After three years, the reign of Pep Guardiola in Munich has finally come to an end. His tenure provided a heady mix of excitement, interest, occasional intrigue and for many disappointment. The dust has slowly started to settle, but the debate that has gone on for the past three seasons will no doubt continue. Long into the next one and beyond.
Some have branded Guardiola as a disaster for FC Bayern München. Others have lauded him as the best coach in the club’s history. Folks in the middle have swayed back and forth over a three year spell that has seen Bayern dominate the domestic scene, but fall short when it came to the big one. Der Henkelpott, old big ears, the Champions League trophy.
As we all look to examine the Guardiola era, the time has come for an analysis of the various positions that developed along the way. I have called this “the politics of Pep”. In many instances the discussion has become extremely heated; one only needs to examine some of the noisy ramblings on the internet by both sides. I too have thrown in my tuppence worth from time to time.
The purpose of this piece, however, is to inject a little light-heartedness into the discussion. Let’s see where you all stand on the Pep political spectrum.
Forged from the core of the anti-Tikitaka Party, the anti-Pepites are those who defy everything Pep Guardiola stands for. Slightly irrational with a possible leaning towards the old Magathite school, the anti-Pepite sees tiki-taka where it doesn’t even exist. Even when Pep tells the team to play in a more direct fashion, it is still seen as tiki-taka.
As well as wanting to expunge little passing triangles from the tactical chalkboard, the Anti-Pepite will usually demand a ban on the importation of paella, tapas and Estrella Damm.
Somewhat more measured that the anti-Pepite. The Speptic is willing to concede that Guardiola is a decent enough coach, but one that needs to be continually reined in. The Speptic believes that Guardiola is fundamentally alien to German football, and that his overly scientific Catalan influences need to be curbed wherever possible.
The Speptic is happy to toe the line when things are going well, but will usually make his voice heard when the coach allows himself to be outwitted by the likes of Bayer Leverkusen or Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The Euro-Speptic – also known as the “Juppist” – is more than happy to see Guardiola run the show domestically. They know that even a pot plant can win the Bundesliga with all of that high-quality footballing talent at its disposal. Being out-thought by coaches like Roger Schmidt or Thomas Tuchel is not a massive issue, as no matter what happens Bayern will always win the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal.
Things take on a completely different dimension when the team takes on the best of the best in European competition, however. The coach’s intransigence and unwillingness to employ the same approach as his predecessor Jupp Heynckes is what defines the Euro-Speptic’s position.
The Pep Legacist
The Pep Legacist is a Bayern fan who believes that Pep Guardiola came to Munich to forge a legacy for future coaches. There are in fact two sub-branches of the Pep Legacist movement, the “Accidentalists” and the “Denialists”.
While the Accidentalists believe that Guardiola did actually come to Munich to win the Champions League, they are happy to forgive his destroying the myth of the Bestia Negra for the greater good: his legacy. In short, his failure to win the Henkelpott was just an unfortunate accident.
Meanwhile, the Denialists argue that Pep never took the job to improve on his predecessor. He was installed by the Bayern board simply for the purpose of setting things up for those to follow.
The Guardiolista is driven by the firmly-held belief that Bayern could be transformed into the new Barcelona. Happy to adopt a red and blue stripy kit that would look at home at the Camp Nou, the Guardiolista is not ashamed to declare their love of tiki-taka. Still, that tiki-taka must be infused with a suitably-sized dollop of Bavarian Süße Senf to satiate the Speptical lobby.
Happy to see the core of German World Cup winners gradually replaced by up-and-coming Spanish internationals, the Guardolista is firmly wedded to the idea of the Españafication of FC Bayern. They will make excuses for the coach when his tactics go to pot against Spanish teams in the Champions League.
Unsurprisingly, the Guardiolista is happy to describe the enigmatic Catalan as the best coach in the history of FC Bayern München – a clear slap in the face for all of those Ribbeckites still out there.
A believer in three-year plans, the Ultra-Guardiolista’s mission is to transform football clubs through a scientific process. This process is unfathomable to those unfamiliar with its singular ideology. This system of belief suggests that Pep is God, and can do no wrong. Faith in the system out-trumps results, and possession truly is nine-tenths of the law.
Being wedded to the idea of Guardiola as God, the typical Ultra-Guardiolista isn’t even a Bayern fan. Stories have been told of some of them buying season tickets at Manchester City even before Pep told the Bayern players of his decision to not stay on in Munich.
Much like the centrist parties during the Spanish Civil War, the fence-sitter is happy to entertain all opinions so long as they don’t make waves. When the pro-Pep crowd have something to say, the Fence-Sitter will gently lean in their direction. When the anti-Pep machinery cranks into the gear, the Fence-Sitter will just lean the other way.
As a general rule, the Fence-Sitter doesn’t really care that much about the coach. He is there because the atmosphere in Munich is great, and the red Trikot is considerably smarter than Dortmund’s ugly yellow creation.