#FC BARCELONA

Guardiola’s Golden Age

When Pep Guardiola took the reins of an ailing FC Barcelona from Frank Rijkaard in 2008, he almost immediately began to form a dynasty. The team would go on to become one of the most successful and admired sides ever assembled...

Fan Ink

Mar 24, 21

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When Pep Guardiola took the reins of an ailing FC Barcelona from Frank Rijkaard in 2008, he almost immediately began to form a dynasty. The team would go on to become one of the most successful and admired sides ever assembled, displaying near-mastery of their artful (or irritating, depending who your support) “tiki-taka” style of play - a modern advancement of Cruyff’s total football philosophy, which flipped football on its cerebral head, and sent fans into mania.

Here, we list our Top 5 key ingredients to Guardiola’s epoch-defining team between 2008-2012:
When Pep Guardiola took the reins of an ailing FC Barcelona from Frank Rijkaard in 2008, he almost immediately began to form a dynasty. The team would go on to become one of the most successful and admired sides ever assembled, displaying near-mastery of their artful (or irritating, depending who your support) “tiki-taka” style of play - a modern advancement of Cruyff’s total football philosophy, which flipped football on its cerebral head, and sent fans into mania.

Here, we list our Top 5 key ingredients to Guardiola’s epoch-defining team between 2008-2012:
1. Trimming the Fat - Often a manager’s first course of action is to rid his newly acquired squad of any dead weight, so he can build from a fortified foundation of trust above all. Such was the case for Pep and a certain Ronaldinho. Guardiola began his regime by promptly selling the Brazilian to AC Milan. A charming cult deity of the club, Ronaldinho was also a symbol for the antiquation of its success, whose boyish grin masked a more serious eroding work ethic that infiltrated the team. Instead, Pep promoted the more dutiful Sergio Busquets and Pedro from the bench and rallied his team around a focal core of “good boys” committed to the belief that collective efforts would culminate to something greater than oneself.

2. Xavi-Iniesta Alliance - Xavi and Iniesta had a virtually telepathic understanding in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield. Teammates for both club and country, the two calmly developed one of the greatest and most reliable partnerships in football history, running rings (or triangles) around the opposition with breathtaking slight of feet. Deploying responsibility to Xavi and Iniesta was also an intelligent redistribution of pressure away from a notoriously introverted and enigmatic Messi, who enjoyed a breakout spell under Guardiola. As well as delivering velvety performances week in week out, Xavi and Iniesta remained consummate professionals of it, and emblematic of the kind of discipline Pep orchestrated at the time.
1. Trimming the Fat - Often a manager’s first course of action is to rid his newly acquired squad of any dead weight, so he can build from a fortified foundation of trust above all. Such was the case for Pep and a certain Ronaldinho. Guardiola began his regime by promptly selling the Brazilian to AC Milan. A charming cult deity of the club, Ronaldinho was also a symbol for the antiquation of its success, whose boyish grin masked a more serious eroding work ethic that infiltrated the team. Instead, Pep promoted the more dutiful Sergio Busquets and Pedro from the bench and rallied his team around a focal core of “good boys” committed to the belief that collective efforts would culminate to something greater than oneself.

2. Xavi-Iniesta Alliance - Xavi and Iniesta had a virtually telepathic understanding in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield. Teammates for both club and country, the two calmly developed one of the greatest and most reliable partnerships in football history, running rings (or triangles) around the opposition with breathtaking slight of feet. Deploying responsibility to Xavi and Iniesta was also an intelligent redistribution of pressure away from a notoriously introverted and enigmatic Messi, who enjoyed a breakout spell under Guardiola. As well as delivering velvety performances week in week out, Xavi and Iniesta remained consummate professionals of it, and emblematic of the kind of discipline Pep orchestrated at the time.
THE FALSE 9

3. Moving Messi to False 9 - Though maybe obvious now, at the time, dropping Messi to a deeper role as a false number nine was criticized even by some of his own teammates. As Guardiola saw it, Messi would be given more freedom to float in the seams, relying on his own uncoachable intuition to find space while the rest of the team remained tethered to positional duties. This marked another intelligent handling of Messi by Guardiola, that paid off in spades and in silverware.

4. Eric Abidal's Return - Few things can galvanize a team behind a cause more effectively than a common enemy. When popular teammate, Eric Abidal, was diagnosed with a liver tumor in February 2011, vulnerability infiltrated a team that appeared invincible. That vulnerability would calcify, however, and unite the entire club and its fans, which culminated when Abidal made an emphatic return to fitness that same year and went on to start in the Champions League final against Manchester United - a game that Barcelona would go on to win, and a trophy that Abidal was presented with by captain Carlos Puyol - it created a bond between fans, players, and coaches alike that felt altogether bigger than football.
4. Eric Abidal's Return - Few things can galvanize a team behind a cause more effectively than a common enemy. When popular teammate, Eric Abidal, was diagnosed with a liver tumor in February 2011, vulnerability infiltrated a team that appeared invincible. That vulnerability would calcify, however, and unite the entire club and its fans, which culminated when Abidal made an emphatic return to fitness that same year and went on to start in the Champions League final against Manchester United - a game that Barcelona would go on to win, and a trophy that Abidal was presented with by captain Carlos Puyol - it created a bond between fans, players, and coaches alike that felt altogether bigger than football.

“NOW STREAMING”

5. The Guardiola System - Barcelona had previously used a more circumspect 4-3-3 formation under Rijkaard that rested on the glittering performances of Ronaldinho and Eto’o. However, Guardiola changed that formation to a 3-4-3, with the central midfield serving as the nucleus of the entire game. He implemented a high-press, possession-based style of play, with renewed discipline and ever-abiding wingers who ran often without retribution, which required the total absence of ego. The Guardiola System of play, known as “tiki-taka” was not only seductive to watch, but was heralded as the golden era of complete football at Camp Nou. Check out the 2018 film, Take the Ball, Pass the Ball  for more about Guardiola’s tactical realization of one of the best teams in history.

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