I think that there are several reasons to be very optimistic about the choice of Tito Vilanova as coach. However, there also some questions that need to be resolved. It is how Tito handles the possible negatives that will determine how successful he will be.
The first positive is that Tito played an integral role in determining the tactics of the team and often took the training tactics. That means that he is already involved in planning of any changes to the team and style of play. This year's results show Barcelona is still an outstanding team. However, it became apparent that some improvements are needed in both defence and attack.
With Tito being part of the existing coaching regime, he would have already been involved in planning for next season. Had a new coach been brought in, there was always the danger that he would feel the need to dismantle everything so as to impose his own philosophy. Tito's appointment should ensure that there will be continued evolution of the team and a smooth transition to next season.
Another positive is that Tito's appointment has been well received by the players. Carles Puyol has publicly confirmed the players’ satisfaction with Tito Vilanova’s appointment: This means that Tito is starting with the support of the players as opposed to a coach from outside possibly having to deal with resentment at his appointment.
Tito is considered to be even more committed to the Barcelona approach than Pep is. It is hoped that the affection and respect the players have for Tito from his role as Pep's Number Two can translate to a smooth succession to Tito the head coach.
Liverpool in the 1970's is a classic example of a dynasty arising when a Number Two (Bob Paisley) took over from a legendary head coach (Bill Shankly). This could well happen at Barcelona if the players ' initial approval of Tito's appointment is reflected in a commitment and desire to play well for him.
Tito's appointnent has also been well received by the Barcelona media. This is also important as there are few larger hurdles for a coach to overcome than a hostile media. While the media is supposed to reflect public opinion, it often determines or, at least, influences it.
For example, Manuel Pellegrini has shown himself to be a good coach and a decent person. However. his position became untenable when the Madrid media decided they did want him to remain Madrid's coach. Fortunately for Tito the Barcelona media sees his appointment to head coach as a natural succession.
While there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about Tito's appointment, there are also legitimate doubts.
The first one is that Tito has kept a very low profile despite being Pep's right hand man for all five years he has coached Barcelona and Barcelona B. I suspect that many people may not have even known who he is until Jose Mourinho infamously poked him in the eye in the Spanish Supercup earlier this season.
As Barcelona's head coach, he will no longer be able to quietly do his work in the background. He will be the one under constant media scrutiny. He will be the one that will have to attend the press conferences and answer the difficult questions from the media. These may be things that Tito finds difficult but they are an important part of being head coach of a club like Barcelona.
The biggest challenge facing Tito will be his man-management of the team. It is far easier for players to like an assistant coach than a head coach. Tito will have the difficult job of keeping an outstanding playing roster fully committed. He will have to select the team and deal with any disappointment with his decisions. He will have to ensure indiscipline does not become a problem.
To achieve this, Tito will need the continued total support of the playing roster especially the senior players some of whom may have to accept a reduced playing role in the team. It will be up to players like Puyol and Xavi to continue to be leaders in this regard.
Pep has left Tito at least two issues for him to show his mettle as head coach. The first is getting Lionel Messi to accept that it for his and the team's benefit that he doesn't play every minute of every game. The second is getting Gerard Pique to ensure that outside distractions stop impacting his football. How Tito deals with such challenges may well be the key determinant of how successful he will be as Barcelona's coach.
As a fanatical Barcelona supporter, I wish Tito well. The future of Barcelona is in his capable hands now and we all must stay together to give him the best possible chance of success.
Posted by: Drago, Columnist at Culé Talk,