GUARDIOLA’S BARCELONA: A MASTERCLASS OF A FOOTBALL TEAM IN THE MODERN ERA

Pep Guardiola was the former captain of the fantastic dream team managed by the late Johan Cyruff, and after he retired, he had taken the mantle as the coach of the Barcelona B team. When Frank Rijkaard was fired, the choice had splintered between 2; one is the controversial but successful man Jose Mourinho, and another is the unknown man in the football management world, Pep Guardiola. Juan Laporta had decided to choose Pep Guardiola.

The appointment come as shocking news as it circled in the footballing hemisphere that Jose Mourinho was the initial choice. Still, Joan Laporta, the Barcelona CEO, has listened to Johan Cyruff and appointed his former dream team captain  Pep Guardiola. Guardiola only experience as the manager of the Barcelona b team.

He had been trained under Johan Cyruff style for football, which emphasizes possession, position, and pressure, which is the bedrock of total football, the epitome of attacking football. Guardiola mastered this style and amalgamated it with the skill and knowledge he learned in Italy and Marcelo Bielsa. As a result, he turned this Barcelona team into a pure football machine that would be a nightmare for the opponent. Their attacking prowess and robustness in the defence with the high-pressure game they implemented when they had lost the ball made them efficient attack and defence. His possession-based football is attacking and defending football simultaneously as his team will deprive the opponent of the ball.

He also revived the classic football tactic the  False No 9, which led Hungary to become the first foreign team to defeat England in Wembley in 1953, and these football tactics are the ones that had made Lionel Messi become the player he is now. Messi is a right-wing forward in the first season, and Guardiola had made Messi play false no 9 in the game against Real Madrid in Bernabeu, leading to Barca humiliating Madrid 6 – 2. In the second season, Messi played false no nine regularly, transforming him from a great player to a phenomenal player that can score a goal in the colossal figure, mesmerizing the defender using his dribbling skill. The highlights of Messi ability are in the two crucial games for Barca. One is the semifinal of UCL against Real Madrid, and another is penultimate, where they destroyed Manchester United, in which Messi is the pivotal part in the game.

Besides their team superiority in the field, they are a myth about this team. Guardiola reputation had been denied specific credit for the way he moulded the team. The team is the bedrock of the previous manager, Frank Rijkaard, which is undoubtedly hogwash. Guardiola had kicked out Deco, Ronaldinho, Phillip Marquez, Ludovic Guilly and had promoted Sergio Busquets, bringing back the former la Masia academy player Gerrard Pique from Manchester United. He has also given a new lease of life for Thierry Henry as previously he was sidelined by Frank Rijkaard.

With these changes and promotion of player withing, Guardiola, based on the football foundation from Johan Cyruff, had moulded a team where the player is not tall and physical but has excellent artistry with the ball and as a workhouse without the ball.

Guardiola team’s ability to keep the ball position, positional flexibility, and interchanging and high pressing when losing the ball had made his team a nightmare to play against. Their opponent knew how the Guardiola team would play with the positional rotation in the attacking third parallel with Messi artistry in the False No 9 position added with the ball possession played from the goalkeeper to the attacking third. Finally, the passing carousel of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets added with attacking Dani Alves from the right-back position. However, they are still unable to stop them from scoring against them.

Guardiola also had made the sweeper-keeper famous again. Traditionally the natural archaic goalkeeper preferred my most manager. However, Pep Guardiola playing style needs a  sweeper-keeper as in his team, the keeper is the start of the attack, and his attacker is the start of the defence. With the persistence from him and victor Valdes courage, the play some style in any circumstances had given the Barca imperious in the attacking side and formidable in the defence.

In the contemporary transfer, a need for the ball-playing defender had been crucial. Franz Beckenbauer had started the trend during his playing days with Bayern Munich, and under the Johan Cyruff dream team, the ball-playing defender is Ronald Koeman. This style had been reintroduced back by Guardiola by bringing on Gerard Pique from Manchester United, and under Guardiola, Pique is the ball-playing defender for the team.  This importance for ball-playing defender had been inspired by Guardiola Barcelona team success which had seen this type of defender necessary for a team presently.

The importance of the sweeper-keeper and also the ball-playing defender and the high pressuring had seen the revival of Cyruff football philosophy where the attacker is the first line of defence, and the defenders are the first line of attack. Many teams had tried to emulate Guardiola’s Barcelona attacking philosophy, but not many team and managers could be successful as Guardiola Barcelona while emulating his style.

Guardiola Barcelona certainly had become the benchmark and bedrock for the team to emulate their style and for the team to counter their style. The football style of Gigen Pressing, the epitome of the Jurgen Klopp heavy metal football, had been designed to counter the playing from back revived by Guardiola.

The revival of the high-pressure game, false no nine positions, efficient position football, ball-playing defender, sweeper-keeper and the all-out attacking high line had been credited to the Guardiola Barcelona. However, this is not innovation from Guardiola but a revival and the perfection of the past invention by Guardiola. He had created a feared and adored team and had become an inspiration for the current day managers who want their team to play a similar style of football. The all-out defence football, although not been archaic yet as some team are still using this method, the perfection that Guardiola did in Barcelona was still intact as many managers and team had  tried to emulate it, but not many teams had been able to be successful like the Barcelona under Guardiola

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