Guardi­ola’s grip on mod­ern foot­ball ex­tends far be­yond the field of play

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Among the in­ter­est­ing sub nar­ra­tives to have emerged from Carlo Ancelotti’s fail­ure at Bay­ern Munich is the el­e­va­tion in sta­tus of the job Pep Guardi­ola per­formed at the Al­lianz Arena.

Eter­nally scarred for hav­ing taken the “easy way out” by in­her­it­ing a tre­ble-win­ning squad from Jupp Heynckes, the Cata­lan’s tro­phy haul of three Bun­desliga ti­tles, two DFB Pokals and count­less do­mes­tic records was over­shad­owed by fail­ing to get past the semi-fi­nals of the Cham­pi­ons League.

That ar­gu­ment has merit, of course, as Guardi­ola was em­ployed to main­tain Bay­ern’s po­si­tion at the top of the Euro­pean elite while play­ing an iconic brand of foot­ball, in­stead he played a small part in sur­ren­der­ing it to Real Madrid.

But to mea­sure his achieve­ments on how fur­ther he filled Bay­ern’s tro­phy cabi­net is along the same lines as ex­press­ing in­credulity over the fact Ancelotti was sacked af­ter two de­feats and a draw in 11 games.

Be­cause where the Ital­ian failed spec­tac­u­larly com­pared to his pre­de­ces­sor was not in what he did or didn’t win, but how he got his play­ers to do it. Aside from stylis­tic crit­i­cisms – and Bay­ern’s foot­ball un­der Ancelotti was larg­ley in­dis­tin­guish­able, it just got re­sults – was that not a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual in the squad im­proved on his watch.

Each player in­her­ited from Guardi­ola has stag­nated or gone back­wards, vis­i­ble in all its shame at the Parc des Princes.

Thomas Muller has been play­ing the worst foot­ball of his career for at least a year now; David Alaba be­ing sent to a dif­fer­ent part of Paris by Kylian Mbappe on Wed­nes­day night summed up his re­gres­sion hav­ing be­come one of the best left-backs in the world; Robert Le­wandowski looks sullen and dis­in­ter­ested; Ar­turo Vi­dal is all bark and no bite. The list goes on.

For all the de­mands he put on his play­ers each day in train­ing, Guardi­ola set the bar through the strato­sphere and the ex­pec­ta­tion placed on the in­di­vid­ual en­abled them to ex­ceed per­for­mance lev­els of the past. As dif­fi­cult as it may have been, it made the play­ers happy, more ful­filled. Th­ese are foot­ballers at the very top ech­e­lon of the game for a rea­son, they have worked hard to get there and, by na­ture, don’t want to stop.

Ancelotti’s lais­sez faire and con­trast­ing at­ti­tude to train­ing – ev­ery Sun­day off, straight­for­ward 11 v 11 matches the norm – left them dis­in­ter­ested and de­mo­ti­vated.

But his de­par­ture not only shines a more il­lu­mi­nat­ing light on Guardi­ola’s work in im­pact­ing his play­ers, it also re­veals the in­flu­ence he has had on coach­ing this decade.

There are, of course, ex­cep­tions – Zine­dine Zi­dane the most prom­i­nent – but coaches are in­creas­ingly shying away from the Ancelotti model. As, for all its charm and sim­plic­ity, it’s be­come out­dated.

Julian Nagels­mann has taken Hof­fen­heim from a mid­dle to lower level Bun­desliga out­fit to the Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fiers with such rev­o­lu­tion­ary train­ing con­cepts as a mas­sive video wall con­stantly analysing a player’s per­for­mance. It’s now no surprise he’s the fron­trun­ner for the Bay­ern job.

Nagels­mann has also high­lighted a very Guardi­olan con­cept in that the fu­ture of foot­ball will rest in play­ers be­ing po­si­tion­ally flex­i­ble. Fabian Delph at left-back, any­one?

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino at Tot­ten­ham and Wat­ford’s Marco Silva are coaches in the Premier League catch­ing the eye and over-per­form­ing with an in­tense at­ten­tion to de­tail on the train­ing ground.

Diego Sime­one’s Atletico Madrid are the per­fect mir­ror im­age of the man him­self whose pas­sion and touch­line an­tics of­ten un­in­ten­tion­ally mask a bril­liant coach­ing mind.

In France, the charis­matic Jo­ce­lyn Gour­ven­nec is re­in­stat­ing Bordeaux as a force in Ligue 1 hav­ing per­formed won­ders at Guingamp with a ded­i­cated ethos and play­ers fol­low­ing his meth­ods to the ab­so­lute specifics.

The devil is al­ways in the de­tail. Anal­y­sis and in­for­ma­tion cru­cial but also the con­cept of im­ple­ment­ing your ideas on a group.

The dilemma for managers has al­ways been, do you im­pose your meth­ods on the team, or soften them ac­cord­ing to the play­ers at your dis­posal? In Ancelotti’s case, it’s the lat­ter but that is be­ing eroded, as Guardi­ola’s the­o­ries – ad­mit­tedly, drawn from Marcelo Bielsa – are mim­icked and re­designed.

Not only does the Manch­ester City man­ager en­hance play­ers, he does the same with in­di­vid­u­als in the dugout, and Ancelotti, un­for­tu­nately, got left be­hind.

For all the de­mands he put on Bay­ern’s play­ers each day, Guardi­ola set the bar through the strato­sphere and en­abled in­di­vid­u­als to ex­ceed per­for­mance lev­els of the past

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