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The long read: Guardiola's 16-point blueprint for dominance - his methods, management and tactics

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Meet Pep’s Entourage

Coming together at Barcelona, Guardiola’s now-established team followed him to Bavaria and now to Manchester. Meet the men behind the manager. 

Pep Guardiola's back room staff

(Clockwise from top left) Manel Estiarte, Lorenzo Buenaventura, Carles Planchart, Domenec Torrent

Domenec Torrent Assistant coach
At Guardiola’s side since 2007, Torrent has evolved from doing scouting for Barcelona B to becoming assistant coach at Bayern Munich. Torrent stayed in the Catalan capital a year longer than Guardiola, who eventually persuaded him to move to Germany as his second-in-command.

Never without an iPad on the bench, Torrent is credited with convincing Guardiola to play erstwhile full-back Philipp Lahm as a central midfielder for the first time in an official game (the 2013 UEFA Super Cup against Chelsea). 

“All the pieces fell together with that decision,” Guardiola later said. “If we win anything, it’s because of that.”

Manel Estiarte Personal assistant
One of the finest water polo players of all time (he’s known as the sport’s Maradona), Estiarte met Guardiola during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and they’ve been firm friends ever since. He was head of external relations at Barça, and joined Bayern Munich as Pep’s personal assistant. 

Before the shootout in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, Guardiola used Estiarte’s water polo prowess to inspire victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. “He’s the best penalty-taker in the world,” Pep told his players. “I’ve learned two things from Manel: don’t change your mind, and believe you’re going to score.” No Bayern player missed.

Lorenzo Buenaventura Fitness coach
Without Buenaventura’s training ground exercises, the Guardiola coaching model would fall apart.

Buenaventura is a disciple of Paco Seirul-lo, the fitness coach for Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona, who tutored Guardiola in the late ’80s, and he passionately shares the Bayern boss’ belief that all training exercises must be carried out with a ball, at maximum intensity, for their ceaseless attacking model to properly function. 

In short, Buenaventura is the brains behind training – which, in many ways, makes him the brains behind the entire Guardiola backroom operation.

Carles Planchart Head of analysis
Planchart arrived in Munich at the same time as Torrent, providing the Bundesliga champions with in-game analysis of Bayern’s patterns of play from the stands to Torrent’s iPad. Guardiola, Torrent and Planchart then feed this into the half-time team talk.

But it is his forensic dossiers on upcoming opponents that Guardiola appreciates most. Frequently working two weeks ahead of himself, Planchart and his team review the opposition’s previous six matches, with 50-60 bite-size moves adding further detail.

Planchart’s work is available the day after the previous game and shapes training for the following week.

“He’s often a sarcastic joker”

Meet Marti Perarnau, the author who got up close and personal with Pep at Bayern

The special quality he has is in how he interprets football – he understands it like no one else

- Pep biographer Marti Perarnau

You’ve spent more time with Guardiola than anyone outside his closest circle. What’s he like?
There’s very little that is special about him. He’s just very normal and unassuming. As a coach, he’s very famous, and some of what you see publically is to protect himself and his family.
 
The perception is that because he’s such a great coach, there must be something different to him, but that’s not really the case. He’s very humble and always deals with problems personally. The special quality he has is in how he interprets football – he understands it like no one else.
 
Does he ever stop thinking about the sport?
He does, but the majority of his day-to-day life is dedicated to football. He’s obsessive in the sense that he constantly applies theories and things he reads to football in order to become better. His mentality is to learn. He likes knowing new things. It’s why he went from Barcelona to New York, to Munich and next, to England.

He jokes about only wanting to see the restaurants, but it is all to learn. He meets new people, learns about new cultures and how to then incorporate those cultures into his coaching. That is why he went to the concentration camp at Dachau. It will be the same case in England, too. He’s a better coach now than before he went to work in Germany because of it.

Pep Guardiola walks through Central Park

2013: Guardiola spotted walking through Central Park

How does he deal with defeats?
They affect him more than other coaches, because he so rarely loses matches. He blamed himself for the Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid in 2014. He really hurt – it took him days to get over it. He’s always with his coaches analysing the ‘why?’. He tries not to get too carried away with victories, nor too down after tough defeats. There’s no depression there.

He’s a real joker with his players. He’s always tapping players on the arse, or giving them a playful slap around the head

- Pep biographer Marti Perarnau

What is his sense of humour like? Does he have one?
He’s a real joker with his players. At the beginning they didn’t understand his ways at Bayern. He can be quite sarcastic and they thought he was being serious. He’s always tapping players on the arse, or giving them a playful slap around the head. It shocked them a bit. Pep’s really tactile, with hugs, even kisses. He is very Latin in that sense.
 
Will the press be a problem?
He doesn’t give one-on-one interviews, apart from obligatory ones for rights holders, but you can ask him anything at a press conference. Sections of the German press didn’t warm to him, but that’s life. You’ve got four chances to speak to him – before and after matches, assuming there are two per week – and he will talk without limits. He loves talking about football, his philosophy and his team.

Pep Guardiola smiles

Pep doesn't give one-on-one interviews with the press

How was your year living so close to him?
I didn’t know him before Munich. It was amazing to be so close to such a brilliant coach teaching a team a totally new way. They’re masters at it now. I had doubts at the beginning, but Lahm, Robben and Ribery want to learn. Trying to figure out what Pep is trying to do wasn’t easy for them – imagine what it was like for me!

We do things differently here

Pep may have conquered all in Spain and Germany so far, but English football presents some unique challenges

“Football, football, football”
It took just three months for Jurgen Klopp to understand what the English game is all about: football, and lots of it. Even a manager as well prepared as the German didn’t realise there are replays in the FA Cup and two legs in the League Cup semi-final. Guardiola will be spending more time pitchside than ever before.
 
It’s all in the mind
Guardiola, meet Pardiola. The Premier League may have lost Alex Ferguson, but there’s no shortage of mind-games masters, from Alan Pardew to Pep's old nemesis Jose Mourinho. Don’t get drawn in, Pep – that’s what they want.
 
 
Beware of the media
Louis van Gaal is as experienced as they come but he still allowed the English media to get to him, even to the point of storming out of a press conference. As a manager who craved increased training-ground privacy at Barcelona and Bayern, and doesn’t do one-on-one interviews, Pep may find there’s no place to hide in the Premier League goldfish bowl.
 
A winter of discontent
Apart from Israel, every UEFA country outside Britain has a winter break, and it’s something Guardiola will be accustomed to from his time in Spain (where they break for two weeks) and Germany (four). Sorry, señor, but Leicester’s nothing like Qatar.
 
There are no easy games, Jeff
The cliché has had a rebirth this season, with a new TV deal giving the Premier League’s smaller clubs budgets comparable to only the biggest teams in mainland Europe. “After we beat Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City away, people are expecting us to beat Norwich 6-0,” explained West Ham boss Slaven Bilic in September. “It doesn’t happen like that.” Indeed it doesn’t – they drew 2-2. There are far fewer whipping boys in England than Spain and Germany.

Claudio Ranieri lifts the Premier League title

Leicester's success last season provides extra evidence to how unpredictable the Premier League is

Stoke on a wet and windy Tuesday
It was Andy Gray who suggested that, as great as Guardiola’s Barça were, they’d struggle on a wet, windy night in the Potteries. Stoke may be undergoing an image change, but a visit to the Premier League’s coldest and second-noisiest ground (according to a recent study) remains the acid test of a team’s title credentials. Can Pep pass it?

This cover feature first appeared in the March 2016 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe!