Pep Guardiola prepared to ride out the storm and stick to his principles
Mauling by Real Madrid brings a torrent of criticism for the Bayern manager’s tactics
Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola issues instructions during the Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Photo: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty
It is at times like these when, for a manager, the world can seem a dark place. As methods are pilloried, tactics crucified and past glories forgotten, friends can feel like foes and adversaries appear as assassins. When criticism is flying at you from all angles, self-belief is the only solace.
How Pep Guardiola needs such resolve at this moment. Bayern Munich’s 4-0 capitulation at the hands of Real Madrid on Tuesday night must surely represent a crushing nadir in his already glittering career. Now, where previously Bayern were hailed as the world’s most menacing side, the heart of Bavaria is rocking.
Yet one man’s tactical acumen, proved beyond doubt to be ruthlessly effective in recent years at Barcelona, does not suddenly disappear over the course of 90 minutes, no matter how emphatic a defeat.
The knives are certainly out for Guardiola, whose reputation was dealt a serious blow by Carlo Ancelotti, yet he remains undoubtedly the manager of the modern era.
“We got a slap in the face, it was a debacle what we experienced here,” said Bayern president, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, after the 5-0 aggregate loss, also labelling the performance a “fiasco”. Others have gleefully revelled in the perceived demise of a possession-based approach and scribed damning epitaphs of the short-passing game.
The German and Spanish press did not hold back. Bild splashed with the headline “the Bayern downfall” along with a picture of Manuel Neuer grasping thin air, and gave five players a match rating of six. Given that the usual ratings only range from one to five, one being the best, scathing is perhaps an understatement.
The Frankfurt Allgemeine said Bayern “fell like dominoes”, while Madrid-based Marca reported “the worst thrashing in history”. AS ran a headline declaring: “Munich burns”.
All this came on the back of a desperately poor performance from Bayern, who left themselves vulnerable at set-pieces and terribly exposed on the counterattack. It was one of their worst results in recent memory and leaves Madrid only one victory from a 10th European Cup triumph, La Décima within touching distance thanks to Ancelotti and the decisive incisions of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
For Bayern, though, the summer will allow for a period of reflection. Winning the Bundesliga with seven matches remaining proved an ill-fated success, with four defeats coming in the eight matches that followed, but it remains a fine achievement and with the German Cup final still to come.