Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola looks like a man who could use another set of finger-nails and perhaps thicker skin, as he eagerly awaits to see if his master-plan for the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign pays off.
To say that Guardiola is under an intolerable amount of pressure is an understatement, and even if he were to repeat the double of the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, two trophies which the club have won 12 times in the past ten years, he would most likely be sacked.
The pressure on Guardiola
It is almost unquestionable for a manager to be sacked after winning two of the biggest trophies in domestic football, and at some clubs like Arsenal to win one domestic trophy it would be seen as a godsend and a passage for future years of tangible glory.
Bayern have won both the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal, the German version of the FA Cup, 12 times in the last ten years, and it is fair to say that some of the club’s longest servants such as Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger seem bored stiff of lifting them.
Despite guiding Bayern to this commonality as well as to Super Cup and FIFA World Cup honours, it is true to say that the smiles started to wear thin when the Bavarian Giants were kicked out of the 2013-14 Champions League, in a humiliating fashion, as they lost 5-0 to Real Madrid in the last four.
This defeat was certainly not in anyone’s scripts, from the eager fans who just months ago watched their side beat bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund to lift their fifth Champions League trophy, to the club’s hierarchy who expected their club to continue their domination in the world of football.
At one point in the early summer months it seemed that Guardiola could be on his way out after reports emerged that the Spaniard had lost the faith of the fans and his players.
A couple of months later, via Germany becoming World Champions for a fourth time in their history, and with a nation obviously on a high, club chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spoke for thousands of Bayern fans when he said that Guardiola would be given a second chance to prove his worth.
The impossible dream?
Perhaps, the task facing the former Barcelona manager is bigger and more terrifying than it has ever been; with reports in Germany suggesting that it is perhaps harder not to win the Champions League trophy than to indeed win it.
Guardiola at this moment in time has everything at his disposal, from the backing of the board, to unlimited funds, to six world champions in his side, to a wealth of experience in both fields of success and bitter disappointment.
The Spaniard, unlike Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, who together have spent over £200 million on transfers this summer, has been very cautious in the market, adding with respectable amounts of money as he goes.
Robert Lewandowski aside, who in reality had all but joined Bayern before Pep Guardiola took charge last summer, the Bavarian outfit have only spent a mere £11 million on transfer fee’s to bring in left-back Juan Bernat from Valencia and goalkeeper Pepe Reina from Liverpool.
Some notable clubs who have spent millions after failing to reach their goals include the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid, with both clubs spending just over £200 million between themselves in the current transfer window.
Having won the European Cup for an historic tenth time you get the feeling that the Spanish giants would have followed Bayern’s footsteps a year earlier in thinking that they had enough quality to win it all over again without making any big name signings.
Although it is very much Champions League or bust, Guardiola is smart enough to realise that his current squad are more than capable and talented enough to secure this feat, as he looks to add his finishing touches into his Bayern model of tiki-taka football.
With a midfield that consists the likes of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thiago plus a striker in Lewandowski who for the past three seasons has just scored for fun for his former club it is unquestionable to suggest that Bayern are still very much at their peak.
Although many punters would suggest that Real Madrid will become the first team to win back to back Champions League honours, it seems that Bayern know exactly what it will take to steal this title away from the money-filthy hands of the Spanish giants.
Guardiola has very carefully tinkered with his squad and it can be argued that the transfers of Sebastian Rode from Eintracht Frankfurt alongside Bernat and Reina from Valencia and Liverpool respectively are merely back-up choices and an overall safety net to his team’s chances.
One thing which hindered the German champions especially in Europe last season is that they were missing experienced back-up choices in key positions across the park, and now with £11 million spent the Allianz Arena outfit look like they have a full house.
Rode, a professional who knows how to grind out victories from his playing days with Frankfurt is the ideal substitute for an injury-prone Schweinsteiger, whilst Bernat is pretty much a like to like replacement for David Alaba on the left-wing in terms of pace and flare.