Tomorrow Pep Guardiola’s tenure as Bayern Munich manager officially begins.
Guardiola has been on sabbatical for a year. He will have been watching closely as Bayern Munich completed a historic treble in 2012/13. His challenge now is to build a Bayern team that is capable of matching those extraordinary achievements.
He will look to build upon the solid defensive foundations built by Jupp Heynckes. Last season, Heynckes' Bayern side conceded just 18 Bundesliga goals.
A key component in that defence was the towering goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. The German No. 1 is certain to keep his place, having won over the Bayer fans with his dominant displays since his controversial move from Schalke 04. Goalkeeper was often cited as the weak link in Guardiola’s Barcelona side. At Bayern, Guardiola will have no such worries.
Despite the signing of promising German defender Jan Kirchhoff, the back four is likely to remain intact. Captain Phillip Lahm will continue at right-back. His overlapping style will echo the marauding runs of Dani Alves from Guardiola’s Barcelona days. On the left flank, David Alaba will hope to continue his evolution in to one of the world’s finest attacking full-backs.
Dante’s impressive performances in the Confederations Cup for Brazil will cement his status as a certain starter for Bayern. Alongside him, Jerome Boateng will hope to eradicate the lapses in concentration that occasionally blight his otherwise accomplished game.
The midfield base of Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger is unlikely to be disturbed. This pairing is in many ways emblematic of Guardiola’s marriage with Bayern, as it combines Spanish technique with Bavarian brawn.
Ahead of them, Toni Kroos will be charged with conducting creative affairs. Kroos can play in a holding role, but he is far happier when given license to break forward. In last season’s Bundesliga, he scored six goals and created a further eight. Kroos will be hoping to improve upon this tally under the attack-minded Guardiola.
It’s in attack where we can expect Guardiola make the most significant change to the Bayern XI. The catalyst for change is the much-publicised signing of Mario Gotze.
Having paid €37 million to secure Gotze’s signature, Bayern will be eager to fit the young German in to the starting XI. With Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller posed to keep their spots on the wing, the obvious solution is to field Gotze as a false nine.
Lionel Messi excelled in this position for Guardiola’s Barcelona, and Gotze shares Messi’s capacity for intricate dribbling and immaculate close control.
The man missing from this XI is Champions League final hero Arjen Robben. Matthias Sammer insisted to Voetbal International (via Goal.com) that Robben is not departing the Allianz Arena this summer, so the Dutchman may be destined to become Bayern’s impact substitute.
Other names not included in this side are Mario Mandzukic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro. Whoever Guardiola selects for his XI, he will be able to rely on extraordinary depth.