To Pep Or Not To Pep?

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With the news coming out today that Guardiola will no longer be the Barcelona coach after the end of the Spanish season, the speculation has intensified that he is headed for Chelsea, as has seemingly been Abramovich's wish ever since Guardiola transformed Barca into a supremely dominant team.

Ignoring the logistics whether or not we can actually land Pep, as it seems he will be taking a sabbatical anyway, I'd thought it'd be good to have a quick think over whether or not Guardiola would work at Chelsea.

Firstly, let's clear something up. Guardiola is an excellent manager. This Barcelona team doesn't win thirteen out of a possible seventeen trophies by themselves, and while the players themselves are obviously excessively talented, there's a lot of work going on and off the pitch by the manager that allows them to reach their full potential. Guardiola has firmly established the template for Barca's highly lauded possession game, and he's been able to maintain the high intensity that such a system requires, as well as tweaking the minor nuances that allow Barcelona to more or less bulldoze every team out of their path in the past three years. In short, he's excellent.

The question is, would he be excellent beyond Barcelona? After all, the La Masia academy is responsible for producing a lot of these excellent footballers, and given the way Barcelona is geared around it's academy, it certainly makes it a lot easier for a manager to constantly integrate youngsters into the system. Having the benefit of players who have been schooled in a style of play ever since they first touched a football is a huge benefit, and something Guardiola wouldn't have the benefit of at any other club.

Also, Guardiola's had a fair bit of money to spend at Barcelona, even if that is something that the media likes to overlook. In his time at Barca he's spent over €262.3 million on players. That's an abnormally large sum of money that probably wouldn't exist in a Financial Fair Play climate, which places even more restrictions on his work at a new club.

Having said that, Guardiola remains an excellent manager, as I said before. As a tactician he's right up there, with an arguable claim that he's currently the best in the world. This is the man that has constantly evolved his Barcelona side to a level where they switch between shapes effortlessly. He has also near perfected Lionel Messi in the false nine role, thus enabling the Argentine to become one of the greatest players of all time. Furthermore, Guardiola can lay claim to being a fantastic motivator, the evidence lying in the fact he's managed to keep his players more or less committed to an intensive, exhausting system, as well as being able to maintain harmony in the dressing room full of expensive and extremely talented players.

The problem with Guardiola is ultimately his preferred style of play. Given that Barcelona is the only sample we have of his abilities, it's unclear whether he'd actually be able to set up another team to play in a successful formula. We know that he's a disciple of the possession church, but that's not going to work at Chelsea (just ask Andre Villas-Boas). Therefore, for Guardiola to succeed at Chelsea, a compromise would have to be made between his ideology and the ability of his players. Anything else and it'll end in disaster.

Taking Guardiola on at Chelsea remains risk, but not because Guardiola only seemingly looks like a good manager because of his players, but because we have absolutely no idea if he can do anything but the possession game. That's a question that Roman Abramovich needs to find the answer too, otherwise, I hear there's an Italian somewhere that can manage a football club if needs be.

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