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'We're working on details'

Guardiola's stage two in full swing

Blisters, muscular problems, aches and pains...the training camp in Qatar is certainly hurting. While the players wrestle with the usual knocks and strains in preparation for the Bundesliga restart, Pep Guardiola is also suffering: the FCB head coach has shouted himself hoarse during the intense and committed training sessions.

“He hasn't finished with us yet, as you can see,” declared Manuel Neuer in response to the enthusiastic performances of the main man on the training ground. Guardiola is fully committed. He stands centre stage, demonstrates moves and runs, hands out praise and criticism, gesticulates and speaks to players one-to-one on the pitch at the end of the session.

“He communicates with us an awful lot, both individually and as a group. He gets very involved,” explained Dante. Indeed, Guardiola is not completely satisfied even after one of the best-ever first halves of a season in terms of results. “Our level isn't high enough if we want to keep on winning the Bundesliga and challenge for the Champions League,” said the boss before the festive break, “we'll have to work really hard to retain the title.”

Guardiola is fine tuning two areas in Doha: firstly, controlling the game and possession; the team should avoid giving the ball away unnecessarily, and be patient in creating gaps in the opposition defence. Second, working on immediately pressing as a group when the ball is lost to regain possession as quickly as possible

Mental and physical effort

The Bayern first team has built solid foundations over the past six months with Guardiola at the helm and, according to Neuer, the players are looking to build on that: “We've already picked up a lot and now we're starting again.” Guardiola is confident his players have increasingly come to trust his game plans during the first half of the season. “We allowed a lot of counter-attacks early on. It's a lot better now.”

Guardiola has started the next stage of his project in Doha. “We want to continue to improve and we're working on fine details,” reported Neuer, “those details make a difference at this level.” That means the players face more than just a physical challenge. “You need to use your head as well,” explained the newly-crowned world’s best keeper before adding: “We're hungry and we want to learn.” That can clearly be seen on the training ground in Doha.