What Will Be Bayern Munich's Strongest Defence Next Season?
In a week that saw Borussia Dortmund make the most of the summer transfer period with their brand new attacking duo, Bayern Munich have taken a step back from the shopping window and contrastingly decided to look from within for any further additions to the squad.
"At the moment we don't plan to bring more players in," was the statement from Matthias Sammer, Bayern Munich's sporting director, last week as the club finally put to bed any rumours linking them with players such as Liverpool's Luis Suarez or Chelsea's David Luiz.
Yet what may have seemed like a commendable approach to dealing with the rumour mill for the remainder of the summer, what Sammer and Bayern have effectively done is rule out the potential for a new defender—something most fans would quite like to have seen.
Now Bayern, and new coach Pep Guardiola, look set to approach the new season with the same old problems, as the question marks surrounding the European Champion's back-line continue to persist.
For the coming season, Bayern will look to shuffle the defenders they already have on the roster as Guardiola works his magic and assesses just which type of defence his Bayern Munich side will have.
Jupp Heynckes—the coach who took Bayern to their historic treble last season—was quite comfortable with the traditional back four of Alaba, Lahm, Dante and Jerome Boateng, with Daniel Van Buyten occasionally coming in as well in Boateng's stead.
This formation offered solidity, and once Alaba had defined himself as a regular first-team player, Heynckes was able to implement the system of two attacking fullbacks with Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger sitting deep in midfield. This not only offered protection in the centre of the pitch, but it also formed a platform for Schweinsteiger and Martinez to play their "double pivot" role for the side, and dominate an opposition midfield in the manner that they did last season.
However, the one downside to this tactic is that it relied upon two strong, composed centre backs, and even though Bayern's Dante has proven himself as one of the better shot-stoppers throughout the game today, his partner, whether it be Boateng or Van Buyten, rarely offered many occasions of similar performances.
It is in this situation that Bayern's defence has crumbled on occasion and underlined the need for a new central defender—a problem that Guardiola has chosen to ignore.
Yet, a possible reason for this blotch of ignorance from the otherwise genius tactician is the simple fact that Pep may have absolutely no interest in playing a back four defensive line at all.
The former Barcelona coach may be more interested in implementing a system similar to that which gained him so much success in Spain and Europe during his time in Catalonia.
What this would consist of is the transformation of Martinez's role for the side at this moment in time, from central midfielder to central defender, alongside Dante and either Boateng or Van Buyten. As the two fullbacks, in Alaba and Lahm, would push up to midfield and become wing backs. Oddly enough, this specific formation would actually facilitate two areas of the team in quite an efficient manner.
The first, and probably most notable, feature of the tactic is the manner in which Lahm and Alaba have been pushed up the pitch in a more attacking role for Bayern. This would be well suited to any fullback who considered themselves an attacking threat, but in the young Austrian international and German captain the Bavarian champions have two players who are dangerously effective when it comes to running at defenders. Lahm is specifically crucial to Bayern's build up play, with eleven assists to his name last season, and has an uncanny ability to unlock defences from deep.
As Pep did with Dani Alves at Barcelona, we may find Lahm used as a precautionary option in key games, with the option of shuffling the back line and unleashing the German fullback further up the pitch when necessary.
The second point to note is Martinez moving back to defence, which would essentially put the Spaniard in a role similar to that of Mascherano at Barca whilst Guardiola was there. He'd be a free-roaming defender with the ability to make intricate passes whilst maintaining the rigid shape of a back three.
This new role would also free up some space in a midfield that has looked incredibly over-crowded since the introduction of Mario Gotze. With Martinez moving back to defence, this would also allow Guardiola to pull Kroos back to central midfield with Schweinsteiger and allow Gotze—Pep's star signing—to play as the natural number ten that the club intend for him to be.
Essentially, a tactic that allows Pep to hit two birds with the one stone.
Whichever way Guardiola decides to line up his back line for the forthcoming season, he'll have to be sure that he gets it spot on. For within Bayern's defence lies the key to breaking down this fantastic team, and any potential success for the new coach.
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