Crowing Critics of Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich Style Are Woefully Misguided

Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2014


For reasons I find hard to fathom, people are celebrating and relishing Real Madrid’s defeat of Bayern Munich, because it is supposed to mean the death of tiki taka and the end of an era.
Admittedly, it has not been the best of seasons for Barcelona, and yes, Bayern Munich were beaten—and beaten well—by a rampant Real Madrid.
But let’s take a look at the facts. This season at Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola has taken his side to a Bundesliga title in record time, the final of the German Cup and the semi-finals of the Champions League. He has won 16 out of the last 22 competitions that his team has played.

Not bad, wouldn’t you say?
Let me say, first and foremost, that in this wonderful sport, every style is legitimate. That’s one of the main reasons why people all over the world love the "beautiful game" so much.
Pep Guardiola has his style and philosophy, and he will always defend it vehemently. A style he has an unshakeable belief in, and one that demands that any team that he is in charge of should have the ball.
Let’s assume that the next major game played is lost by a team with a defensive approach. Can we assume therefore that the defensive game will then be consigned to the dustbin? Of course it won’t. How is anyone ever going to play if every important game signals the demise of a particular way of playing?
Just for a minute, let’s put aside Pep’s footballing ideology, which I still believe to be as romantic as it is revolutionary, despite the fact that Tuesday night’s result does not match that ideal.

Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

The simple facts are that we have learned much from Pep in the last few years.
Firstly, there’s the culture of effort; a culture that insists that even attackers have to run, tackle and put in a shift. That did not exist that much pre-Pep.

Secondly, his insistence on the players in his charge being blessed with technical ability and tactical knowledge. That idea, so basic that he did not have to invent it but still needed to demand it, is now followed everywhere.
There is no question that Pep has some fantastic players at his disposal at Bayern, but as great as they are, I would also contend he does not have players of the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, and of course, Leo Messi, as they were during his time at Barcelona, when the Catalan club ruled the footballing world.
And before too many people in England start to celebrate the supposed demise of tiki taka, I would say to them, "Be careful what you wish for," because the fact is that today at the grassroots level in England, many young coaches are busy teaching their charges precisely the Pep philosophy, which is all about being good with the ball.

They are given another layer to English football motivated by what Barcelona has done.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

For many people, someone else’s defeat has to be celebrated and used to undermine a whole era, but if we can forget Pep Guardiola for a minute, the fact is that announcing the death of tiki taka is tantamount, in my eyes, to undermining some of the development and improvement in English football from the bottom up.
Pep Guardiola has always shown us that it is important to be as humble in victory as in defeat.

Critics celebrating this hiccup should learn some of that humility, because it is precisely the style and approach that Pep defends that I believe is making English football better in the long run.