited the Emirates. From a tighter game, Arsenal managed a come from behind to win 2-1. The opening minutes however had again belonged to Barcelona. At the Camp Nou though, Arsenal would
succumb to a 4-1 defeat in 2010 and a controversial 3-1 defeat in 2011.
This is in contrast to the Barcelona wins over Manchester United in the Champions League Finals of
2009 and 2011. In both, United seemed to have the better of the early minutes – before Barcelona
found their feet, scored the goals and dominated the rest of the encounter. In both, Barcelona
emerged with two goal cushions – 2-0 in Rome in 2009 and 3-1 at Wembley in 2011.
As such then, Pep Guardiola can boast a good record over both United and Arsenal. In six games
against them, he has managed four wins, a draw and one loss.
The one English team that Pep Guardiola has had difficulty defeating is Chelsea. Before the UEFA
Super Cup of 2013, Guardiola had gone four games against the team from West London, managing
three draws and suffering one defeat.
In 2009, Chelsea earned a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou before Andres Iniesta’s strike ensured an
equaliser that secured Barca’s place in the Final on the away goals rule. In 2012 however, loss at
Stamford Bridge was compounded by an inability to break down a sturdy Chelsea backline. The 2-2
that developed knocked out Barca at the semi-final stage.
The Super Cup triumph for Guardiola in 2013 – this time at the helm of Bayern – was also a bit shaky.
Despite dominating the game, Bayern had to rely on a last minute equaliser in the dying seconds of
extra time to force the game into penalties. That Guardiola’s only win against Chelsea constitutes a
penalty shoot-out win is commendable for the English side.
However, the underlying thread is that in all games against English sides, Pep’s team has dominated
possession and ultimately the game. By doing the same at the Etihad, he re-enforced this.
This however does not draw a definite conclusion. As such, this number of games still represents
a small sample. It does still seem to form a pattern that may show a trend. Against English clubs,
Guardiola’s sides have dominated regardless of the result.
With that domination, and on this evidence, it is not entirely out of the question to imply that
Guardiola would not struggle if he were a Premier League manager.
image: © tpower1978