HOMEMASS MEDIAXavier in the NewsBayern Munich: five things Pep Guardiola has done to improve them
17 February 2014
Bayern Munich: five things Pep Guardiola has done to improve them
Mass media - News Sala i Martín
The Guardian

1 He keeps his opponents guessing

Under Louis van Gaal, the godfather of Bayern's possession game and Jupp Heynckes, his more pragmatic and tactically refined successor, it was easy to predict Bayern's lineups. They always formed-up in a 4-2-3-1, changes were always injury-enforced, and both coaches would simply try to find replacements that would most closely resemble the properties of the missing regulars. Under Guardiola, that kind of certainty has largely gone out of the window. Only the back-four are settled. Philipp Lahm's transformation into a holding midfielder seems to have become permanent but it's still possible that the captain will find himself back in the right-back role later this season. Javier Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcântara and Toni Kroos are all vying for places in midfield and have been used in different roles. Further upfield, the injured Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben have remained untouchable, but the two central attacking slots are being changed every game, in accordance with the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

2. Continuous innovation through micro-management

Guardiola's football philosophy is based on dominating possession, creating a constant numerical advantage in midfield and aggressive pressing. The 43-year-old has not been afraid to deviate from his principles when necessary. In the 3-0 win at Borussia Dortmund in November he ordered his centre-backs to play long balls out of defence to escape Borussia's high-pressing. Martínez, the team's ball-winner, was stationed high up behind the striker Mario Mandzukic to win the headers and to put pressure on the opposition's midfield. This destructive ploy worked well and both Dortmund's and Bayern's passing rhythm was thoroughly disrupted. Guardiola reverted to a "false nine" system midway through the second half, to exploit the spaces that were beginning to open up.

Smaller and more subtle tweaks are constantly being employed before and during matches. Xavier Sala-i-Martín, a professor of economics and a former Barcelona treasurer, has compared Guardiola's "continuous innovation" to the highly-flexible production process of Spanish retailer Zara. Zara's collections are more expensive to produce than those of rival chains but change much more frequently, in line with trends or micro-trends. Both Zara's and Bayern's output is still defined by a grand framework but within that, flexibility is just as important: employing the appropriate micro-tactics for any given situation takes precedent over dogma.


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