Barcelona's coach Josep Guardiola gestur

Pep Guardiola facing a potentially trecherous road at Bayern Munich

5 Comments

When Pep Guardiola takes over Bayern Munich this summer, he’ll be inheriting a Ferrari of a football squad. And while managing what is arguably the world’s best team is an honor that most managers can only dream of, the road ahead will be anything but easy for the Spaniard.

One of the biggest issues Guardiola will confront is what to do about Bayern’s style of play. Naturally, most would reply: Nothing. After all, the idea of tinkering with a squad that is but two matches away from a fantastic treble seems audacious.

While possessing the talent capable of playing in a number of styles, Bayern typically favor a possession-based approach that infuses a high intensity press in both defense and counter-attacks. Their full-backs stay true to their primary job of defending yet love to burst forward into the attack. The midfield is highly skilled yet ensures the back four is supported with cover before pressing forward and creatively interweaving themselves into attack. It’s a conservative yet brave style that emphasizes awareness while allowing players to express themselves.

Although it’s hardly a new style for the Bavarian giant (it has carried them to the Champions League semi-finals in three of the past four years), it is only now being recognized as the most dominant style in Europe. For the previous five years (or arguably more), the stylistic gold standard was the one that Guardiola brought to prominence at Barcelona, the famed tiki-taka.

In tiki-taka, possession is everything. It is death by a thousand cuts, a game requiring triangles inside of triangles and pass completion rates of over 90 per cent. When performed correctly, it is breathtaking and virtually unstoppable. But is Guardiola so attached to this style that he’s willing to undue Bayern’s current method of football?

Judging the Spaniards character, most likely no. At least not right away. To come into his new club and risk the wrath of the owners, players and fans by introducing a different style – and one that was born in bred in Spain – would reek of arrogance. But over time it shouldn’t come as a surprise if a more calculating approach is infused into Munich’s play.

A second issue Guardiola faces at Bayern concerns personnel decisions. Will Pep seek to rebuild the squad that already sits upon football’s Iron Throne?

As of now that answer seems to be yes. Last week Guardiola made what was effectively his first major signing when Bayern activated the €37m release clause of Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Gotze. The coup represented the second-highest transfer fee in Bundesliga history and earned Munich an attacking midfielder who is one of the most gifted players of his generation. Some even claim Gotze represents Guardiola’s new Lionel Messi, more fodder for the argument that Guardiola could be set to install a system that replicates tiki-taka.

One player who appears set to move on is Arjen Robben, who Guardiola has reportedly made available for transfer this summer. It’s believed that Pep has not been impressed by the winger’s one dimensional attacking play, where he starts on the right before cutting in and shooting with his left. In fairness, ridding Bayern of Robben seems like an obvious decision as doing so removes a potentially cancerous ego from the dressing room.

But will others follow?

Rumors of Bayern’s desire to bring a striker into the fold are rampant – with Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao being the most widely mentioned – and it is believed that Mario Gomez may be the fall-guy. After a fantastic 2011-12 Bundesliga season saw him haul 26 goals in 33 matches, this season has seen the German behemoth score only 10 times after falling behind Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic (15 goals, 22 league appearances) in the pecking order.

What other signings might Guardiola make? It wouldn’t be a shock if he discarded Daniel van Buyten or Holger Badstuber to bring in a new center-back to provide competition to Dante and Jerome Boateng. With a reported war chest of £240m at his disposal, anything is possible.

But despite the envious position he is poised to assume, the decisions won’t come easy for Pep as he looks to navigate the potentially treacherous new roads at Bayern Munich.

Report: Aguero seeking Real Madrid move at season’s end

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of manchester City in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gabriel Jesus was a revelation for Manchester City before suffering an injury, but even with a spot in the lineup for the time being Sergio Aguero may not be coming back to Manchester City next season.

[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]

According to the Sun, Spanish giants Real Madrid are eyeing up a move for Aguero in the hopes that the Argentine striker will join the club at the conclusion of the Premier League season.

Prior to joining City back in 2011, Aguero played five seasons in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, where he scored 101 goals in all competitions for the Rojiblancos.

While Aguero is likely to hold his starting spot for some time due to Jesus’ injured metatarsal, manager Pep Guardiola had heavily favored the young forward over Aguero since officially joining the club in January.

U.S. U-20s paired with Mexico, El Salvador in CONCACAF knockout round

@ussoccer_ynt
Twitter/@ussoccer_ynt
Leave a comment

Tab Ramos’ side completed their first task, but now the U.S. Under-20 national team has its next challenge lying in front of them.

[ MORE: Whitecaps acquire Brek Shea from Orlando City in trade ]

The U.S. U-20s finished second in Group B at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship after winning two of its three group stage matches.

Now, Mexico and El Salvador await the U-20s in the classification stage with a spot at May’s Under-20 World Cup in South Korea on the line.

During the classification round there will be two groups of three teams, with the top two teams advancing to the World Cup. Each group winner will meet in the CONCACAF Championship final.

Classification stage schedule

Group D

Feb. 27 — U.S. U-20s vs. Mexico

Mar. 1 — Mexico vs. El Salvador

Mar. 3 — U.S. U-20s vs. El Salvador

Group E

Feb. 27 — Panama vs. Honduras

Mar. 1 — Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Mar. 3 — Panama vs. Costa Rica

Claude Puel calls for video replay after Gabbiadini goal called off

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Manolo Gabbiadini of Southampton takes on Eric Bailly of Manchester United during the EFL Cup Final match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manolo Gabbiadini performed brilliantly in Sunday’s EFL Cup final, but was the Southampton striker unfairly gipped of a hat-trick?

[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]

Saints manager Claude Puel certainly believes so.

[ MORE: Three things from Man United’s win vs. Southampton ]

While the back-and-forth final between Southampton and Manchester United presented a tremendous matchup, the Saints had every right to be furious with the officiating in the early going after Gabbiadini’s 11th minute finish was called off for offsides.

“I would like, of course, video in the future for these situations,” said Puel. “It’s very hard when we see this game to lose. It was cruel.”

Gabbiadini went on to score a pair of goals at the tail end of the first half and early in the second stanza, but Puel was pleased with his side’s resilience after going down 2-0 inside the opening 38 minutes.

“We kept the good attitude and spirit to stay in the game after going 2-0 down,” said the Southampton boss. “We played since the beginning of the season every two or three days. We played to a strong and fantastic level. It’s important now to continue this work, to put away this disappointment and come back in the Premier League with this strength and this quality.”

Video replay has been a common discussion for some time now, but more leagues are beginning to examine the possibility. FIFA is prepared to introduce new experimental trials over the coming months and could present a form of replay at next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

La Liga & Serie A: Real resilient against Villareal, Roma tops Inter

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26:  Mario Gaspar (R) of Villarreal competes for the ball with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images)
Fotopress/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Villareal 2-3 Real Madrid

The Yellow Submarine did everything right to open the second half but Real Madrid proved resilient once again to earn a victory at El Madrigal. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata each netted after the hour mark to help Los Blancos pick up three points and remain leap over Barcelona at the top of the table. Manu Trigueros and Cédric Bakambu scored within six minutes of one another to give Villareal a 2-0 early in the second half but Real began to press harder after the setback.

Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

It surely wasn’t the most attractive match at times, particularly for the visitors, but Lionel Messi was up to his old tricks once again and helped lift Barcelona into the top spot in La Liga. The Argentine attacker was persistent inside the Atletico box with the match nearing the end and Messi managed to break the deadlock in the 86th minute. Both sides traded goals earlier in the second stanza, with Rafinha getting Barca on the board before Diego Godin equalized six minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 3-0 Osasuna
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Celta Vigo
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Granada


Inter Milan 1-3 Roma

Mauro Icardi gave Inter a brief glimmer of hope, but Roma continued its fine form on Sunday against the Milan side. Radja Nainggolan’s incredible double helped provide the Giallorossi with a two-goal advantage in the second half before substitute Diego Perotti sealed Roma’s victory from the penalty spot.

Sassuolo 0-1 AC Milan

Controversy struck at the Mapei Stadium but it didn’t benefit the hosts. Carlos Bacca netted the game’s lone finish just 22 minutes in from the penalty spot but it was the Colombian that came into question for his attempt. Bacca slipped while taking his spot kick and appeared to hit the ball with both feet before it crossed the goal line, leaving Sassuolo players furious. Milan now sits in seventh place in Serie A, just four points outside of the top four.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Palermo 1-1 Sampdoria
Chievo 2-0 Pescara
Crotone 1-2 Cagliari
Genoa 1-1 Bologna
Lazio 1-0 Udinese