It has been a pivotal week in the history of Barcelona, as Pep Guardiola announced yesterday that he will step down at the end of the season, bringing to an end a four year tenure which yielded as many as 13 major honours. Only a few weeks back, just a distinct minority could have envisaged the fall from grace Blaugranes have now suffered, scuppering their chances of securing the La Liga title and the Champions League crown in the process. Of course, what is one team’s loss is inevitably another’s gain but we will all have to wait until the 2014/15 season at the earliest to witness the Catalan’s casual swagger on another famed touchline in Europe.
Arsenal have continually been linked with Guardiola over the last year-and-a-half, with his linkages reaching a head whenever Arsenal have been going through a difficult patch, but with the Gunners resurgence of sorts, Wenger doubters have been silenced somewhat with the Frenchman’s revolutionised transfer tact going forward. With the signature of Lukas Podolski all but announced and transfer negotiations with Yann M’Vila on-going, many feel Wenger deserves one last chance to prove us all wrong. It is exactly that though; one last chance, and if the same old story materialises, this would coincide definitively with the conclusion of Guardiola’s yearlong sabbatical and a potential successive appointment.
It remains whether Guardiola would truly be a hit in the Premier League, despite widespread blind faith that he would be an exciting successor. The Spaniard is likely never to manage such a successful crop of players again in his career as he did at Camp Nou, but to turn the fortunes of an underachieving giant would certainly instil some versatility to his managerial CV. Although the likely suggestion, it seems the instinctive one as Arsenal and Guardiola do seem to complement each other well upon first glance.
The 41-year-old has willingly thrown youngsters such as Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello into big games in the first team ranks this term, and this has been the recent legacy of Wenger, if indeed the Gunners wish to maintain such a policy. The La Masia academy has generated technically gifted pros, and Barcelona have confidence in their ability to play out of situations, whether it be further up the field or more dangerously on the edge of their box; something as witnessed by Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby. Guardiola has also been an advocate of the 4-3-3 formation in Spain and one that the Gunners employ similarly with wingers cutting inside and most attacks going more centrally though the opponent.
It was heavily documented in the week that Barcelona had no plan B to Chelsea’s resistance with mazy weaving runs continually being thwarted by the over-extending limbs of the Blues back line. This has too been a criticism of the Gunners current ranks with big brash sides such as Stoke City having ‘found out’ Arsenal’s game by simply not allowing Wenger’s side time on the ball to create havoc with their superior movement. Guardiola would be inheriting a well-known similar system, but it could be argued far fewer sides in the Premier League would do a Chelsea and park the bus, paying such a compliment to Arsenal with more upsets and underdogs toppling the favourites occurring in England than anywhere else on the continent. In this way, maintenance of the Gunners plan A by Guardiola would still function 75% of the time.
Aside from the obvious comparisons, the man himself seems a snug fit for the Arsenal hotseat. Guardiola has built a reputation as rarely threatened, level-headed and gracious in defeat with an essence of class overriding as his most employable asset. The Catalan’s suave style and polished exterior would certainly look at home amidst the plush surroundings of Arsenal’s state-of-the-art Emirates Stadium home.
Wenger has soured with age, and his once astute demeanour has been traded for laborious moaning and unsavoury ungentlemanly conduct with fellow managers (and UEFA!) whenever the going gets tough. In this way, Wenger-doubters have grown tired with the Frenchman’s child-like tantrums, as opposed to digging in and solving the issue head on. Wenger’s stubborn defence of his weaker players and countless perseverance with troubled talents has too left a lot to be desired with the loyal Emirates following. Whilst it is almost unimaginable to observe anybody else in charge of the Gunners after such a long and respectable time in charge, Guardiola’s forthcoming availability may just represent a chance Arsenal can’t afford to miss.
Of course, people will point to the ill-fated appointment of Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea with Guardiola being just seven years his senior, but the longevity of the Catalan’s success in relation to the Portuguese serves as evidence that he didn’t just fluke his accomplishments. With the financial fair play regulations coming into place over the next three years, it will be that much more observable how much an impact a manager makes with the restriction of expensive imports being far less advantageous. Guardiola has undoubtedly had amazing talent at his disposal, but his efficiency and togetherness with them should not be overlooked. Only time will tell, and Wenger’s next term will really tell us a lot more about what direction the Gunners are heading in but Guardiola might just want to flex his muscle in England’s top flight in years to come.
Would Guardiola be a good fit for Arsenal or do you still have faith in Wenger long-term? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989