Thierry Henry: Guardiola's furious reaction when he ignored Barcelona tactics

Pep Guardiola speaking to Thierry Henry from touchline at Barcelona

Thierry Henry’s spell working under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona between 2008 and 2010 was a trophy-laden one.

La Blaugrana picked up two Liga La crowns, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey during the French forward’s three-season stint at Camp Nou.

Barca’s squad at the time was particularly star-studded, featuring the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol – in addition to Henry.

However, despite the presence of all of those big names, Guardiola was unmistakably the main man at Barcelona – as Henry would find out to his cost.

At previous club Arsenal – where he notched a club record 228 goals – Henry played through the middle in a central attacking role.

Such was his immense talent, though, that then-Gunners boss Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be too upset if his star man strayed into other areas in an attempt to have an impact on the game.

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Henry enjoyed no such luxury under Guardiola at Barcelona. His role in Pep’s system was to play on the left wing – and stay on the left wing unless his side were deep in attacking territory.

During a 2015 appearance on Sky Sports, Henry revealed that a fuming Guardiola had hauled him off in a Champions League match for disobeying these orders, even though he’d opened the scoring for Barca.

Pep Guardiola’s strict tactical philosophy at Barcelona

“How many times would we see a player come and ask for the ball [deep in central midfield]?” Henry asked the panel rhetorically. “Not with Barcelona.”

“Stay in your position, trust your teammate on the ball, and wait for the ball. Look at where I am [hugging the left touchline]. That position allowed [Andres] Iniesta to get the ball [in central midfield] because I’m occupying the right-back.


Thierry Henry GiveMeSport Shop shirt
Thierry Henry GiveMeSport Shop shirt

“Freedom, [in the] last third, run, you’re allowed to. You start in a high position, and wide, but after that, you can do whatever you want.

“Basically from training to the game, up until the last third, he [Guardiola] used to call it the ‘Three Ps’ – play, possession and position. And the most important one was position.”

“He had a plan. If you don’t actually do what he’s asking you to do, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Video: Thierry Henry explains Pep Guardiola’s ‘Play, Possession, Position’ coaching theory

Henry decided to disregard Guardiola’s instructions in a 2008 encounter with Sporting Lisbon.

Abandoning his post on the left flank, the 125-cap French international ventured across the pitch and found himself in the right place at the right time to poke Messi’s ball across into the net and break the deadlock.

The visiting Barcelona fans went wild, but Pep was far from impressed.

“Me being me I went there [to the right wing] to play with Leo [Messi] and I could hear Guardiola being upset because I wasn’t on the side of the dugout. I didn’t really care, you know.”

Check out the goal for yourself at the start of the video below.

Video: Thierry Henry opens the scoring for Barcelona, angers Guardiola in the process

“I scored a goal, leading against Sporting Lisbon at half-time, all nice and everything, and he took me off. I was like ‘what did I do wrong?” Henry recalled.

“He used to say to us the first time he took the team, ‘my job is to take you up to the last third, your job is to finish it’.”

Guardiola’s decision to replace Henry with Bojan Krkic might seem harsh. However, there’s no denying the effectiveness of his methods.

Thierry Henry and Pep Guardiola at the 2009 Champions League final
ROME – MAY 27: Thierry Henry of Barcelona celebrates with his coach, Josep Guardiola after Barcelona won 2-0 during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Barcelona and Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico on May 27, 2009 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Barcelona went on to win the 2008/09 Champions League, with Henry playing 72 minutes in a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the final.

As the player himself put it: “When Pep has a plan – respect his plan”.

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