After suffering 5 straight defeats, Pep Guardiola is currently enduring his worst spell in management. Since comfortably reclaiming the Bundesliga title, Bayern Munich season has fizzled out with no trace. The Bavarian giants were dumped out of the German Cup Semi-Final after suffering an agonising penalty shootout loss to bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund. After a spirited second leg showing against former side Barcelona, Guardiola’s men fell to Spanish opposition at the Semi-Final stage of the Champions League yet again.
With one year remaining on his Bayern Munich contract, there has been no indication as of yet that Guardiola is willing to commit to the German giants long term. Back to back Champions League exits against the powerhouses of Spanish football have cranked up the pressure on the most coveted coach in European football. However, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists the club are keen to extend Pep Guardiola’s contract in Germany, amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester City. Rummenigge went on to say ‘Don’t forget that he has won five titles here in two years, which I believe is a club record. ‘We have agreed that we will talk about his future in the second half of this year, which is how things still stand. ‘He knows my opinion: I want him to stay.’
Guardiola is struggling to shrug off Junn Heynckes shadow, Guardiola’s predecessor went out in style, and Heynckes guided the Bavarians to an unprecedented Treble. The former Barcelona manager has brought in fresh philosophies but unfortunately for Guardiola anything but Champions League success is labelled as a failure of a season. After a scintillating start to his managerial career, Bayern Munich’s manager is still relatively new to the managerial world and the big games against Real Madrid and Barcelona have indicated that he still possesses managerial flaws. The gung-ho tactics against Barcelona would have perplexed many but that’s Guardiola’s ambitious nature, however on this occasion he was found wanting. Allowing the most formidable forward line in world football the time and space to conjure up their magic is footballing suicide. The Barcelona games were not the first time that Pep has been found wanting, the hammering Bayern took against Real Madrid was a humiliation as was the pummelling they took earlier in the season against high flying Wolfsburg. Bayern were simply outfoxed in these games and showed that at times Guardiola’s tactical naivety has cost Bayern.
Bayern have been desperately unlucky with injuries this season, numerous first team players have been ruled out for long periods of time. Such was the severity of the injury crisis Bayern Munich club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt quit the club, after ‘being blamed’ for the 3-1 defeat away to Porto. Guardiola was quick to deny any involvement in Wohlfahrt’s decision to quit the club.
It’s no secret that Bayern possess an ageing crop of players, the likes of Xabi Alonso, Ribery, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben are all 30+. On the other hand, Bayern do retain some of the most sought after youngsters in Europe, the likes of Juan Bernat, David Alaba, Mario Gotze and Thiago all have the ability to become pinnacle figures at the Allianz Arena for many years to come.
It was growingly evident in the blockbuster tie against Barcelona that Bayern have become growingly dependent on Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery. With the star duo ruled out through injury, Bayern lacked identity, Robben and Ribery have consistently produced match winning displays for Bayern in recent years. With the influential pair on the wrong side of thirty and both becoming increasingly injury prone, Guardiola may have to act and inject some much needed exuberance into the squad in a bid to take the burden of Ribery and Robben.
There is no denying that Bayern have a wealth of attacking options, defensively their options are extremely limited and were found wanting against Barcelona. In Manuel Neuer, Guardiola possesses the ultimate sweeper keeper and will no doubt be at the Allianz Arena for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, Bayern lack a colossal leader at the back, at Barcelona, Guardiola was able to call upon a centre back pairing of Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique a perfect blend of passion, desire and ability. Against Barcelona, Jerome Boateng and Mehdi Benatia seemed perplexed by the opposition’s movement and trickery. A commanding centre back will no doubt be high on Guardiola’s agenda come the summer transfer window.
With Louis Van Gaal and Jupp Heynckes’s era’s coming to an end, Guardiola may have to impose himself in the upcoming summer transfer window in order to maintain Bayern’s stature alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona. With a major upheaval required at Bayern in the upcoming years, the biggest question is will Guardiola commit to Bayern and stamp his own imprint on the Bayern Munich squad.