Does Mario Gotze Deserve to Make Bayern Munich's First-Team?
Mario Gotze has never been one for the discreet side of life. As if moving from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich in one of the most scandalous transfers to rock European football in recent years wasn't enough. The young German prodigy then decided to pull up to his official unveiling as a Bayern Munich player in a white shirt with a large red Nike tick on it—the sworn rivals of Adidas, Germany's largest sportswear company and important stakeholders.
Sporting apparel aside, the bravado on show from the Bieber-like star has raised an interesting question to which few outside of Pep Guardiola's office can truly explain: where exactly is Mario Gotze going to fit in at Bayern Munich?
The natural inclination from most fans will be along the lines of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in terms of integrating Gotze in to a system that has already proven itself as the best in Europe. As things stand, Bayern bolster a front four of Franck Ribery on the left, Thomas Muller on the right and Mario Mandzukic playing as the lone striker, with Toni Kroos slipped in behind as the traditional number ten—a formidable attack that offers very little room for improvement.
Mario Gotze made his name at Dortmund in the role of chosen playmaker, and as such, he spent most of his time at the club playing through the middle of the pitch. Of the 10 goals and 12 assists he curated from starting positions this season, five of those goals and 11 of those assists came from this central position, making it quite simply his most effective position.
Yet, this raises the obvious problem of removing Kroos from the starting side in place of Gotze. Something Guardiola may not be too keen to implement so quickly in to his time at the club. Kroos himself managed eight goals and eight assists this season in said position—not quite as much as Gotze in terms of assists, but a slightly better eye for goal.
The next alternative is to push Gotze out wide on the right hand side of the attacking quartet and forcing Thomas Muller up towards the striker's position. In this formation, we're removing Mandzukic, a striker who contributed 18 goals for Bayern Munich last season, to include the ex-Dortmund playmaker.
A rash move in principle seems a little too Tiki-taka, but what this tactic offers is the full effect of the front three of Ribery, Kroos and Gotze while allowing Muller—who scored 21 goals last season from a wide position—to take full advantage of more space in front of goal.
Alternatively, Pep may be more likely to start Ribery as striker in his famous false nine role, as the Frenchman alluded to in a recent interview, which would allow Gotze to slot in on the left hand side, where Ribery has, until now, performed admirably well over the course of his time at the Bavarian club.
This formation, in many ways, would perhaps have the most profound effect on how Bayern operate in an attacking sense. Ribery isn't a particularly strong goal-scorer, with only 28 goals over the course of the past two seasons, and he may struggle to score enough to justify having him in front of goal. While effectively handing over Ribery's past responsibilities of being the key playmaker at Bayern to Gotze, in his first season, it may prove rather risky for Guardiola in a season in which he will certainly have to hit the ground running.
The final option for any Gotze implementation is perhaps the most obvious one: start him as the false nine. Heralded as the 'German Messi by none other than Franz Beckenbauer, there has always seemed to be a sense of inevitability surrounding Gotze's eventual move further up the pitch.
With 22 goals in his 83 games in the Bundesliga to date, Gotze actually holds a goal-scoring record that most strikers would be proud of, despite spending the vast majority of his career either behind the striker or on the wing.
Yet, one potential problem here is that the young German simply isn't experienced at all in such a position. For Dortmund last season, Gotze played a solitary game in front of goal, scoring in the process, while his new role for Germany has been curtailed to two starts against Kazakhstan and an uneventful friendly match against Holland in which he was substituted off for Lukas Podolski—not exactly the standard required to lead the line for the Bavarian champions.
Whatever role Gotze plays for Bayern Munich next season, Guardiola will be eager to ensure that it's a position that the player can thrive in. For alongside the likes of Kroos and Muller, Gotze is now a large part of Bayern Munich and key to their future success.
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