Guardiola's first day looms

There's a new face in town on Monday. Photo: Wikimedia CommonsThe off-season in football is quickly become a nonentity. The overhanging World Cup in Brazil has undoubtedly played a role in altering the fixture list but the months of speculation and transfer nonsense are quickly becoming lost in modern football's canvas. Hardly surprising then that Pep Guardiola's long-awaited arrival has in fact, arrived.

After last season's treble-winning heroics, Heynckes has left Guardiola quite a job. Expectations are inevitably but understandably high. Arriving from Barcelona with 14 titles in four years, Guardiola has an impressive off-field reputation to match his own brand of midfield magic back when he was the man at the heart of the other FCB.

It may sound like nothing more than my prerogative but I do feel the man still has a great deal to prove. His only posting so far has been Barcelona and although his aforementioned record is impressive, it is his only record with his only club. Building a team around the world's most talented player certainly aids the task at hand but so does having the right level of maturity in enough areas of the pitch. Barcelona certainly had that during his time. There's no doubt he deserves credit for getting the collective to produce with such regularity and excellence but applying that to a new crop is, and always has been, the real test of a manager's ability.

Upon his arrival at Barcelona he was keen to shuffle the pack and make the team his own. It is easy to argue of course that he did this with slightly more swagger because of the nature of his relationship with Barcelona but at the same time, it leaves us pondering whether he will do the same in Munich. The club's second most expensive signing, Mario Gomez, certainly appears to be headed towards pasture new simply because he doesn't fit but who, if anyone, else will follow? What of new arrivals? Who will join Jan Kirchhoff and Mario Goetze?

Guardiola has always been a coach who believes in doing things that feel right. His decision to move Messi into a more central position worked wonders, as did his tendency to play three at the back but there are still blemishes on show. The decision to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not only flawed because of his personality clash but also because he was effectively a Plan B for a side that never looked beyond Plan A. His subdued relationship with José Mourinho came to an uncharacteristic boiling over, suggesting a darker side to Guardiola.

Nevertheless, that outburst is an anomaly and he remains a consummate professional in the realms of the media spotlight. The fact he is expected to have his first press conference in German is both a credit to his work ethic and his intelligent nature. Having spent a year out of the kitchen and in the restaurant, Guardiola returns with a great deal to prove. In Bayern he has the strongest squad in modern football and one brimming with all the confidence that comes with epidemic success. He has already secured Germany's most exciting attacking midfielder and has the opportunity to win a plethora of trophies in his first season in Germany. What can go wrong?

An over-attentive German press and an obsessive crowd will scrutinize Guardiola's every move and decision. Alongside the 25,000 expected for his opening training session on Wednesday, the dramatic increase in popularity that the Bundesliga has enjoyed over the last few years will certainly increase scrutiny. The "kitchen" will certainly be even hotter than before and rightfully so. As much as Vilanova's lack of an impact at Barcelona could highlight Guardiola's secrets, proving his ability with this current Bayern squad will be even more important.

J.D. Salinger found his inspiration in Manhattan and maybe that year away has given Guardiola the renewed energy he needed. Who knows, maybe even adolescent alienation is something he too will have to contend with.


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