The weekend marked an end of an era at Bayern Munich. Barcelona legend Pep Guardiola was in the Bayern dugout for one last time as the German giants lifted the DFB Pokal, thus ending the Manchester City-bound manager’s tenure in style. Die Roten completed a domestic double in the Spaniard’s last match in charge thus making it 7 trophies in this period for the Bavarians.
Pep Guardiola led the club to 3 back-to-back Bundesliga titles and 2 DFB Pokal titles in his 3 year tenure- a trophy haul any manager in the world would dream of. But looking at the lack of competitiveness in the German top flight, this challenge doesn’t look too daunting for any manager. A gap of 19 points between the top 2 in the 2013-14 season and 10 points in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons is a clear indication of this. This huge gap in the level of football has been down to the huge financial power of the Bavarians over other clubs in Germany which has helped them lure most of the best players in Germany. Borussia Dortmund (Bayern’s biggest rivals and main competitors in the last few years in Bundesliga) have been the biggest sufferers as they lost Mario Gotze (in 2013), Robert Lewandowski (in 2014) and now Mats Hummels, who will join next season. According to the current situation, any good coach can lead them to a comfortable league win.
Due to this lack of competition, the biggest test for the Die Roten has been the UEFA Champions League- something they have failed to win in these last 3 seasons. Guardiola has led the German giants to the semifinals of Europe’s premiere club competition in each attempt but has lost comprehensively at this stage on two occasions. In 2014, a 5-0 hammering by Real Madrid on aggregate ended their European dream and a comprehensive 5-2 aggregate defeat inflicted by Barcelona made sure of another disappointment in 2015. They came close to bettering their record this time around but were undone by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on away goals (2-2 aggregate). This has to be considered as a big failure for a team that is allowed to shift all its focus towards the latter stages of the Champions League given that the domestic tournaments are all but over by then.
While Bayern have been a dominant force both domestically and in Europe throughout this period, they have had their fair share of problems dealing with good counter-attacking teams. Counter-attacking football is seen as the ideal way of dealing with possession based football (favoured by Guardiola at both Barcelona and Bayern). His philosophy of possession based football has turned the Bavarians into one of the best attacking teams in the world but at the same time has made them vulnerable to, not just the big clubs in Europe, but also to teams in Germany possessing good talent in their ranks. They play a very high line of defense which sees them exposed at the back on many occasions especially while facing slightly difficult opposition. The likes of Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg (in 2014-15 season led by Kevin De Bruyne) have posed a major threat to them at times despite the gap in quality. In fact the latter stunned them in the DFB Pokal semifinal, eventually winning the final as well.
The Barcelona legend’s contribution at the Allianz Arena has been great. The fact that they possess some of the best attacking players in the world and have a lot of depth in the same is all down to him. But his failure to overcome his toughest challenge (winning the Champions League) is a big stain on his achievements. A Champions League trophy would have made his tenure even more fruitful. He will be leaving behind a great set of players for incoming coach Carlo Ancelotti who will take over next season at the Allianz Arena as the Spaniard will be looking forward to a new challenge in England as he takes over from Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City.
(The writer is an avid football fan and runs a football blog named The Midnight Football Fan)