Complete Analysis of Pep Guardiola's First 6 Months at Bayern Munich

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2014

Bayern Munich's head coach Pep Guardiola looks at players during a training session at the ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Jan. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
Osama Faisal/Associated Press

As we prepare to submerge ourselves in the world of German football once again, with the return of the Bundesliga now just one week away, it seems fitting to take a note of just how far we've come with Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich so far. 

The Catalonian coach agreed to join the club around this time last year, yet the turning of the tide that welcomed his introduction to Munich feels as though it were only yesterday, despite the long list of achievements he has already accomplished at the club. 

Like all great managers in the modern game, Guardiola will undoubtedly be measured upon the success of his chief executives and their ability to sign the players he wants.

Fortunately for the young coach, the summer off-season was incredibly kind to him with the likes of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara both needing very little encouragement to sign for the club. 

Thiago's signing in particular was a good PR move from Bayern because it easily distinguished the gap that currently resides between sides such as the English giants Manchester United and the current European champions.

The ex-Barcelona player's move to Munich was as much a power play by the board as a tactical one from Guardiola and it worked fantastically well. 

Bayern wanted Guardiola because he was one of the best coaches in the world, yet they also wanted a star to sit in their dugout. They needed a manager who would attract the top calibre of players to Germany and that's exactly what they got.

Thiago was the perfect power play from Bayern
Thiago was the perfect power play from BayernMatthias Schrader/Associated Press

Of course Thiago and Gotze both joined the club with the clear intention of slotting directly into what Guardiola wanted to do with his new side.

The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker was long considered a prime candidate for the new coach's striker-less formation, whilst Thiago fit all the boxes for a player who could compete with Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the new single-pivot role at the heart of Bayern's midfield. 

This then leads us on to the most drastic change that came about from the appointment of the new coach—his 4-1-4-1 formation. 

Bayern Munich had conquered all the season before with a clear 4-2-3-1 tactic that former coach Jupp Heynckes had finely tuned over the course of two years in the hope of finally combatting Dortmund's total football-lite approach to the German league title. 

However, Guardiola, in all his tactical mastery, was determined to mould the Bavarian club in his own image and that would require a less direct, yet more serious approach to how the side closed down their opponents. 

Such a move was arguably the only low point of Guardiola's first six months at the club, as he ripped up the double pivot of Schweinsteiger and fellow Spaniard Javi Martinez and set about completely rearranging the midfield that had taken the great Barcelona to town just a few months prior. 

To this day, we still don't know exactly where Martinez, a record signing for the club last season, fits in with the side.

The new defensive midfielder, club captain Lahm, has been transformed into something of a clever ball-winning midfielder and is clearly not going anywhere until Guardiola gets fed up with Rafinha at right back. These new tactics do work well now, but why bother digging up the foundations and alienating certain players?

What really piled on the pressure, though, was the performances that then came from the squad trying to adapt to a new style of football. We all remember the European and German Super Cups against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea as well as the Dortmund game, in which Bayern faltered and stumbled throughout both games. 

The side looked as though they had lost that edge that drove them to success last May in pursuit of higher possession stats. Bayern looked like a weak copy of Barcelona and it began to affect their results, too. 

After a shaky 1-0 win away to Eintracht Frankfurt and a draw in Freiburg, people were seriously beginning to question whether the new coach should have tried to fix something that simply wasn't broken. 

But then things clicked. And just like the Bayern of old, Guardiola's men began dominating game after game with a frightening level of consistency that could only be matched by their sheer strength in world-class depth. 

In the 21 games that followed that Freiburg draw, Bayern dropped just four points out of a possible 63 in the Champions League and throughout German competitions. Guardiola's Bayern had finally come of age and were ready to dominate.

And dominate they did. Not only did they dominate in the simple sense of winning games and picking up points but also in terms of the influence and sheer intimidation that the club has emphasized over the course of the season thus far.

The 3-1 win in Manchester for the opening tie of the Champions League group stages was something to behold as the Bavarian giants simply took City to task for failing to compete at all on the night.

Similarly, the performances against Bayer Leverkusen and Dortmund in the league further point out the sheer gap in class between not only Bayern's domestic rivals but other mega-clubs throughout the continent.

Now we finally know that Robert Lewandowski has also made the move to Bayern and joins the club as the latest in a long line of world-class players who desperately wish to be part of the special project that this new coach is building at the club.

Nobody seems capable of matching Guardiola's team in any competition as he marks six months at the club. Dare we imagine their brilliance as his successful tenure continues?


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