Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona: Pep Guardiola's Experimentation Knows No Limits
Bayern Munich's glamorous friendly with Barcelona produced another chance for the public to catch a glimpse of Pep Guardiola's work, and it's fair to say he didn't disappoint.
Those tuning in to see what kind of wacky tactical changes the Spaniard would employ this time were rewarded with another demonstration of immense tinkering and flexibility.
It's been made quite clear over the course of July that Bayern will be a truly unpredictable machine next season, with Guardiola's trial of Thomas Mueller up front and Thiago Alcantara as the deepest midfielder against Borussia Monchengladbach fresh in the memory.
This time, at the Allianz Arena, it was another win, but it should be noted Barca are approximately two weeks behind their German counterparts in terms of preseason preparation and fielded an Under-20 XI for the second half.
Pep chose to liberate Thiago this time, playing him as a true central midfielder adjacent to the out-of-position Philipp Lahm once again. Toni Kroos, therefore, played as the deepest of the three in a 4-3-3 formation.
Kroos made his name as a No. 10 but possesses the central midfield/attacking midfield hybrid skillset that Thiago boasts, so for him to slot in as a flat midfielder was easy. Defensive midfield, though, is another question entirely, but Pep was happy to let Kroos give it a go and be tasked with tracking Lionel Messi's runs.
Interestingly, Kroos was the one to step out of midfield and intercept despite playing the deepest of three—a twist from Pep that showcased a different side to the German's game.
Lahm continued in a midfield role that enabled him to attack the box and run with the ball. His intelligent play was rewarded with yet another preseason goal, only this time he didn't look so shocked upon scoring.
Bayern's front three was expected to interchange frequently, but Franck Ribery was utilised so heavily in the buildup play on the left that he rarely strayed from the touchline.
It left Mueller on the right, and Arjen Robben as a central forward for an entire 45-minute period. He ran hard, chased, harried and pressed extremely, carving out chances for his counterparts and consistently finding teammates with passes.
When Guardiola was revealed as boss we speculated heavily on possible formations and starting XIs. But if preseason has taught us anything, it's that Pep will use a deep squad of players and fiddle with the formation to his advantage.
He's not changed a bit—still looking for what he calls the "Eureka!" moment, where he finds the winning formula after hours in the video room—and Bayern fans are set to reap the benefits of his adventurous, fresh style of management.
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