Skip to content

Bayern shouldn’t be judged, but worrisome signs from Guardiola’s early days

Aug 30, 2013, 8:35 PM EDT

FBL-EUR-C1-C3-SUPERCUP-BAYERN MUNICH-CHELSEA Getty Images

It’s too early to be pass judgment on anybody, but with each moment a team’s on the field gives us chance to consider implications, should a team’s form persist. Particularly when a club has a new player, coach, or way of playing, these moments carry considerable weight, often giving us reason to doubt past performance. It’s always important not to read too much into August results, but it may also be vital to note where and how a team are showing themselves vulnerable.

Which, of course, brings us to the new Bayern Munich, a team that won today’s UEFA Super Cup after defeating Chelsea on penalty kicks in Prague. It was the first silverware of the Pep Guardiola era, yet the performance should also give Bayern fans pause. In the reticent, stalwart approach Chelsea took to the European champions, the Blues showed the formula which often frustrated Guardiola’s Barcelona teams may see similar success against München.

As they did when facing Barcelona in Champions League two years ago — or, as José Mourinho’s Internazionale team did against Barça two years before that — Chelsea showed little appetite for the ball. Instead, their primary concern was maintaining their shape defensively, allowing their midfield block to be pushed to the edge of the penalty area as they sacrificed control and territory for organization.

Their final possession number, 26 percent, was indicative of their willingness to cede, but although Chelsea were outshot 41-14 (10-6, shots on goal), Bayern’s advantage in opportunities wasn’t built until Mourinho’s side took an early lead in extra time. Until Eden Hazard‘s 92nd minute tally, Chelsea’s threat on the counter had matched Bayern chance-for-chance. Bayern’s huge edge in possession failed to produce an advantage on the scoreboard, let alone in actual chances.

The exact same thing could be said for Chelsea’s battle against Barcelona two years ago. It also applies to Inter’s win over Barça in 2010 as well as Chelsea’s dramatic loss to Barcelona in 2009, the year Andres Iniesta’s late goal at Stamford Bridge sent the visiting Blaugrana into the final. We saw José Mourinho’s Real Madrid team have success during his first year in Spain employing a similar approach, while Rubin Kazan used the tactic go 1-1-2 (W-L-T) against Guardiola over two Champions League campaigns.

And in the year since Guardiola’s left Barcelona, with the Catalans still employing the approach he instilled when he took over for Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona’s been troubled by the lopsided approaches Celtic, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, and now Atlético Madrid. The plan doesn’t work every time, with a serious of lower level teams failing to hold off Guardiola’s teams, but when you have enough talent to matchup against his teams’ attackers, the tactics we saw today can offset the stylistic advantage.

source: APThere is an important caveat to this critique, though. A vast majority of the time, Guardiola’s teams simply blow through teams that try to employ conservative approaches. Yes, his Barcelona had trouble against good teams, but who doesn’t have trouble against talented squads? somebody Even elite teams play better against bad teams, worse against good ones. That’s the nature of competition.

But that caveat’s too simple. It’s too reductive. Guaridola’s approach allowed a team like Rubin Kazan — a squad with far less talent than those Barça teams — to be more competitive than they should have been. The philosophy that favors quick, skilled talent over players more likely to win one-on-one physical challenges allowed players like Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta and Javier Zanetti to be disproportionately important in 2010. And it also allowed lesser talented sides like Celtic, Milan, and Atlético Madrid to use basic organization and counterattacking guile to give their teams a betterchance against Barcelona last season.

None of this is original thought, but it’s worth repeating in the wake of what we’re seeing from Bayern Munich. In the Bundesliga, against lesser teams, Bayern is controlling an inordinate amount of possession, even though they’ve yet to post a result in proportion to that dominance. The outscored their opponents 6-1 through three rounds, but on Tuesday, they also lost their perfect record, Freiburg getting an 86th minute goal from Nicolas Höfler to earn a 1-1 result.  Add in today’s result and the 4-2 Super Cup loss to Dortmund and Bayern have a series of decent yet concerning results. After all, this is a team that posted a +80 goal difference in last year’s Bundesliga.

At that really is the point. Bayern are clearly a very good team. You have to be to claim a Super Cup over Chelsea. But are they better than last year’s team, a squad that won three trophies during one of the most dominant club seasons in history? Has Pep Guardiola broken something that didn’t need fixing? Because with one of the most talented teams in Europe, there is one more than one way to this team can win games. Why has Guardiola elected to move away from the won that worked?

Don’t answer that question yet. As noted at the outset, it’s too early to pass judgment on any team. These are, however, those series of moments that allow us to consider implications. And given there was already a formula in place to slow down a Guardiola approach we’re seeing move from Barcelona to Munich, those implications are not positive. At least, they’re not positive compared to last season.

Latest Posts
  1. Clarence Goodson set to miss eight more weeks

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT

    clarence_goodson Getty Images

    Toe injury to sideline the U.S. international for an estimated 10 games.

  2. Second thing Brian Ching doesn’t like: NWSL cooling breaks

    Jul 31, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT

    Brian Ching 2

    No. 1: Eddie Johnson. No. 2: These new-fangled rules.

  3. Talented US youngsters sign for Spanish sides Sevilla, Espanyol

    Jul 31, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    Sevilla

    Young Americans set to blaze trail in La Liga academies.

  4. Ignacio Piatti’s move to Montréal may cost him a place in Copa Libertadores’ final

    Jul 31, 2014, 5:39 PM EDT

    ignacio_perez_garcia AP

    San Lorenzo is in Copa’s finals, but Piatti is unlikely to join them.

  5. Can Stevan Jovetic, Scott Sinclair break into Manchester City’s lineup?

    Jul 31, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - Manchester City v Liverpool Getty Images

    Two players who spent plenty of time on the sidelines last season are pushing to be integral parts of Manuel Pellegrini’s plans.

  6. Matías Pérez García announced, becomes third Designated Player in San Jose history

    Jul 31, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    san_jose_earthquakes_logo

    29-year-old Argentina arrives from Tigre, becoming the club’s third Designated Player of all-time.

  7. Is Everton’s new striker Romelu Lukaku worth $47 million?

    Jul 31, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    Romelu Lukaku

    Everton’s frugality gave way to necessity. Is Lukaku worth it the serious cash they splashed?

  8. A list of Manchester United-linked names to consider in silly season

    Jul 31, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT

    twitter.com/officialsslazio twitter.com/officialsslazio

    Remember when Marco Reus, Dries Mertens and Leighton Baines solidified Manchester United’s status in Europe? Us neither.

  9. Rhode Island man sues Cristiano Ronaldo over CR7 trademark

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-CUP-REALMADRID-ATLETICOMADRID Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo and Christopher Renzi are looking horns over the CR7 trademark.

  10. Report: Ochoa to Malaga is on as Mexican goalkeeper replaces Caballero

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Guillermo Ochoa AP

    Guillermo Ochoa starred in the 2014 World Cup for Mexico, and now will try to fill Willy Caballero’s shoes at Malaga.

  11. Sierra Leone squad banned from traveling as Ebola virus spreads

    Jul 31, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT

    Sierra Leone Getty Images

    As deadly virus continues to spread, the Seychelles refuse to let Sierra Leone travel for qualifier.

  12. Video: Pepe spits on Keita; Latter claims past racial slur

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Ashley Cole, Pepe AP

    Seydou Keita has left Barcelona, but being in a different league has not stopped the animosity between the AS Roma midfielder and Real Madrid’s Pepe.

  13. Steven Gerrard: “Luis Suarez too good for Arsenal”

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT

    Suarez and Gerrard both nominated for PFA award, as Liverpool dominate. AP

    Gerrard: “With all due respect to them, I said to Suarez that he was too good for Arsenal.”

  14. SI report: Bayern high on Julian Green, turned down PL loan offers

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Bayern Munich's Julian Green fights for the ball with Al-Merrikh's Ramadan Ajab during their friendly soccer match in Doha Reuters

    Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said several Premier League teams had interest in 19-year-old American striker Julian Green.

  15. Eddie Johnson response to Brian Ching’s criticism? “Scoreboard”

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT

    South Korea v United States Getty Images

    Ching said his former USMNT teammate needs incentive-laden contracts to thrive, while Johnson claims Ching is jealous.

  16. Thursday transfer rumor roundup: Kljestan to Galaxy, USMNT’er to Crew?

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

    kljestan Getty Images

    Jermaine Jones is not the only US midfielder rumored to come home, while two Red Devils are tipped for Madrid.

  17. Testimony in death of Michigan referee provides disturbing glimpse into incident

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler) www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler)

    An altercation between a player and referee in a men’s league game left the official dead. What followed has been anything but pretty.

  18. Simeone praises Klinsmann’s US program that “seduces us as coaches”

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    Portugal Champions League Soccer AP

    The World Cup praise has been flowing for Klinsmann in international circles, though American analysts like Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and others have condemned the manager’s approach as too cautious.

  19. Neymar’s recovery from World Cup back injury “almost 100 percent”

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Neymar AP

    Neymar’s health could be the key to whether Barcelona can weather the Luis Suarez suspension in pursuit of La Liga’s title.

  20. Glazer family to make $150 million in Manchester United stock sale

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    The Red Devils’ owners are making more of the club public following the death of patriarch Malcolm, and the club could lose adidas money if on-field success doesn’t return.