Days have passed since FC Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea FC. In that time this writer has come full circle in his impression of a man whose tenure has also, come full circle at Barcelona. Pep Guardiola announced this past week that he will no longer be Barcelona’s manager in the coming season and in this writer’s opinion, Gracias Pep should not be the general feeling, instead it should be good riddance.
Although in the eyes of many Barcelona fans, Pep Guardiola has been an exceptional manager who brought unprecedented glory to the club, this writer feels that Pep Guardiola in fact has been well short of spectacular and attributes his success over four seasons more to his players that to the man’s tactical genius. No game served to expose more of Peps flaws as manger than the games against Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola has shown that he is unable to learn from past mistakes. Chelsea was not the first club to play Guardiola defensively. Inter in 2010 managed to win a Champions League semi-final in similar circumstances so the fact that Guardiola has no answer for what was the same plan proves he is not a manager that learns from mistakes. Guardiola made both errors in planning and horrendous tactical errors that cost him a tie that should have been won.
Errors in planning are basically not anticipation the game plan your opponent will utilize. All logic would dictate that if Chelsea were going to run a defensive game over two legs Pep Guardiola could not afford Barca to concede any simple goals in either. Meaning that he had to hope that his best men in attack could score, and, put in his best defense so as to ensure that he has his best chance at not conceding any goals.
Why Guardiola played a 3-4-3 instead of his usual formation is unfounded. It is also the choosing of this formation that demonstrated that Guardiola simply had no answer to the defensive game Chelsea had planned. It showed that Pep didn’t learn from the past and that in terms of trying to beat a very defensive team, he was still a novice. That he didn’t expect, meaning he hasn’t learned.
You think that a man who plays over 90% of his games in a 4-3-3 would stick to a tried and tested method in such a game, but he didn’t and it backfired. In both games he committed too many players forward and exposed his already weakened back-line (Due to injuries of Abidal and Pique) to even more danger. This was done by taking out that extra defender that would ensure greater security and allowed Chelsea easy counters through the flanks, which they used to great effect to score two of their 3 goals.
Another mistake committed by Guardiola is that he did not attempt to correct the toothless attack Barcelona displayed throughout the tie. He exacerbated the problem by continuing to show confidence in players that didn’t merit it.
Every manager has players he considered battle hardened, his veteran that he trusts even when they are not playing well, to get him results. Why Pep Guardiola didn’t trust Pedro Rodriguez to form the attacking trident with Messi and Alexis, the same Pedro that scored 2 goals this weekend, was an idiotic move.
Instead, Pep chose to trust in the likes on Issac Cuenca and Cristian Tello, both of which have just 1 season at the top level. Throughout both legs both Cuenca and Tello were terrible. Bullied, hurrayed off the ball, unable to get the best of Ashley Cole, unable to put a decent shot on goal, and continually being wasteful.
How Guardiola did not see this wasn’t working is unimaginable. Why Pep would not trust Pedro over these two rookies is also a mystery. Why Pep chose to gamble in such an important game no one knows, but stupid it was, and the gamble he lost. Pedro is clearly a player that on his worst day is still dangerous, he can still score a goal, and he can still cause trouble.
Why he trusted the inexperience of Tello and Cuenca is unknown, but it played a part in costing him the qualification since Guardiola never gave his attack the weapons necessary to have a maximum opportunity to score.
In essence Guardiola’s failure is full. It starts by picking a formation that is weak defensively against a counter-attacking team. It weakened a fragile defense further. It then progresses to wasting one of his precious attacking spots on players that frankly, did nothing throughout the whole tie. He thus also severely weakened his chances of scoring against a hunkered down side and increased his chances of getting scored on. Both happened, and Barca are out of the CL and Pep is out of Barca.
Gracis Pep? Thanks for what? The legacy he leaves of Barca is not one that is spectacular when looking at other managers that have had to do with less.
Frank Rijkaard once defeated a Chelsea at the height of its power with a less impressive squad than Guardiola has ever had at his disposal. Yet Rijkaard managed what Guardiola never did, a comprehensive victory over the Blues. This is even though Guardiola’s squad is man for man, superior to the Dutchman’s. Guardiola had Messi along with what is the core of the Spanish national team against what is arguably the most weakened Chelsea side in years.
The fact that Guardiola will always be remembered as the man that lost with the best team to a team that was weaker but with a better tactical setup will forever tarnish his record. He is no genius, he was kept in the tie by his players, but as a manger he failed them with such poor tactic choices. Namely, his 3-4-3 did not utilize the best his Barca squad had to offer. He weakened his defense further, and wasted a slot in attack throughout this tie by having faith in inexperienced canteranos.
Gracias Pep, is not how Barca fans should feel. This man is paid to win and deliver trophies, Gracias Pep? For loosing with the best squad in this clubs’ history in such an uneventful way is blasphemy.
Written by Jose Avila – you can follow him (and provide feedback) on Twitter.