EPL Bayernly Crossed My Mind


r-PEP-GUARDIOLA-BAYERN-MUNICH-largeOn Wednesday, Pep Guardiola officially announced his agreement to take on the manager’s role at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, when current gaffer Jupp Heynckes, aged 67, retires.

The decision of the 41-year-old former Barcelona legend to sign a 3-year contract with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up has been met with shock, especially in England, where media hype had fans convinced his arrival on British soil was imminent.

However, anyone with half a brain cell or a semi-respectable knowledge of the football industry will appreciate that Bayern Munich were the only club that Guardiola was ever interested in, for some painfully obvious reasons.

So, while Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness conceded, “Only a coach of Guardiola’s caliber came into consideration,” the feeling was entirely mutual on Guardiola’s behalf.

Perhaps more than any other club, Manchester City were touted as the ex-Spanish international’s next challenge, with many believing previous appointments of former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain and Ferra Sorriano acted as a pulling factor. Those in the know will understand this element was, in fact, dissuasive as numerous signings made when Begiristain and Guardiola worked in conjunction were failures, leaving relations between the two strained at best.

Having spent the first 18 years of his playing career encapsulated by the unique family orientated philosophy that Barcelona have developed, the prospect of dealing with a squad of overgrown, selfishly uncontrollable ego’s that poisons City’s squad would have been enough to strike the current Premier League champions off his list.

The other club in the non-existent race for the Catalan’s signature was apparently Chelsea. Boasting the luxurious title of current ‘Champions of Europe’ is not enough to mask the hideous identity crisis that has taken over Stamford Bridge, leading to appointments of bitter enemies and skirmishes between their own fans during recent matches. Sure Mr. Abramovich would undoubtedly throw huge sums of pocket change in the Spaniard’s direction, but Guardiola has considerably more class.

img_pod_Barcelona-Pep-Guardiola-Champions-League-Manchester-United--Wembley-LondonHe has evolved and achieved excellence as a player then as a manager at a club run and owned by its supporters. Bayern too, are a fan owned club, without the rich interfering businessman owner that comes as standard at Chelski.

Enough of why the ‘top’ English clubs failed to attract one of Europe’s hottest talents and on to the reasons why Bayern Munich so obviously present the most attractive offer for Guardiola.

Bayern Munich are already regarded as one of Europe’s top 5 greatest ever clubs, having been crowned European champions on four previous occasions and runners-up twice in the last three seasons, solidifying their heavyweight status with a history richer than that of Barcelona.

Friend and former teammate of Guardiola, Ajax manager, Frank de Boer claims ex-Bayern coach Louis van Gaal admitted, “It is a very professional club, a well-run club, with the same kind of philosophy as Barcelona.” He was convinced Guardiola’s decision was entirely “…down to the structure of the club.” Former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves concurred, “The facilities and stadium are perhaps better than anywhere in the world.”

The make-up of Bayern’s squad, the style of football they already play and the ability they possess to be molded further to fully represent Guardiola’s footballing fantasy were the key factors in his decision.

His Barcelona team had a strong core of experienced players in Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Lionel Messi, whilst Bayern boast a healthy backbone of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery. Known for his utilisation of youth prospects, he will be fully aware of hot prospects in Xherdan Shaqiri, David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez who all fall under the age of 24. In total, Bayern’s squad boasts eight German internationals.

Having shifted towards a Barcelona-esque keep ball style in recent years, Bayern boast an average of 63 percent possession per game this season, second only to Barcelona with 68.8 percent. Successful passes sees them second again only to Barca, 87.6 percent to 89.7 percent and when it comes to pass completion, the top two players in Europe were, (obviously) Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez on 95.3 percent followed by Bayern’s Holger Badstuber on 93.1 percent.

But, they play in the Bundesliga, I hear you scream. Well here’s a statistic for you – UEFA’s 2013 ranking of domestic league places scored the German Bundesliga on 75 points in third place, just a mere two points behind the Premier League on 77 points in second place. Furthermore, if the FIFA World XI is anything to go by, the Premier League has as many bragging right as the Bundesliga – none.

oktoberfestThe argument that Pep Guardiola still has a lot to prove is a valid one, given that he possesses just four years experience at the top level.

Granted he won an incredible 14 titles during his short reign, though he was working alongside, what is generally accepted to be, the greatest footballing team and individual in the history of the game. Tito Vilanova’s 11-point cushion at the summit of La Liga backs this argument.

If nothing else, his spell at Bayern will certainly help to answer any lingering doubts about his managerial ability.

For those English football fans still in unfounded shock, fear not, Guardiola confessed, “I hope in the future, I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there.”

For everyone else living in the real world, rejoice, for you now have a legitimate reason to attend Oktoberfest this year.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

Five Famous Football Fightbacks


On Saturday, an 87th minute Javier Hernandez header sparked scenes of elation for Manchester United and their 3,000-strong travelling support at Villa Park, as the visitors clawed back a two-goal deficit to defeat Aston Villa 3-2.

The Mexican took his tally to seven goals in his last five appearances, clinically converting either side of a Ron Vlaar own goal, that Hernandez himself forced upon the Dutch centre-back. Andreas Weimann’s double sandwiching half-time, gave Villa a surprise, two-goal cushion, but with 40 minutes still remaining, United were far from dead and buried.

A twenty-minute attacking frenzy, in which Robin Van Persie, who failed to score for once, hit the woodwork twice, saw the visitors complete yet another soul-destroying comeback with seconds to spare. This result moved the Red Devils four points clear of second place Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League and to those less knowledgeable in footballing matters, this performance may have appeared extraordinary.

But, for those of us in the know, it was nothing of the sort. There was nothing extra to this display by the comeback kings that we haven’t seen on so many occasions previously.

This season alone, United have comeback from losing positions to defeat Premier League opposition five times, claiming 15 points from otherwise profitless scenarios. Manchester United have come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat so often during Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious managerial career, proving that his never-say-die attitude has transformed the very ethos of the club.

With so many wonderful examples to choose from and after some serious consideration, Sport 4 Thought brings you Manchester United’s Five Greatest Comebacks of all-time:

5. Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 5 Manchester United (Premier League 2001/02)

With first-half goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege, the White Hart Lane faithful could barely believe their eyes as they trudged off at the break 3-0 up against United. Cue hairdryer. The visiting side that emerged for the second-half was totally rejuvenated. An early 46th minute header from Andy Cole was the start of the end for Spurs who then conceded a further four goals to four more scorers in Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Veron and David Beckham. The Spurs fans looked equally stunned at the full-time whistle.

4. Manchester City 2 – 3 Manchester United (Premier League 1993/94)

Following two headed goals in the first half from the big Niall Quinn, Maine Road was a bubbling cauldron of joy, the blue half of Manchester ecstatic with their lead over their local neighbours. However, with Eric Cantona on the pitch, nothing was ever certain and two goals from the flamboyant Frenchman were capped off with an 86th minute, back-post finish from Roy Keane to propel United to a second successive Premier League title.

3. Manchester United 2 – 1 Sheffield Wednesday (Premier League 1992/93)

A 65th minute John Sheridan penalty shook the home team who were desperate for victory to keep their title bid alive. Staring down the barrels of defeat, unlikely hero Steve Bruce fired home not one, but two headers in the 86th and 90th minutes. These goals sparked the infamous Brian Kidd on-pitch, jumping jack celebration and more importantly, helped United to their first league title since 1967. This was the catalyst for success on a grand scale, that has seen the Premier League title return to Old Trafford 12 times from a possible 20.

2. Juventus 2 – 3 Manchester United (Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg 1999)

Following a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, United were in for an uphill struggle against a formidable Juventus side in Turin. With Ryan Giggs declared unfit to play, things went from bad to worse when the home side scored twice inside the opening ten minutes through a Filippo Inzaghi brace. But the visitors refused to take defeat lying down and captain Roy Keane headed home after 24 minutes, with Dwight Yorke equalising before the break. Andy Cole completed the historic comeback, scoring the winner in the 85th minute, sending United through to their first European Cup Final in 31 years.

1. Manchester United 2 – 1 Bayern Munich (Champions League Final 1999)

Missing key midfield duo Roy Keane and Paul Scholes through suspension, United’s hopes of success were dealt a huge blow when a Mario Basler free-kick found the back of Peter Schmeichel’s net after just 6 minutes. With the game all but over, a last gasp corner enabled Teddy Sheringham to convert in the 91st minute to bring the scores level in a dramatic climax. Then the unthinkable. In the 93rd minute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found the net from close range to send the players and fans into raptures. The day of the final would have marked the 90th birthday of legend Sir Matt Busby, the only other manager to have won the European Cup with Manchester United, in 1968. The king of all comebacks, left Sir Alex Ferguson with only this to say…”Football, bloody hell!”

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought

English Premier League All-Time Table (1992 – Present)


Position Team P W D L GD PTS
1 Man United 782 508 163 111 +893 1687
2 Arsenal 782 419 207 156 +635 1464
3 Chelsea 782 408 201 173 +553 1425
4 Liverpool 781 382 198 201 +481 1344
5 Tottenham 782 299 206 277 +55 1103
6 Aston Villa 782 285 243 254 +44 1098
7 Everton 782 274 223 283 +1 1051
8 Newcastle 701 280 190 231 +109 1030
9 Blackburn 696 262 184 250 +20 970
10 Man City 592 217 155 220 +44 806
11 West Ham 626 206 161 259 -155 779
12 Leeds United 468 189 125 154 +68 692
13 Middlesbrough 536 160 156 220 -120 633
14 Southampton 515 151 138 226 -152 591
15 Bolton 494 149 128 217 -170 575
16 Fulham 428 134 124 170 -67 526
17 Sunderland 427 113 110 204 -187 449
18 Coventry City 354 99 112 143 -103 409
19 Sheffield Wed 316 101 89 126 -44 392
20 Wimbledon 316 99 94 123 -88 391

P = Played  W = Won  D = Drawn  L = Lost  GD = Goal Difference  PTS = Points

Sport 4 Thought