The Lead

Peter Berlin writes in Sports Illustrated today that, despite Pep Guardiola’s apparent disdain for Chelsea,

“Guardiola should take the job, insult and drop John Terry and refuse to pick Fernando Torres. Guardiola wouldn’t need to try to lose; he’s probably incapable of that. With the unbalanced and turbulent squad he would inherit, he will inevitably suffer some embarrassing early defeats. Abramovich would lose patience. Guardiola could be back in Manhattan by Christmas. His reputation would be untarnished; everyone in soccer knows that Abramovich doesn’t know soccer. His bank balance would be swelled by tens of millions of pounds.”

He writes this with his tongue so far in his cheek it’s bursting through the other side in a pulpy mess, but it’s not hard to envision this outcome at any club he’d be tasked to take over.

Paolo Bandini in his Serie A column for the Guardian spoke of how AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi spoke of the possibility of replacing the under-fire Massimiliano Allegri with Pep:

“Guardiola? Who wouldn’t want him? We have even spoken about it with Allegri,” Berlusconi said. “If [appointing Guardiola] was possible we would look into it. Anyone would try to do so if they were presented with such an opportunity … For now we have Allegri. [But] for the future we are having a look.”

Again, this is the old Pep as Managerial Boogeyman. But the blithe assumption that Pep would be a world-beater no matter where he ends up isn’t just touted by angry chairmen, but by the press as well, which has been silent on the very real possibility that Guardiola may not fare as well at a club that he hasn’t been with since childhood.

Consider Barcelona’s record this season under Tito Vilonova: three points clear in top spot and eleven points ahead of Real Madrid in the La Liga standings. One could say “this is Pep’s squad,” except what other kind of fashioning was going on besides giving the gifted crop of La Masia grads space to shine? Should Barcelona cruise to a La Liga title beyond Pep’s reach last year, will that make Tito the next Sir Alex Ferguson?

We know nothing of what Guardiola’s capable of at a squad of disparate players cobbled together by the usual random machinations of the transfer window. We certainly don’t have any hard evidence to pinpoint where Xavi’s, Iniesta’s and Messi’s brilliance ends and Pep’s hard decisions as coach begin (although his tactical superiority in the El Clasico meetings spoke a great deal for him). And even if Pep is well-versed in Barca’s killer 4-3-3, what does he do when faced with a squad not nearly as technically-gifted, incapable of making his sheet music live off the page?

None of these questions have been raised in any meaningful way from any quarters, allowing Guardiola to ratchet up his inevitable starting salary post-”sabbatical” even more. Well, here’s Counter Attack knocking off 50p.

England

FA may investigate anti-Semitic comments made by West Ham fans against Spurs’ fans.

Benitez confident he can win over fans.

Brendan Rodgers not interested in band-aid solutions for his team.

Everton sights set on former Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

Carlos Tevez faces driving ban.

Italy

Milan beat Juventus on a controversial penalty.

Berlusconi squashes rumours about Guardiola replacing Allegri.

La Liga

La Liga weekend in review.

Mourinho’s frustration directed at everyone.

Barcelona field all La Masia players against Levante.

Germany

Cristian Nyari sums up week 13 in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund likely won’t cash in on Lewandowski.

Bit and Bobs

Spartak Moscow fire coach.

Hypothetical match/line-up between Catalonia and Spain.

Serbian player scores a terrible own goal and lifts the opposition to victory.

How a Frenchman changed United’s fortunes.

Video Interview: Reporter won’t stop reminding Rafa Benitez of the booing.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.

Comments (11)

  1. A rhino could’ve coached Barca during the past half-decade. He may be a decent coach, but coaching the best team ever assembled doesn’t make you that.

    • Somebody’s brain ain’t workin’ today!

      He was such a good coach…such a damn good coach that he gave the entire world the illusion that coaching this team was easy. When he came on board, this same team was in disarray. I’m sure a rhino wouldn’t have gotten this team to win all six trophies in one season…

    • You definitely didn’t watch Barca under Rijkaard in his final season for Barca, it was pretty bad and Barca were close to missing out on the big dance. You also remember that when Pep took over he made some huge personnel changes and shipped off many of the previous starters from the previous season. Ronaldinho, Deco, Zambrotta, Thuram as well as reducing the squad size considerably.

      He has made lots of big and small decisions which changed the face of the squad

      • Rijkaard’s final Barca team were aging, and the squad needed investment. They could’ve done all this with him at the helm, they chose not to. That wasn’t Rijkaard’s fault, the little that I care for him either.

        I’m just saying, the praise Pep gets for managing Barca is a little overboard.

        • I wouldn’t agree in saying that it was an aging squad. Everyone was at a good age only really Deco seemed to be at the end of it. Ronaldinho of course had different issues.

          There are lots of changes from Rijkaard to Pep though. One of the biggest things was Pep winning over the squad. He created a great family like atmosphere in the dressing room compared to the nationality based groups which are seen at every other club.

          For example Pep banned the use of any language other than Spanish and Catalan in the team and although it sounds childish he made them sit together for lunch and dinner often.

          Another thing Pep brought is a more player focused approach. He tried to make all matches in La Liga just one day trips, travel in the morning and then fly back to Barcelona right after the match. He also let the players spend match preparation at home instead of being stuck in team hotels.

          Then on the pitch he was responsible for Barca’s famous 6 second rule and helped to organize the pressing. There are of course more things.

          I do understand what you are saying that the core of the squad was already at Barca but there were some big and extremely noticeable changes which can be attributed to Pep. Could another coach have guided Barca to success? Maybe

  2. Peter Berlin has been cribbing off my tweets!

    I’m not going to go as far as Dan’s sentiment, but I do feel that he was put in the perfect situation of players and club that match (re: shaped) his philosophy. And, conversely, he was the perfect manager for that situation.

    Still, there are plenty of examples out there where simply assembling the best talent available doesn’t get you close to the transcending standards Barça enjoy at the moment.

    Pep in Chelsea will not come close to the Barça phenomenon, but it won’t be an indictment of Pep.

    SB

  3. Wouldnt be taking anything footy related out of sports illustrated seriously

  4. Pep is amazing because he came into a squad full of talent that were a mess. He sold Rinaldihino the best player at the time. Gave Eto another chance and made them all work as a team. Best part about it was doing it that all in his first year. Winning the treble with a win in the final over the holders manchester united in 2009.

  5. Good point Richard. I think that the other interesting question here is what will the expectations for Pep be once he goes to a Milan or Chelsea. Of course no one should expect the haul that he had at Barca. Will it be enough to win a league and nothing else? What if he has a season of winning nothing while he builds his “project”? It seems inevitable that his reputation has no one to go but down.

    Also, what effect will this have Tito’s reputation?

    • I wonder, how long would he be given at a club like Chelsea, where results are what matters, despite whether he is trying to build a long term project or not.

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