Managerial movements

Pep Guardiola now wants to try his hand in England and will take over at Manchester City at the start of next season.

Pep Guardiola moves to Manchester City.   -  AP

Gliding serenely above the managerial fray, though the autobiography of that maverick striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic recounts a dressing room confrontation in which Pep Guardiola was supposedly humiliated, Guardiola almost casually prepares to stroll away this summer from Bayern Munich; having won it yet another championship. And, where he has been just as successful as he previously had been with his original club Barcelona. First as the commanding captain, then as a triumphant manager.

He now wants to try his hand in England and will take over at Manchester City at the start of next season. Goodness knows they have the money more than ever since Chinese investors have poured more millions into the club. A team, which will almost certainly be competing once again in the European Champions Cup. An absolute must for Guardiola, which put Chelsea for all its own millions and desire for him, out of the running.

Typically Guardiola won’t rest on his Bayern laurels. He says he needs a new challenge. At City Guardiola would find two senior executives with whom he worked at Barcelona: Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain. Moulding the team to his style, at once hectic and sophisticated, would hardly be a problem: it was none at Bayern. That his wife prefers London might give a little hope to Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, but with no Champions Cup in view there is little chance of London for Pep.

But, while Pep sails majestically on, things at Old Trafford have gone horribly wrong for another manager who seemed among the untouchable elite. Louis van Gaal who arrived in Manchester trailing clouds of glory from a World Cup in which his Holland team had thrashed Spain and taken a commendable third-place at the expense of Brazil, has been disastrously unsuccessful, even if the team’s high position in the league table tends to give a highly misleading impression. In fact, far from inspiring an ailing team which had struggled under an unhappy David Moyes, van Gaal’s United was just as pedestrian, negative and mediocre. He and it were fiercely attacked by two former United stars, Steve Coppell and Paul Scholes. Coppell, a United and England outside-right of high versatility and quality, opined, ‘success in football is relatively easy if you spend the most money and you have the best players and the best team’. If that formula breaks down, then a cog has gone wrong and the cog that’s gone wrong appears to be the manager.

The philosophy Louis van Gaal has talked about for so long, it’s difficult to distinguish what that is. The players sometimes do not really understand what he’s trying to get through to them. Coppell himself, in his distinguished days at Reading as manager, very empathetically got through to teams in which there was only a fraction of United’s money to spend. As for Scholes, long known as a quiet man during his distinguished playing days, he on television has lacerated van Gaal’s methods and the drab, unadventurous performances of the team. Coppell for his part marvels at the fact that in a recent United game, three experienced players stayed on the subs bench while three relatively untested youngsters were on the field. Van Gaal, in fact, has spent fortunes, but the success he once had with Barcelona, Ajax, and Holland are no more than a remote memory.

Arsene Wenger has just been eulogised at length in a national newspaper, but you wonder quite why. Certainly he has established an extraordinary record at Arsenal having been in office since September 1996. Thus he has vastly outlasted Herbert Chapman, generally recognised as the true architect of Arsenal’s success, who was appointed manager in 1925 and died so early in 1934.

During those long years Wenger has won FA Cups and titles galore, but not in recent seasons so far as the League is concerned, and only in the last couple of seasons have the Gunners won the FA Cup.

Among his many successes have been the conversion of Thierry Henry, whom he managed at Monaco, from an outside-right into a prolific centre-forward, the development of Patrick Vieira into such a dominant midfielder and after his departure, the remarkable development of the far smaller Cesc Fabregas into a dynamic successor. And he has most successfully transferred Arsenal’s training grounds from one area of London Colney — which actually belonged to a University college — to another nearby with far more ambitious facilities. Yet had he been managing an Italian club, he could never have survived the three shocking defeats of a couple of seasons back; a 6-0 crushing at Chelsea, annihilation at Manchester City and Liverpool. And this very season, his reckless choice of a reserve goalkeeper in David Ospina, instead of the commanding GBP10 million Peter Cech, shrewdly acquired this season from Chelsea, embarrassingly cost them the first leg European Championship match against Olympiakos. They did beat Bayern Munich at home but crashed 5-1 in Germany. And, though they challenge strongly for what is surely a modest Championship, they went down 4-0 to Southampton.

At Liverpool, the dynamic Jurgen Klopp had archives with a fanfare of trumpets after years of success in charge of Borussia Dortmund; though he had relinquished his job by the time he joined Anfield. At first it seemed that Klopp would revitalise a listless Liverpool with his demanding tactics, defence constantly turned into attack and vice versa. But, as things stand, an unpredictable team, perhaps because it is too late in the season to install the demanding tactics Klopp requires. While his reluctance to use the towering Christian Benteke as his spearhead arguably blunts the fore of his attack.

His touchline antics are picturesque, his track record at Dortmund till his last season formidable. But at Anfield the best seems yet to come.

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