Pep Rice – Arsenal’s new no.2
Pep Guardiola has announced his decision to leave Barcelona at the end of the season, a decision he says had been made in his mind as early as September. Pep is someone that has been linked with Arsenal as Wenger’s long term successor and certainly someone that the majority of Arsenal fans would love to have at the club.
I personally have said it would a fantastic dream to have Pep join Arsenal next season as Wenger’s number two with the idea that after a few seasons Wenger would move upstairs and Pep would be the new number one. But that is all it is, a dream. Pep wants a break from the pressures of management and whilst I think he would have a less stressful life as Arsene’s number two I’m not sure that he would be interested. Not because it would be a step back for him, Pep has already said that he wants to take a step back in football which can be read anyway you like really. Guardiola has long been an admirer of Wenger’s and I don’t think he would see it as a step back to learn under the guidance of Wenger. Anyone who suggests Pep with his 13 trophies in 4 years has nothing to learn from Wenger understands seriously little about football.
Guardiola is a fantastic manager but he was very fortunate to inherit a team full of some of the best players in the world in their positions as well as the best player in the world, one of the best youth academies in the world and a board structure that allows him to spend big on players. Barca were in the ascendency, he was a man in the right place at the right time.
In four years at Barca he spent €250m and that isn’t even taking into consideration the complicated transfer of Ibrahimovic which was rumoured to have cost €69.5m in cash which would take his spend to €319.5m in four years. A yearly transfer spend of almost €80m. Regardless of what he recouped (nowhere near breaking even) he still spent €80m a year improving what was already the best team on the planet. Therefore was his job really that hard?
I think it still brought many of its own pressures but I see Guardiola as one of the worlds best coaches not one of the worlds best managers.
Despite his enviable trophy cabinet he would learn much from Arsene because Wenger has been a manager for 30 years, Guardiola only for 4. All great managers can learn from other great managers and all great managers can learn from less successful but more experienced managers.
I personally do not think Guardiola is ready to manage a team like Arsenal in the same vein that AVB was too inexperienced to manage Chelsea and him getting sacked was probably the best thing that will ever happen to him. Guardiola would have a lot to learn to become Arsenal manager. He would need to learn to adopt his coaching style to the premier league for starters. Barca play great possession and pressing based football similar to Arsenal but it offends me when people call Arsenal “Barca-lite”. I’m certain that if Arsenal played in La Liga they could play in an identical manner to Barca. Would we be as good? Debatable and I’m not even going to try and consider it. Arsenal play possession based football but at a much higher tempo, with greater speed of passing and greater strength. Arsenal have to play this way to stay true to their ideals but to also survive and compete in the premier league. Arsenal’s passing accuracy and possession stats rival Barca’s but they complete on average on 55% of the number of passes per game that Barca do and on occasion less than Xavi does on his own but 17 sideways passes between Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta before the ball crosses the halfway line to me shouldn’t count. Alas I digress. Guardiola would have to learn to run a club not just a team to work in the premier league unless he went to City or Chelsea where everything he needs would be paid for at the cost of success or his job.
I think Guardiola himself understands that he is not entirely ready to build and maintain the level of success he has had and I think he sees that Barca are slipping. Teams adapt to your tactics if you play the same way for too long or use the same players for too long and it has shown this year in La Liga.
Great teams run in cycles of 3-4 years. Wenger has stuck with his youth policy because he believes that he can create a team that will have a cycle of 6-7 years just by making a tweak every year rather than an overhaul every 3. He was just getting there and this summer he lost two of his integral pieces. Wenger is often criticised for dismantling the invincibles too quickly but some people forget that the invincible team had really achieved the maximum of their potential and were coming to the end of their 3-4 year cycle. Could they have really gone on or would they have been like the Chelsea of this year (in the league, cups are different)? A team whose cycle ended about 2 years ago but didn’t have the chance to change because of their micromanaging owner. Would Arsenal have finished in the top 4 in 06/07/08 with the invincibles?
Guardiola isn’t stupid and knows that Barca’s cycle is ending and realised that reinventing them would be difficult because of the level of expectancy he had built up since 2008 and his level of spending would probably no longer be masked by media drooling and silverware. He made the right choice. He can now take his time to build something new elsewhere and I personally hope that he decides to do it with Arsenal. At Arsenal he would have the infrastructure that he needed and the backing of a board that are extraordinarily patient for a big club especially when a minority of very loud fans are trying to cause trouble for the manager. I don’t like the Arsenal board but I respect their resolve when it comes to backing Arsene.
Pep would also benefit from having someone like Arsene in a boardroom role who could help implement his plans without question. They do share the same philosophy so trusting the other to deliver would not be an issue at all.
There is no doubt that Pep Guardiola is a fantastic manager and someone whom I would love to see at Arsenal once Wenger retires but I’m not so sure that he would be able to make a team successful with his level of experience without incredible amounts of transfer funds available and a seriously great group of existing players. Hopefully he will be on the market when Arsene retires and Arsenal will have that group of players in Jack, Ryo, Ox, Rambo, Jenks, Gibbs, Szczesny, Afobe, Coquelin and Campbell and maybe not have so much debt affecting our transfer funds.
It would be an amazing partnership to see Pep as Arsene’s new number 2 but sadly that will never happen. I really hope I am wrong though.
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