Munich - After 45 minutes of waiting, the fans slowly become restless. Several hundred of them have gathered at FC Bayern München’s training ground hoping to catch a glimpse of their idols, but the players are nowhere to be seen.
Instead, Pep Guardiola has his charges doing their daily drills out of sight, despite this being a scheduled public training session. For the Catalan tactician, it’s simply another day at a club where he has wasted no time in making his own stylistic adjustments.
When current USA boss Jürgen Klinsmann was named Bayern coach in 2008, he turned much of the club's internal structures inside out in an effort to make the club more accessible to the average fan. The process was continued by his successors Louis van Gaal and Jupp Heynckes, the latter emphasising quality instead of quantity by reducing the number of public training sessions but allowing supporters even greater access to the players. “It’s a wonderful thing for the fans,” said the veteran coach while still in charge. “[Public training sessions] are part and parcel of what this club does.”
The custom is somewhat different in Spain, however, and Guardiola has adopted a more enclosed approach. “Sometimes you need to work with no distractions,” rationalises the former FC Barcelona man. On the pitch his signature is control, possession and domination of the game and the opposition; off it he is the meticulous conductor of the Bayern orchestra, obsessively planning every element of his team’s development, and happy to do so behind closed doors.
‘Know the club better’
It is now over a year since the Santpedor native arrived in Munich, and he says he now knows how the club ticks, and how its intricacies and habits affect his work. “I know the league, this club and above all my players a bit better now,” he said in the summer. “I’m more relaxed and I don’t feel as nervous as I did last season.”
On this warm September morning, he eventually sends his players off to train in front of the assembled supporters, assigning them passing, shooting, five-a-side and stretching exercises, participating either with passionate gestures or by joining in himself. He nevertheless makes sure to keep the most important messages private, taking every opportunity to whisper a word of wisdom in the ear of Franck Ribery or new signing Medhi Benatia.
‘Have to adapt’
Guardiola is keen to establish a collective philosophy that every player can buy into. Just as he did himself back in June 2013, new signing Xabi Alonso, one of five Spanish players at the club, attempted his first press conference in German last week, and even though a multitude of languages are spoken on the training ground, the coach is unequivocal about which is the primary mode of communication. “The main language here is German. Us Spanish just have to adapt.”
Following victory against VfL Wolfsburg and a hard-fought draw against FC Schalke 04, the Reds have made an adequate start to the campaign. Yet the injury list is mounting (Javi Martinez, Thiago and Bastian Schweinsteiger are all currently sidelined) and the pace is already being set by Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the top of the league. Guardiola knows there is work to do to recover, and will have already begun plotting just how to do that in his own inimitable way.
Maximilian Lotz / Bernie Reeves
This article is part two of our ‘Guardiola’s Bayern’ series, which began this week.