Bayern Munich: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering New Season

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

Bayern Munich: Full Report Card for Every Position Entering New Season

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Bayern Munich's preseason has come to an end, the German double winners having returned to the Saebener Strasse training ground for final preparations for next week's DFL-Superpokal meeting with Dortmund.

    Much has changed at Bayern since May, with Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Rode and Juan Bernat having joined the club and Pep Guardiola having changed his tactical approach to include a 3-4-3 formation.

    Many young and fringe players have also had chances to prove themselves, with a lengthy list of Bayern players either injured or on extended post-World Cup leave during much of the preseason.

    B/R has taken a close look at the Bayern team's performance during the preseason and analyzed (with grades) individuals at every position as well as the coach himself.

    Those who only appeared briefly, particularly the contingent of World Cup semifinalists and finalists that came on as second-half substitutes against the MLS All-Stars, are omitted for lack of minutes played in preseason friendlies.

    Click "Begin Slideshow" for analysis of all the other Bayern men who prominently featured during the recent test matches.


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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Pep Guardiola

    Bayern played six preseason games; counting their 2-2 full-time result with Gladbach as a draw, they won four and drew and lost one apiece.

    The team played great football against Wolfsburg especially and, on the balance of their results, can regard the preseason as an overall success. This assertion can be especially underlined by the fact that so many Bayern players were injured or otherwise unavailable for much or most of the preseason.

    During the World Cup, Guardiola had plenty of time to reflect on the previous season's successes and shortcomings. He apparently concluded that a 3-4-3 system is best for his team.

    There are certainly some benefits to the system, notably its high degree of horizontal and vertical symmetry and the opportunity it offers to make faster transitions.

    On the other hand, Guardiola seems intent on playing without a natural center-back and using Javi Martinez as the only player of height greater than 1.84 meters. For a team that was ripped apart on counterattacks and conceded two headed goals from set pieces as they were handily eliminated from the Champions League last season, such defensive policies are rather puzzling.

    The time to assess Guardiola conclusively is not now, however. His system has clear advantages and weaknesses, but exactly what will show in the telling matches remains to be seen.

    Grade: n/a


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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Tom Starke

    With Manuel Neuer having missed all but the final 28 minutes of the preseason, Tom Starke was given the rare chance to prove himself in a Bayern shirt over the past few weeks.

    The veteran started off rather shaky, but soon improved.

    He was a real difference-maker in penalties against Gladbach, saving two spot-kicks.

    Much to his dismay, perhaps, that is unlikely to save him his role as No. 2 in the Bayern lineup with Pepe Reina on his way to the Allianz Arena. The Spanish stopper completed a medical at Bayern on Thursday, as reported by Matt Morlidge in the Daily Mail.

    Grade: C+

Center Backs

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Javi Martinez

    Javi Martinez played every minute of all four preseason games after returning from World Cup duty, and the vast majority of his playing time was spent in central defense.

    His first game was marred by a poor mistake in which he was unnecessarily beaten to the ball and conceded a penalty to Gladbach's Andre Hahn. And against the MLS All-Stars, he was unable to contest a header that assisted Bradley Wright-Phillips' equalizer.

    Martinez is a great holding midfielder, but he was a weak point in defense for Bayern throughout the preseason.

    Grade: C

    Holger Badstuber

    The 25-year-old made his long-awaited return to football in a Bayern shirt last month in a friendly against his hometown club, FC Memmingen.

    Badstuber had spent approximately 20 months on the sidelines as he recovered from consecutive cruciate ligament tears but has impressed Pep Guardiola to the point that the trainer declared him (in a recording via German source Bild) the most talented center back he's ever coached.

    He's been less often used since, however, failing to start in either of Bayern's games in the United States.

    Badstuber still has a long way to go in his recovery, but he gets a B+ for effort simply on merit of returning from a pair of injuries that would have ended the careers of many.

    Grade: B+

    David Alaba

    David Alaba has been used in a variety of roles in preseason but is classified as a center back due to him being used in that role more than any other during the preseason.

    The Austria international was off the mark in brilliant form, scoring twice in his first test match.

    By no means a natural center back, Alaba was given freedom to move into midfield. He seemed to relish this role in possession, although there were times when Bayern could have used a taller, more imposing player to defend in his position.

    That's more of a coach's decision, though, so Alaba gets high marks for his performance.

    Grade: A-


    Much like Alaba, Rafinha was a mainstay in the Bayern team during preseason and played in more than one role. The Brazilian was primarily deployed as a center back, though, and started all but one game.

    Although he generally was comfortable when he drifted into attack, the ex-Genoa man's strength let him down in more than one situation, as did his positioning. To boot, his spot-kick miss against Gladbach nearly sent Bayern out of the Telekom Cup early.

    Like Alaba, Rafinha deserves some sympathy for being used so far out of position in an entirely unfamiliar role. But he certainly didn't make the most of the situation.

    Grade: C

Wide Midfielders

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Pierre Hojbjerg

    Having turned 19 years of age during the preseason, the Danish starlet is keen to impose himself in the Bayern senior team.

    After spending almost the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign with the reserves, Hojbjerg issued a statement of intent, via the official Bayern website, on his birthday.

    Overall, it was a good preseason for Hojbjerg, who played all but 48 minutes from his position on the right wing.

    The youngster played a good role in the build-up, particularly for Robert Lewandowski's second goal against Wolfsburg, and almost found the net himself against the MLS All-Stars. At the same time, it still looks as though Hojbjerg, even in his young years, still has something more to show.

    Grade: B

    Juan Bernat

    Pep Guardiola's new 3-4-3 system is perhaps tailor-made for a player like Juan Bernat, a full-back with great attacking flair who has freedom to play at both ends of the pitch.

    Since moving to Munich, the Spain under-21 international has been a mainstay in the Bayern lineup, his runs from deep areas providing a big boost to the attack.

    He has perhaps been underrated due to the fact that he hasn't been as present in the attack as some of his teammates, but even so, Bernat has room to improve even further.

    Grade: B

Central Midfielders

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Sebastian Rode

    Perhaps the lowest-profile signing of the summer for Bayern, Sebastian Rode took advantage of the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Thiago Alcantara during preseason and played very well in midfield.

    The 23-year-old convinced in a box-to-box role, defending well but also showing a touch of class in the final third. His goal against Wolfsburg was a brilliant combination of vision and shooting technique.

    Rode has passed his test thus far and, looking forward, may well earn more minutes this season than most initially anticipated.

    Grade: A

    Gianluca Gaudino

    Heading into the preseason, Gaudino was an unknown quantity even among many ardent Bayern fans. The 17-year-old put his best foot forward, though, and managed to consistently fend off competition for a starting role.

    Primarily used as a central midfielder but occasionally out wide, Gaudino played every minute of every preseason game for Bayern.

    It was a big step for the youngster to join the professionals, but especially against Chivas, he showed surprising maturity. Pierre Hojbjerg can expect a fair bit of competition for any role he might play in the Bayern team.

    Grade: A

Wide Forwards

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Franck Ribery

    After missing out on the Ballon d'Or and then being ruled out of the World Cup with an injury, Franck Ribery could have returned to training with plenty of emotional luggage. But much to his credit, the France international turned over a new leaf and showed his best form in preseason.

    He scored a fine goal against Gladbach, then set up Robert Lewandowski's opener against Wolfsburg. Ribery played a direct role in a goal in each of the three games in which he played.

    Although he's now 31 years of age and has a tremendous amount of competition for playing time at Bayern, the mercurial winger has shown he still has plenty to offer.

    Grade: A-

    Xherdan Shaqiri

    Shaqiri only made one start and played 33 minutes of a second game in preseason.

    He did rather little in his first game back on the pitch, against Chivas Guadalajara. Then against the MLS All-Stars, he looked highly dangerous. The Switzerland international came close to scoring on two occasions in the first half, one of which forced a real wonder-save.

    He played too little to earn an overall grade, but the time in which he was on the pitch is worth comment. The game against the All-Stars was definitely a step in the right direction; if he keeps up his form, he can make big strides in the upcoming season.

    Grade: n/a

Center Forwards

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Robert Lewandowski

    Bayern's star signing of the summer has hit the ground running since moving to Munich, scoring five goals in as many preseason appearances.

    The Poland international has been simply brilliant, finding the net with simple finishes and wonder-goals alike.

    Fresh with a full summer's rest behind him and evidently highly motivated to take the next step at the Allianz Arena, Lewandowski looks to have a brilliant season ahead of him.

    Grade: A+

    Claudio Pizarro

    Although used primarily on the wing as Lewandowski has been played in a central role, Pizarro had a generally good preseason.

    As he approaches his 36th birthday, the Peruvian forward showed that despite his advanced years, he still has the class to decide games. A perfect example was against Chivas Guadalajara, in which he scored the only goal of the match.

    Otherwise, Pizarro found ways to integrate himself in the Bayern attack as a set-up man; he played a good role in a couple other goals. Not bad for a player in the twilight of his career.

    Grade: B+