With Pep Guardiola announced as Bayern Munich boss for the 2013-14 season as early as January this year, fans and writers alike had plenty of time to speculate what methods he'd install at the Allianz Arena.
Some said he'd change the club from top to bottom—bringing the Ajax and Barcelona way to Munchen. While others suggested he'd be smart and continue Jupp Heynckes' fine work. Whatever the speculative answer, one dominant theme emerged: Pep was walking into one of the most difficult jobs in football history.
Predecessor Heynckes crafted what became, over the course of a historic, treble-winning season, an unstoppable football machine—the greatest team in the world at the time.
Guardiola's work and subsequent achievements with Barcelona should not be sniffed at, but after taking a one-year sabbatical to rest and recuperate, his stock has seemingly dropped; a man who will one day go down as one of the world's greatest ever managers must start from scratch!
Bayern's hierarchy secured the signing of Mario Goetze on behalf of Pep before the 2012-13 season came to a close, a purchase that only reinforced the belief that Bayern were set to use a 4-3-3 formation with a false-nine too.
The false-nine position is obscenely hard to play, and only a select few can do it. Lionel Messi, the master, is unavailable, but Goetze has the raw talent and awareness to pull it off. Messi and Guardiola reached new heights using this system at Camp Nou, and new theories that sweeping change was afoot in Bavaria began to gather steam.
The only way to find out was to watch the side's warmup games, and no preseason campaign has ever been more hotly anticipated than Pep's first as Bayern head coach. The verdict? Very impressive so far, with more than 40 goals scored at the halfway mark for the program.
Bastian Schweinsteiger's absence makes the side very difficult to gauge, but catch a glimpse of Die Bayern and there's very little resemblance to Heynckes' legacy. Bayern have, quite frankly, been Guardiola'd.
The Spanish tactician is experimenting heavily with formations and positions, largely adopting a free-flowing 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 shape and allowing the players to express themselves. The physically superior warriors who earned UEFA Champions League medals are now fleet-footed passers with an incredible killer instinct.
It hasn't taken Pep long to transform much of how the side defaults when playing, and plugging Thiago Alcantara into the heart of midfield has aided that change.
The pressing game is furious, with the energetic legs of Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery working hard for their side. Bayern's second goal against Borussia Moenchengladbach was a direct result of Ribery's wonderful pressing and perseverance.
They pass patiently, dominate possession and commit full-backs high. Intricate runs and an importance placed on the wingers' movements means they're crafting goals in similar ways to Pep's Barca. With Philipp Lahm's scoring from central midfield, Mueller's up front and Thiago as a lone holding midfielder. Guardiola shows no fear in experimenting, and all his results have been landslide wins.
From January to June we speculated, from July onward we know: Bayern will be a total football machine as Guardiola takes his incredible work to Germany.
Barcelona were demolished 7-0 (aggregate) by Bayern last season, but Pep is reverting to a formula similar to that of his old club. Can he make the necessary tweaks to ensure it takes him to the top of the pile once more?