Bayern Munich: Full Report Card for Every Position for August
The first month of the 2014-15 club football season has come to an end, and for Bayern Munich, the month of August was a mixed bag.
The German double winners rounded off their preseason with a narrow win over Chivas and a disappointing loss to the MLS All-Stars before returning to Munich.
In competitive games, they were found ill-prepared as they lost the Superpokal before comfortably winning their DFB-Pokal opener. The Bundesliga began with a gritty win over Wolfsburg and a draw with Schalke.
It's still very early and there is plenty of football left to be played. But with one month having gone by, B/R has run the rule over the Bayern squad, grading coach Pep Guardiola and each of his players who have played or been available to play this season thus far.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at who is performing up to par, who is exceeding expectations and who will need to boost their performance in the coming months.
In August, Bayern played four competitive games, winning two, drawing in one and losing another. It's been a slow start for the club, with many suffering from injuries and post-World Cup fatigue. At the same time, coach Pep Guardiola should bear some responsibility for the club's inconsistency, perhaps in part because he is ostensibly a source thereof.
The trainer began the season using a 3-4-3 formation, but deployed his XI in a system that more closely resembled 4-2-3-1 in their Bundesliga opener before switching to 4-2-2-2 in the league's second matchday. The only thing consistent about his starting teams are that they have been inconsistent, partly due to injuries but also due to choice.
Regardless of reason, Bayern can play better and more consistently than they are right now; this much they've proven in the past. For the time being, Guardiola's grade reflects a need for improvement.
After starring at the World Cup, Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer has had a lackluster start to the season and appears to be a bit out of focus.
He did generally well against Dortmund and Preussen Munster, but was sloppy with the ball at his feet in both Bundesliga matches thus far. His poor pass towards Juan Bernat led to the throw-in from which Wolfsburg capitalized in the league opener, and he was caught about 40 yards off his line against Schalke, giving the Gelsenkirchen side a clear chance to score.
Perhaps the 28-year-old is suffering from some mental fatigue.
Bayern's new goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, has yet to play a minute of competitive or noncompetitive football.
Veteran Tom Starke filled in for Neuer during the preseason but his only playing time in August was one-and-two-thirds friendly matches: Still not enough to go by in making an assessment.
Holger Badstuber's return to competitive action after nearly two years of absence has exceeded expectation by leaps and bounds.
After being benched in the Superpokal, the 25-year-old has started each of the last three games for Bayern.
Although some might say he was not often tested, it was his good work that ensured that he did not have to do the spectacular. There's a good reason why he was "untested" and many of his teammates were forced to scramble to avoid disaster.
Factoring in the lowered expectations as he returned from such a catastrophic duo of injuries, Badstuber earns top marks.
Great things are expected of new signing from Roma Mehdi Benatia, but as of yet he has not made an appearance for Bayern.
Germany international Jerome Boateng was a bit of a mixed bag in August, but performed well more often than not. He struggled in the Superpokal, although he had little support from his teammates, and the penalty for which he was whistled in the Pokal was rather harshly given.
After serving a suspension in the Bundesliga opener, Boateng put on a brilliant performance against Schalke, making a heroic defensive effort to deny Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting when the Cameroonian thought he might be clear on his way towards goal.
Although he played well against Munster, Dante's August was underwhelming. He was found sorely lacking in pace in the Superpokal and a nervy performance in the Bundesliga opener saw him benched for the second league game of the campaign.
With Benatia having joined Bayern and Badstuber already making big strides in his long-awaited return to action, the 30-year-old may find it quite hard to fit into the Bayern first team.
After apparently being made an integral member of Guardiola's defense during the preseason, Spaniard Javi Martinez played just a few minutes against Dortmund before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament.
Martinez will not only miss the vast majority of the season, but will have more competition in the form of Benatia when he returns to action.
This season thus far, Austrian David Alaba has played in central defense, at left-back and in central midfield. The fact that he is able to adapt to each position with little trouble is truly remarkable.
The Superpokal aside, Alaba has played very well: His strength and pace are useful at the back, but he's shown class on the ball to bring it forward and even assist shots on goal. And his goal against Preussen Munster was a thing of beauty.
Perhaps thought to be a backup for Alaba at the time of his signing earlier this summer, Spaniard Juan Bernat has started on the left wing in all but one competitive match for Bayern.
The 21-year-old has played unspectacularly on the left, his defensive work proving effective enough and his runs forward providing width and support if not end product. Perhaps the only glaring downside to his game is that he only uses his right foot to run.
After being denied a summer loan move, things looked bright for Pierre Hojbjerg. However, the 19-year-old has struggled to impose himself, especially since the emergence of Gianluca Gaudino.
The Dane found it difficult out of his natural position on the right in the Superpokal, and although he came off the bench against Schalke, it appears he still has some way to go in proving himself to Guardiola.
Like Alaba, Germany international Philipp Lahm has been used in both holding and wide midfield positions and in central defense this season thus far.
The captain is one of the few Bayern players who featured prominently at the World Cup and have maintained a high standard since returning, which says a lot about his class.
No matter where he's used, Lahm seems always to bring the same hallmarks of his game: Sharp technical skills in possession, clean ball-winning ability and a tactical sense to balance the two.
A late signing in the transfer market, Xabi Alonso performed well in just over an hour of play in his debut. Although nearing his 33rd birthday, the veteran showed that he still has something to offer.
Bayern's surprise of the season, 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino has captured Guardiola's admiration with his fine passing and clean technical skills.
Still with the body of a boy, his physical immaturity has been and will remain a hindrance until he naturally develops quickness, size and strength. But assessed on factors not subject to nature, and correcting for expectations due to his age, Gaudino has been magnificent.
Like Gaudino, Sebastian Rode needs to be assessed based on expectations. Initially a puzzling addition to an already stacked central midfield, the former Frankfurt man has taken advantage of the absence of many of his competitors and played remarkably well in the rare instance of him being used.
Rode was arguably Bayern's best player against Schalke, assisting Robert Lewandowski's opener. The question now is whether Guardiola will play him more often.
Anyone who'd hoped that scoring the winner in the World Cup final would be the turning point in Mario Gotze's career has been emphatically proven wrong thus far.
Since returning to play at club level, the ex-Dortmund star has had chance after chance but offered precious little: His only telling contribution thus far is a headed goal against underlings Preussen Munster. But he was poor against his former employers in the Superpokal and arguably the worst player on show in each of Bayern's Bundesliga matches during August.
For someone of such abundant talent, Gotze has spectacularly underperformed.
Germany international Thomas Muller had a good August overall, scoring Bayern's first Bundesliga goal of the season and also hitting the target in the Pokal before being benched for 90 minutes against Schalke.
It should be said that he was woeful in the Superpokal, but the World Cup winner recovered from a poor start and is well on his way.
Franck Ribery was in fine form during the preseason, but was sidelined for all four of Bayern's competitive matches in August due to an injury.
The 31-year-old proved that when fit, he still has abundant class. But due to limited minutes overall and his absence in every competitive match, the Frenchman cannot be fully assessed.
A four-minute outing in a friendly aside, Arjen Robben was late in making his return to action following the World Cup.
The Dutchman was man-of-the-match in the Bundesliga opener, scoring the first and assisting the winner against Wolfsburg. But he was unavailable the next week for the draw with Schalke. Having played 94 minutes in August, Robben can't be assessed fully.
Xherdan Shaqiri was poor in preseason after returning from the World Cup and still has yet to turn the corner in competitive play.
The 22-year-old was woeful even against lower league opposition in the Pokal opener and was unable to make any telling impression on any other Bayern game since then. The Switzerland international proved this summer that he has much to offer; one month into the campaign, he's yet to show it.
Robert Lewandowski rounded off an outstanding preseason in August, but left something to be desired once the matches that count began. The Pole was quite toothless in front of goal in his first three competitive matches, even missing a penalty.
To his credit, he helped set up a goal in Bayern's Bundesliga opener and finally broke his scoring duck against Schalke. However, he is capable of much more and will have to improve if he is to make Mario Mandzukic a distant memory in the hearts and minds of Bayern fans.
Veteran Claudio Pizarro played a progressively decreased role in the Bayern team as the month of August wore on, his only competitive appearance coming as a second-half substitute against Preussen Munster.
Pizarro scored in that game (as well as in a friendly with Chivas Guadalajara), so it's safe to say he at least up to expectations.