Bayern Munich couldn't have hoped for a brighter start to the new Bundesliga season this weekend, but they may have to be smarter in the transfer window if they hope to wrap up another Bundesliga title.
An impressive win over Wolfsburg on Friday did well to put the Bavarian side a solid three points above Borussia Dortmund after one week, following their surprise defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening, but coach Pep Guardiola will be well aware of the frailties in certain aspects of his own squad.
Friday's match saw the Catalonian coach persevere with his new 3-5-2 formation, featuring a back three of Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm and Dante as the only cover in front of Manuel Neuer's goal. The former fortress has now been breached three times in the past two games against the Wolves and Jurgen Klopp's side in the German Super Cup.
What will undoubtedly baffle many Bayern fans is the simple fact that their squad doesn't seem capable of playing such a formation at this moment in time.
With club captain Lahm playing as a more conventional centre-back and world-class talent David Alaba playing as a central midfielder, many have began questioning Guardiola's plan. Why are all these excellent players being played out of position?
Long have Bayern been regarded as one of the most well-stocked sides in European football, with strength in depth to match the deep pockets of Manchester City and Real Madrid. Yet following such antics from their relatively new coach, the Bavarian club look spent and all too vulnerable in defence.
What lies at the heart of such a problem is of course the injury that Javi Martinez picked up against Dortmund in the aforementioned Super Cup final. As the club announced at the time, the Spanish central defender tore a cruciate ligament after an audacious volley and will now be out of action for some time for the German champions.
This has had a profound effect on Guardiola's plans. Martinez was not only a centre-back with style and technique, but he was also a defender who could push out from a defensive position and create plays from the heart of midfield—a modern-day Franz Beckenbauer that the Catalonian coach hoped to build this season's team around.
With such an injury, the club have now been forced to consider signing another centre-back to not only make up for the absence in one more defender in their roster but to also compensate for the quality that this side clearly lacks without their Spanish star.
Such a solution seems to be in the form of Roma centre-back Mehdi Benatia, who has been linked to the club for the past few weeks, with French paper L'Equipe stating as recently as August 20 that the defender preferred a move to Bayern over other potential suitors such as Manchester United and Arsenal.
As translated by 101 Great Goals, the report states:
L’Equipe report that Benatia’s agent, Moussa Sissoko, was in Munich on Monday where he came to a complete agreement on personal terms.
On Tuesday, Bayern made an offer of 30 million euros, but Roma are holding out for 35 million euros.
Crucially for Manchester United’s interest, Benatia has told Roma that he wants to join Bayern Munich.
SportBild reporting that Bayern are close to buy Rome-defender Mehdi Benatia. Will replace Martinez who damaged his knee at the SuperCup— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) August 17, 2014
The article states that Benatia's agent has already held talks with the German club, who are willing to part with €30 million for his services. That suggests the current Bundesliga champions are perfectly willing—if not downright determined—to bring in another player to bolster that defensive line.
Friday's win over Wolfsburg would have been seen by many as another domestic hurdle that Bayern so confidently avoided once again, but many fans would have been watching the game in fear of another injury to one of the club's first-team defenders. Guardiola had just Sebastian Rode—a defensive midfielder by trade—as cover for his three-man defence that day. That's far from enough in reserve if he hopes to win any silverware this season.
Bayern must strengthen in this transfer window, while they still can, or risk falling into the same trap that brought Dortmund down in last season's title race. Individual quality may win football games, but it's the strength of a squad that wins championships. Guardiola would do well to remember that before his team are finalised for the coming campaign.