Pep Guardiola has made Bayern Munich even more perfect | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 25.03.2014
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Pep Guardiola has made Bayern Munich even more perfect

After one year in office, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola has exceeded expectations: To make a perfect team even more perfect, winning the title even earlier than his predecessor. But that’s boring, says DW’s Tobias Oelmaier.

Bayern grabbed the international headlines when they made the announcement during the 2012/2013 winter break that they'd hired former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. Initially Bayern fans were jubilant. But many of them quickly turned skeptical, wondering what the new star coach could possibly achieve, seeing as the team coached by Jupp Heynckes went on to break all records and win the club's first treble - clinching the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

The Bayern team's dominant attacking style, merciless efficiency and technical brilliance earned them a 25-point lead in the Bundesliga in 2013 and helped them defeat Barcelona 7-0 over two legs in the Champions League semifinal.

Veteran coach Jupp Heynckes sat calm and composed right in the center of all the triumph and jubilation. Heynckes, a picture of modesty, considered uncharismatic and boring by many Bayern fans, grew in popularity and his boots became very big for any successor to fill.

While Pep Guardiola was credited with having shaped Barcelona, making it the best team in the world, it was no easy task for him to fit into the close-knit Bayern setup, where the players, managers and fans thrived in perfect harmony.

But he succeeded.

He won the hearts and minds right from the start, when he charmed his audience at his first press conference, speaking heavily-accented but nevertheless impressive German. He ticked all the right boxes: His answers were witty, he paid respect to the Bayern bosses. It later became clear that he had truly chosen the Bayern post - that he had turned down more lucrative offers from the Premier League in order to sign with Bayern.

And he demonstrated his loyalty, when he stood up for his "friend" Uli Hoeness, the Bayern president who was sent to prison for large-scale tax evasion. Guardiola aid that he "hoped to be here to witness" Uli's return to the club. Those are the kind of statements Bayern fans want to hear.

How to improve a perfect team?

But nothing is more important than success on the pitch. And that is where Guardiola started on the right foot: Bayern won the UEFA Super Cup in the summer and went on to cruise to the top of the Bundesliga table and stay there throughout the season. Bayern has reached the German Cup semi-final and the quarterfinal in the Champions League and has built up a reputation as one of the best - maybe even the best team - in the world.

How much of that is Pep Guardiola's doing? He took over a winning team. One could almost argue that only the signing of Thiago was an original Guardiola idea.

However, he surely plays a pivotal role in the current success story. There is hardly a more difficult job than to take over a perfect team and improve it even more. There are negative trends to fight: Successful players tend to become complacent, some grow too full of themselves, demand more recognition and more money and take their privileges for granted. And in the end not every individual player may get the recognition he feels he deserves.

But Guardiola has made sure that his superstars work hard: Ribery, Robben, Lahm, Schweinsteiger all give their best during training sessions and on the pitch. They even resign themselves to the occasional stint on the bench.

Guardiola has his own special way of communicating, he exudes authority and calm - and he expects his players to be versatile: He will have defender and team captain Philipp Lahm play in midfield, will move midfielder Mario Götze up front and Ribery from left wing to central position.

Still there are critics of the Guardiola system: The team may be in control at all times and successful in their approach - but they can also be boring, the critics complain. The team will not take a risk, they say, will be likely to pass the ball back and play it safe, rather than press ahead recklessly for a change. They may be in possession of the ball for 80 percent of the game - but that doesn't necessarily make it attractive to watch. Guardiola plays it safe, has his team do as much as necessary to win, while many Bayern fans wouldn't mind a bit more passion and drive.

Many football commentators say Guardiola has made Bayern even better. But the final verdict is out until the end of May, by which point Bayern will hope to have successfully defended its entire treble. With such a stellar squad, anything less would almost amount to failure.

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