Bayern Munich: Predicting a Possible First Starting Lineup Under Pep Guardiola
With Pep Guardiola's first day as Bayern Munich manager all but one week away, the buzz surrounding how the great Catalan manager will forge this formidable side to his liking has reached fever pitch.
A summer "break" is what it may say on the club schedule, but the Bavarian club have been hard at work behind the scenes ensuring that their new leader has every resource available to him, to guarantee a consistent level of success that is all but expected of any Bayern Munich manager.
On June 26, Pep starts his new job, and Bayern begin their next transformation.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at how we expect Pep's new-look Bayern Munich side to line-up for the next Bundesliga and Champions League campaign.
Manuel Neuer (Goalkeeper)
Manuel Neuer has made great strides in his career since joining Bayern Munich from Schalke in the summer of 2011.
From a troublesome transfer that almost went very ugly, when Bayern fans protested about the club signing a Schalke player, to now the first name on the team sheet for club and country. Manuel Neuer is now undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
What Pep gains in the German number one is a physically intimidating goalkeeper who knows when to switch from flamboyant shot stopper to composed footballer. As he showed countless times for Bayern this season, a goalkeeper can be one of the most important roles in maintaining possession.
One of the few criticisms people could point out at Pep's Barcelona side was goalkeeper Victor Valdes—if not for his ability as a goalkeeper, but for his inability to retain the ball. A statement such critics couldn't possibly throw at the young German keeper.
Philipp Lahm (Right Back)
It doesn't just take any odd player to call himself the captain of Bayern Munich and the German national team. It takes someone special. With an ability to play and read the beautiful game at a level above most, Philipp Lahm is an excellent footballer and one of the best full backs in the world.
Not many defenders can cite a record breaking defensive tally over the course of a league campaign and more assists in the Champions League than Lionel Messi, yet that's exactly what makes Lahm so special. He is the perfect balance between defence and attack.
In Bayern's current system the German international plays on the right hand side of a traditional back four allowing the full back to bomb forward in the presence of cover as well as coherently defend. A system Guradiola is unlikely to alter too much.
At Barcelona, Pep was quite encouraging to the notion of allowing Dani Alves a free reign on the right wing—turning the defender into something more akin to a deep-lying winger—but its unlikely that Lahm could ever be expected to simply forego a defensive resilience that has made him the player he is today.
A loyal and dependable full back is what Philipp Lahm is, and can be expected to remain under Pep Guardiola.
Jerome Boateng (Right Sided Centre Back)
Quite comfortably the least likely prediction in this article, Jerome Boateng hangs on to his status as a first team player for Bayern Munich through the simple ruling of being the best of a poor bunch.
With defenders such as Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny constantly linked with the club, and long-term prospect Holger Badstuber ruled out until at least December, it's no surprise that Pep's priorities should now lie in signing an adequate central defender, with Mario Gotze having already made the move.
Of course, Boateng isn't a bad defender, with a strong ability in passing and technical ability—and Guardiola has shown a certain negligence to prioritising defenders in the past—which may allow the player to work his way in to the new coach's good books.
There may yet be a future at Bayern Munich for Jerome Boateng.
Dante (Left Sided Centre Back)
One centre back who does look set to stay however, is the Brazilian international, Dante. From Gladbach late bloomer to full Brazil caps and a Champions League trophy, this has been quite a season for the defender.
Brought in last summer for around €4.7 million to address the immediate concerns of a vast void of quality between the two full backs, Dante has been a revelation at Bayern Munich by securing and reinforcing the defensive line and making the position his own.
With less than half as many goals conceded as second placed Borussia Dortmund in the league this year, this back line has simply seen no equal in the history of the Bundesliga.
An achievement that is made all the more impressive when we consider that the Brazilian has had three separate partners throughout the course of the season. From the young, promising Badstuber who picked up a long-term injury, the towering yet clumsy Van Buyten, to the technically gifted yet unstable Boateng, Dante has strived on with each for the greater good of Bayern Munich.
In quite the cliché-ridden manner, Dante does indeed live up to most stereotypes associated with Brazilian centre backs—quick, skillful and composed on the ball—but also bolsters a sharpness that has allowed him to excel against any opposing striker that Europe's best clubs have to offer.
Guardiola would be wise to build any new defence upon the foundations of this rock on defence.
David Alaba (Left Full Back)
In a back line bolstering stars such as Philipp Lahm and Dante, you'd imagine it would be quite hard for a player to really stand out as a competent footballer, yet the young David Alaba has truly shown he can at left back for Bayern Munich this season.
Since really establishing himself as the club's top left back at the end of the 2011-12 season, Alaba has reinforced the back line tenfold by not simply allowing Lahm to move back to his more native right hand side, but ensuring that the long-term problem of a competent left back is truly solved.
In the young Swiss international, Guardiola has a defender who can astutely defend but also attack with as much ferocity. His build up play and general relationship with left-sided colleague Franck Ribery has dealt dangerous blows to sides in Germany and across Europe this season, and under Guardiola you can be sure to see it emphasized even more.
Javi Martinez (Right Sided Central Midfielder)
It's hard to think of any player in European football who has excelled in their first season at a new club, as much as Javi Martinez at Bayern Munich this season.
The Basque central midfielder was brought to the club under a flurry of legal and media frenzy as the Bavarian giants dealt with a club in Athletico Bilbao who simply didn't want to sell. In the end Bayern were forced to resort to the player's buy-out clause of €40 million to obtain his services. A figure that now seems like a bargain considering the success he's brought with him to Munich.
The relationship that Martinez forged with Bastian Schweinsteiger—his fellow central midfield companion—this season was the linchpin of Bayern's success in Europe. Without their dynamic pairing, the club could have never dominated matches against opposition such as Juventus and Barcelona.
What Martinez offers Guardiola is a box-to-box midfielder who can pass as well as he can tackle or run. The steady introduction of the player in to Vicente Del Bosque's Spanish side is a good indicator as to the level of tiki-taka that the Bayern midfielder can happily cope with—a style of football he'll only become more accustomed to under Guardiola's new reign.
With the manner of success that has come about through the midfielder's introduction alongside Schweinsteiger, it is unlikely that we'll see Guardiola alter too greatly with either players' roles.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Left Sided Central Midfielder)
As the poster boy of this current crop of Bavarian champions, it will fall upon Bastian Schweinsteiger to enable any ambitions Pep Guardiola has at Bayern Munich.
As the side's deep-lying playmaker, Schweinsteiger has shown in his absence that the side tend to falter incredibly when he isn't there to pull the strings. Like Xavi at Barcelona, Schweinsteiger is in constant rotation of possession, allowing the side to continue ticking on.
Of course, the direct comparison to Xavi isn't particularly fair to the player when we consider that there is much more to Scweinsteiger's game. The German international offers a whole breadth of physical attributes that, as we saw against Barcelona, other slightly more delicate playmakers simply can't compete with. Yes, he can pass like Xavi, but he can also tackle like Pique.
For Guardiola, Schweinsteiger offers an ample starting point to re-asses and rebuild this squad to his liking. The central midfielder is simply the most important player for Bayern Munich and as such we can expect the Catalan coach to build his new side around him.
Thomas Muller (Right Sided Attacking Midfielder)
Thomas Muller is a peculiar player. Lanky and slight of built, the forward looks more like a junior footballer who sprouted over the summer and now towers over his team mates with the most awkward of posture. Yet this 23-year-old is a world beater and one of the most important players at Bayern Munich, in spite of his young age and demeanour.
In 41 appearances for the club this season, Muller provided 21 goals and 13 assists, leading to a record of just under one goal contributed to each game for Bayern Munich.
Although not particularly astounding at dribbling or shooting, the young midfielder does seem to excel in games the harder the opposition gets, and has made himself invaluable in such clashes with the best of Europe.
With the success of this season under Jupp Heynckes' own version of total football, it would be safe to assume that Guardiola has a place in his side for this special player despite the apparent lack of technical ability that initially attacks the senses.
Toni Kroos (Central Attacking Midfielder)
When the initial rumours of Mario Gotze signings for Bayern Munich began to surface, there was a mixed reaction from Bayern Munich fans. Some were ecstatic that such a player could be soon playing in the Bavarian red, yet others weren't as excited. For they wondered what use Bayern Munich would have for a player like Mario Gotze when they already have their own Toni Kroos.
In what seemed like basic fan one-upmanship, there was a genuine question to be made: where would Mario Gotze feature in a side that already had it's own promising number ten?
Under Guardiola we may expect a shuffling of the cards, but it would seem incredibly risky to drop Toni Kroos for the incoming Dortmund playmaker. Established in the position for Bayern Munich and Germany, Kroos simply syncs in to the style of Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Muller, too much. It would simply be far too unconventional to change that now.
For now, Kroos keeps his number ten spot.
Franck Ribery (Left Sided Attacking Midfielder)
Perched on the left wing, just waiting for the opportunity to attack, Franck Ribery has consistently over performed for Bayern Munich for at least two years now. He may lack the humility of Philipp Lahm, or the general likeability of Bastian Schweinsteiger, but make no mistake, Franck Ribery is the closest thing Bayern Munich have to a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
This season, Ribery scored 11 goals and created 23 assists in 47 games for Bayern Munich. Not quite the 20 goals and 28 assists of last year, but I'm sure the Frenchman will be happy to concede such stats for the amount of silverware he picked in May.
Guardiola is likely to leave Ribery exactly where he is, as a goalscoring wide forward, and allow the midfielder to do what he does best. Win games.
Mario Gotze (Forward)
As one of the most controversial modern transfer deals in World Football, Mario Gotze arrives at Bayern Munich as the heralded first choice of Pep Guardiola.
He was the first name on the coach's list and Bayern Munich were more than happy to part with €37 million to ensure that this new regime pulled up all the stops when it came to chasing success.
Where and how Gotze is likely to feature for Bayern Munich next season is of course up for plenty of speculation, but the most realistic position for the German starlet is up front, playing as a false number nine.
In this position the side can utilise his abilities in and around the penalty box, while keeping the other five attacking players in all their remaining positions. An act of continuity that Guardiola is likely to feel very strongly about.
Playing Gotze as the striker also offers Guardiola the opportunity to essentially apply his tactical methods, that achieved so much at Barcelona, directly to this Bayern Munich side and maintain his strong football philosophy.
In many ways, Gotze will act as the bridge between Guardiola's Barcelona and the Bayern Munich side he will hope to build. All that now remains is whether he can achieve it.