Assessing Pep Guardiola's Squad Depth at Bayern Munich

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Assessing Pep Guardiola's Squad Depth at Bayern Munich
Getty Images

Bayern Munich's summer transfer campaign appears to be complete, with Pepe Reina having joined the club and Diego Contento, according to German magazine Kicker, set to leave. The news comes just over two weeks after Pep Guardiola declared in a press conference that the only reinforcement he desired was a goalkeeper.

Over the course of the summer, the German double-winners have signed Reina, Robert Lewandowski, Sebastian Rode and Juan Bernat; Toni Kroos, Mario Mandzukic, Daniel Van Buyten, Lukas Raeder and Alessandro Schopf have left the club.

With Pep Guardiola having significantly changed his tactics over the summer and following a grueling World Cup for many of the club's star players, the question has to be asked: Does the Bayern squad have enough depth to compete in three competitions?

The answer is mixed, depending on position.

The position of goalkeeper was a big concern last season, especially when injuries to Manuel Neuer and Tom Starke forced Guardiola to rely upon the inexperienced Raeder. Had the German giants been forced to field 20-year-old in the latter stages of the Champions League, it would have been a big risk not only to the club, but to the player's development.

Even Starke, in spite of his veteran status, would have been a risk considering he's never played a minute of Champions League or Europa League football.

The signing of Reina, a veteran who is hugely experienced at the highest level, should be regarded as a big coup for Bayern.

The Spaniard may be past his very best, but as he approaches his 32nd birthday, he still has something to offer. Reina was good enough to start for Napoli last season; he'll be good enough to play as Neuer's deputy in 2014-15.

Ahead of the goalkeeper is a different story, although one that depends somewhat on how Guardiola prefers to play.

Classically, his 3-4-3 ought to have three burly, natural center backs. For this tactic, Bayern are rather thin: Jerome Boateng and Dante are well-qualified, but Javi Martinez is a natural holding midfielder who—despite playing well in the 2014 DFB-Pokal final—has rarely impressed in defense.

Even counting the Spaniard as an option at the back, the only depth behind him is Holger Badstuber, whom Guardiola has praised to the heavens, as reported by Bild (article in German). The defender remains a risk, though, having not played even a minute of competitive football since 2012.

The fact that Guardiola used him for just 37 minutes during his USA tour perhaps speaks more than the coach's words; Badstuber has a long way to go, and Bayern, in any case, are short of substitutes in central defense.

If Guardiola prefers to use natural full-backs in two of the three defensive positions, as he has in recent games, he will still have some depth concerns.

If Contento leaves, David Alaba, Rafinha, Philipp Lahm and Juan Bernat are the remaining options—four players for two positions.

Only Alaba truly has the physical qualities to play at center back, and even he is quite a gamble. Bernat is more an attacking wing-back than a defensive player, and the diminutive size of Lahm (whom Guardiola still sees as a midfielder in any case) has seen him shrugged off many times by imposing center forwards. Rafinha is, well, a liability in any defensive position.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Looking into Bayern's four-man midfield, the wide positions may be occupied by Lahm and Bernat, with the possibility of Alaba, Rafinha or even Pierre Hojbjerg deputizing.

The Dane is a bit of a risk considering he only turned 19 earlier this week and is not a natural defensive player, but the other four options are generally acceptable for an ambitious team.

The only cause for concern, perhaps, is Lahm's inevitable fatigue after playing every minute of every game at the World Cup and considering his having missed the preseason on extended leave.

In central midfield, Bayern will have Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara and Sebastian Rode as experienced, senior holding midfielders.

Lahm and even Mario Gotze could play in the center, although such a tactic would be lacking in size and strength, with the latter a much more attack-minded player.

Additionally, Hojbjerg or even the 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino could play centrally.

Martinez is another option, although Guardiola has almost exclusively used him in defense.

There are many options for central midfield, but few of any specific type.

Only Schweinsteiger, Rode and Martinez (who may not be worth discussing in this role) have the classic muscle of a holding midfielder and the ball-winning ability to break up counterattacks.

Thiago and Gotze are great going forward but lack muscle; Lahm is a good distributor who lacks pace and strength, while Gaudino and Hojbjerg in their youth are still not physically mature.

Combining attributes from multiple players would create three or four great options, but there may not be a complete package in central midfield. And in any case, a couple injuries or suspensions may force Guardiola to greatly alter his tactics if he's forced to swap Schweinsteiger for Gotze or vice versa.

In attack, Guardiola has a wealth of options that will make Bayern downright terrifying for any opponents.

Franck Ribery placed third in the most recent Ballon d'Or voting. Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben won the silver and bronze balls, respectively, at the World Cup. There also is Gotze, who decided the World Cup final with a brilliant finish. And Xherdan Shaqiri as a fifth option on the wing is not bad at all.

Centrally, Robert Lewandowski's starting role cannot be disputed. The Polish striker has been absolutely brilliant since moving to Munich, scoring five goals (many of which were the stuff of dreams) in as many preseason matches.

Behind him, Claudio Pizarro remains an option, but one of Muller or Gotze would be more likely to start if Lewandowski were unavailable at any point.

Goals win ordinary games, and Bayern can be confident that they will win consistently in the Bundesliga in any case. Their depth of top-class attackers should be the difference-maker and could alone be enough to win the Bundesliga title handily.

On the other hand, there are weaknesses in deeper areas that more likely than not won't be exploited against the likes of Mainz and Bremen, but could be found out against Dortmund or in bigger Champions League games.

Guardiola had to adjust his tactics a year ago and, having opted not to sign a new center back after Daniel Van Buyten's release, there could be some thinness at the back for Bayern. It would not be the first time the trainer neglected defensive transfers.

It should be said that Bayern have enough individual quality to make a great starting XI in 11 positions, regardless of tactical formation, and in most areas have at least one or two qualified substitutes.

Should they remain fit, they should run away with the Bundesliga title and could go far in the Champions League. If their injury troubles rival those of Dortmund and Schalke in the last 12 months, it could spell trouble for Bayern and Guardiola.

 

Follow Clark Whitney on Twitter

Load More Stories

Follow FC Bayern Munich from B/R on Facebook

Follow FC Bayern Munich from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

FC Bayern Munich

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.