Sunday 18 February 2018

Has Guardiola been found out? Five things we learned from Bayern v Barcelona

Josep Guardiola reacts during the Champions League semi final second leg match between Bayern Munich and Barcelona
Josep Guardiola reacts during the Champions League semi final second leg match between Bayern Munich and Barcelona

Has Has Guardiola been found out? Five things we learned from Bayern v Barcelona

Pep Guardiola may just have been found out after Lionel Messi exposes his three-man defence

Has Guardiola been found out?

What is Guardiola's philosophy? What is Guardiola's cachet? What would Manchester City be taking on, if they were to lure him from Munich? With three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies under his belt, it seems ridiculous to claim that the jury is still out on his ability as a coach.

But there was always the suspicion that at Barcelona he was carrying on the good work of his predecessors from Louis van Gaal right back to the vision of Johan Cruyff, that he was not having to fix something because it was not broken.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (L) shakes hands with his former coach Pep Guardiola

And at Bayern he took over a team that had just won the treble under Jupp Heynckes. This Bayern team is laden with World Cup winners, yet they were never really in the tie against Barcelona. A Barca revitalised, let us not forget, by Guardiola's opposite number Luis Enrique.

Messi exposes Guardiola's three-man system

Needing three goals before kick-off necessitated Bayern Munich taking risks but electing to switch to three at the back so early, the very system that was exposed in the opening 20 minutes in the Nou Camp was a reckless gamble by Pep Guardiola.

Barcelona star Neymar gets to grips with Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng during last night’s Champions League semi-final, second leg

It can only work if the deep midfielder, in this case Xabi Alonso, has the pace to slot back in as a reinforcement whenever the opposition run at your backline. But when faced with Lionel Messi and the ravages of time on his legs it was a hopeless task and one which he must have cursed his manager for leaving him looking so exposed.

Ter Stegen can challenge Germany No 1 Neuer

Barcelona have split goalkeeping duties this season, using Claudio Bravo in the league and Marc-André ter Stegen in the cups. They coveted and tracked the German for years before signing him from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer and he already looks the real deal, commanding his box and springing out to sweep up behind his centre-backs when necessary.

SOCCER Baye_47.jpg
Barcelona's goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen makes a vital save

It’s always ridiculous when goalkeepers are called ‘good shot-stoppers’ – that’s the least we can expect of them but the quality of Ter Stegen’s saves from close range are remarkable, none more so than when denying Robert Lewandowski in the first-half then scrambling back to claw the spinning ball from the line.

With Manuel Neuer only 29 and Ter Stegen 23, Germany could have a Peter Shilton-Ray Clemence style elite duo for a decade or more to come.

Mascherano steps up to prove Hodgson right

Roy Hodgson narrowly avoided an FA charge for bringing the game into disrepute when he voted for Javier Mascherano ahead of such deadbeats as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the 2014 Ballon d'Or awards, yet as someone who likes defensive midfielders as Arsène Wenger likes attacking ones, was he so wrong?

Mascherano was magnificent, a seemingly omnipresent force in, then in front of, Barca's defence (and he needed to be in a game where several defenders took the night off). Jack Wilshere has his merits for England, but...

Rakitic is Barcelona's new engine room

One of strangest debates in recent football history, up there with the argument that Stoke City did not have the right to play physical football, or Wenger accusing Swansea City on Monday of 'refusing to play completely' in winning 1-0 at the Emirates, as if both tactics were against the rules, is that tiki-taka was boring to watch.

Those who could not appreciate the finest technical football ever to grace the planet will be delighted to know that as Xavi has declined, Barcelona have become more direct.

With Luis Suárez exploiting space behind the defenders, Neymar elusive and Lionel Messi, well Messi, it doesn't take a genius to want to get it up there quick-time. Players make systems of course, and the one player who has allowed Barca to evolve in this way is Ivan Rakitic, a proper box-to-box midfielder with what football connoisseurs, and tiki-taka lovers everywhere, would call "a good engine".

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport