Bayern Munich opened their new Bundesliga season and the defence of their league crown with a 2-1 home win over Wolfsburg on Friday, but the squad is not yet complete and should have a new addition within days.
Per @DiMarzio, agreement reached for Benatia. Bayern to pay Roma €26m plus €4m in add-ons. 5-yr deal for player. €4m p/a. Medical tomorrow— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) August 26, 2014
A big fee for a central defender, but Benatia brings the exact qualities that Bayern require as they move into the new campaign in a changed tactical setup, playing with three at the back.
Pep's Bayern, Mk. II
Whether it's a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3, Bayern's new system is as flexible as it is intriguing, with the attacking sections able to change the layout depending on the personnel involved and how the games themselves unfold.
One behind two forwards can quickly become two wide attackers on either side of a central striker.
At the back, initially at least, things look more constant for Pep Guardiola's new Bayern system.
Three central defenders play the width of the penalty area in open play, with the first game of the season seeing Philipp Lahm play on the right of the trio, Holger Badstuber to the left and Dante through the middle.
Out of possession, though, it rarely became a back five, as might be expected with the wing-backs tracking back.
Instead, Lahm filtered across to right-back, left wing-back Juan Bernat dropped in on the opposite side and Bayern had themselves a quite clear back four, allowing the right-sided players—Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller—to remain higher up the pitch, ready to stride forward into space when the ball was won back.
It's a system which will doubtless take some time to perfect.
It relies heavily on two aspects of defenders: the nonstop endurance and alertness of Bernat on the left, and a central organiser to dictate when tilting needs to take place and ensure the back three/four hold their line, remain in shape and keep tight together.
Javi Martinez spent most of pre-season as the central option for Bayern, and Dante and Jerome Boateng remain available to Bayern.
However, the overriding feeling is that Benatia will be an immense step up from all.
Martinez, as a capable ballplayer who of course can step out into midfield when required, naturally appeals to Guardiola. With that said, Benatia's record in Italy suggests he will bring an altogether tougher, more dominant streak to Bayern's defence.
Benatia best CB in Europe for me last season. Zeman leaving, him arriving huge drop in goals conceded. Big shoes for Manolas/Astori to fill— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) August 26, 2014
Can play in a 3 [like at Udinese] or a 4 [like at Roma]. That'll suit Pep— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) August 26, 2014
Benatia, at age 27, is at the peak of his game right now and will see this as a chance to not simply further his career, but attempt to win the game's biggest trophies.
His leadership, ability and reliability can improve Bayern's back line, which in turn will help to more effectively construct the shape of the rest of the side that Guardiola wants further forward—especially after transitions in play.
I often disagree w/ Bayern xfers BUT in signing Benatia, they'll do in 2 wks what Barca still haven't done since Puyol decline: get a top CB— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) August 26, 2014
Guardiola's aim is no doubt to bring the Champions League trophy back to Bayern, and he is clearly placing emphasis on his system being a marginal gain as he goes head-to-head with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
With a top-class defender almost in place, there will be no real excuse for his side not to find a way to reach the latter stages and be more competitive in Europe this time around while retaining their domestic dominance.