The Guardiola Effect: German National Team Edition
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein) The Germans Can Go From #2 to #1
Besides the obvious question that came into mind when Guardiola’s appointment was announced, (how will the team change? who is going to leave the club? who might join?) one far more reaching question came into my mind. How will this effect the German national team? Pep’s influence was certainly seen on the Spanish national team.
The concept of tiki-taka was conceived long before Pep came into the helm of Barcelona’s finest, but what Guardiola’s greatest accomplishment was, was really bring the concept to full fruition. Spain won EURO 2008 averaging 50% possession in the group stage. That sounds incredibly low to the Spain of today (maybe not “incredible” but still too low). The following season 08/09, Guardiola is appointed and the remake of Barcelona begins. Deco, Ronaldinho, Zambrotta and many others are offloaded to other clubs as Pep begins his reign of dominance and increased reliance of possession based football. The mantra, “we can’t lose if the opposition don’t ever touch the ball,” comes into play. The beginning of one of the most successful runs in club and international football begins. As Barcelona became more possession based, so did Spain. The core of Spain (Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, and Puyol) all played for Barcelona. There were Madrid based, and elsewhere, players that merely complemented the catalan style of play. David Silva, Torres, Villa, Fabregas (both of whom would move to Barcelona after the World Cup), Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso all were technical players that could buy into this system. The Spain approach is not as possession based, a bit more pragmatic, but the style was still heavily influenced by Barcelona, owing to the fact that the midfield core was from Barcelona. Now the core midfield in and out of games had become Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Xabi Alonso. Alonso was the only player not on Barcelona.
At World Cup 2010, their statistics jumped up to 58.14% possession. 8.14% increase in possession over two years since Pep Guardiola became coach. As Barcelona became more successful, their possession based game more perfected, so was Spain’s game. Now before the next EURO, Spain had now become the midfield composed of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Alonso, and Fabregas had a much bigger role as the infamous “false nine.” In EURO 2012, Spain possession now marked at an average of 63%. In four years, Spain went from playing with average amounts of possession to 63%. Almost two thirds of any given soccer game fell into the hands (well, feet) of Spain. The future of Spain also looks to be Barcelona based as new youth players make their marks on the team, soon to be complimented by the like of Juan Mata, Javi Garcia and Javi Martinez. Iniesta still has years in him to play for Spain, as does Alonso and Xavi who aren’t retiring soon.
Now why such the long introduction? Because the same can happen with Germany. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are the biggest contributors to the German national team. Players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Phillip Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez are all major players in the national side. Younger players like Emre Can are inevitably going to join the German ranks on one of the youngest teams likely to be fielded at the next world cup. Pep Guardiola is a manager who wants his teams to be possession based, technically gifted, and overall unselfish. He has the players he needs here at Bayern Munich to turn them into another pupil of tiki-taka teachings. Not to mention players elsewhere such as Mesut Özil, who plays on Real Madrid, wunderkind Mario Götze, Sven Bender and Marko Reus all on Dortmund who already play a quicker, possession based version of football. Not to mention Schalke’s Draxler and Holtby, and André Schürle and Lars Bender of Leverkusen. It would be very easy for the non-Munich nationals to adapt to the tiki-taka system. Germany are already a very technical side, with the conversion of Schweinsteiger from winger to midfield general the mark of Germany’s progress as a side. A new German form of Spain, quicker, fearless, strong and tall will be extremely dangerous. Germany are already one of the world’s best, this can make them a rival capable of knocking the Spanish off their thrown. Who will become the world’s favorite after this possible change?
Long live the king?
Written by Franz Lino