Sunday, 28 June 2009

Guardiola, Revolution and Tradition

author: Sid Lowe
source: The Guardian

date: 28 May 2009

All roads lead to Rome, even in Scotland. FC Barcelona may wish to pay homage to Caledonia for it was there that this historic season began – with the voice of Josep Guardiola echoing round their pre-season training camp at St Andrews. When Xavi Hernández, Carles Puyol and Andrés Iniesta joined the squad following Euro 2008, they could hardly believe the transformation, the sheer intensity.

"Pressure" was the word, a mantra. "Pressure! Pressure! Pressure!" Guardiola demanded that his team play high, asphyxiating the opposition. The opposition must be offered no way out. A possession game – Barcelona's game – requires you to win possession in the first place.

Winning the ball is Guardiola's obsession. This summer he will lecture at a coaching conference. Forget pass-and-move, the title is Recovering Possession. After a pre-season match with Hibs he revealed that his first session had been dedicated to it. After the season's opening match he was furious, not because Barcelona had lost to Numancia but because his players had failed to pressure their opponents.

According to Johan Cruyff, pressuring high limits the amount of running players must do. When you win back the ball, he explains, there are 30 metres to goal rather than 80. Intelligence and positioning are vital. And yet there is no escaping the intensity. At the start of the season Guardiola stressed his side would "respect our philosophy".

The mistake many made was concluding that a commitment to creative possession football inherently means turning your back on hard work and discipline, on pragmatism and competitiveness; that the aesthetic is by definition incompatible with the effective. Guardiola is every bit as meticulous as, say, Rafa Benítez; every bit as much of a control freak; every bit as pragmatic.

Guardiola's first season has challenged the clichés. Experience is not age, it is learning how to confront and resolve problems. Defending is not just about building a wall and stopping the opposition getting close to your goal; it can also be about keeping possession and stopping them getting close to the ball. Bravery is not just launching into risky tackles, it is also remaining committed to a risky style.

Guardiola knows there are risks to Barcelona's game but believes the benefits outweigh them, that there is no contradiction between style and competitiveness. At 38, in his first ever season, he has built a team playing creative, technical football – a resilient, united, tough team that has won everything there is to win. The day he told his staff they would win the league wasn't the day they stuffed Madrid 6–2 but when they came back from two down to draw 2–2 with Betis.

He has built a team that is fitter than it has ever been; one that sits through ­videos, that analyses its rivals, that rotates; one that works on the defence; one that practises set plays. It is one with talent, of course. Barcelona always had talent. But of Rome's starting XI, only one – Gerard Piqué – was not there last season when Barcelona finished empty-handed. That failure bequeathed Guardiola a receptive, hungry dressing room.

Guardiola has shown remarkable communication skills, an impressive ability to connect to his players. His message is strikingly unambiguous. He has imposed discipline and rules. And he has played to Barcelona's strengths: a footballing identity running right through the club that he learnt from Cruyff and Xavi and Iniesta learnt from him. "I would never have won anything this season without these players," Guardiola said in Rome. And those players might never have won anything without him this season, either.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Guardiola has restored the philosophy of Cruijff
Are defensive forwards the future?
Paraula de Pep (The Word of Pep)


LD said...

pep, the etoo-mancity link is wrong

pep said...

Thanks, LD, changed that!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for getting touch out of football for awhile..

Look at the picture..

Best dressed football manager ever!!!

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