Why Bayern Munich Will Return a Stronger Side Following International Break

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

Two weeks should be long enough for Guardiola to sort out his tactics.
Two weeks should be long enough for Guardiola to sort out his tactics.Associated Press

In general, international breaks have a bad reputation among fans of club football. Many believe the club season already asks too much of top players and adding friendly matches and tournament qualifiers between footballing giants and minnows is both pointless and dangerous for stars.

To many, such games are little more than opportunities for overworked athletes to get injured. But in the case of the current international break, it could well give Bayern Munich a boost.

Bayern sent more players to the 2014 World Cup and had more representatives at each stage of the knockout rounds than any other; seven players from their first team featured in the final. Suffice to say, preseason was very limited for most Bayern stars, and the club's form has suffered. After losing their final preseason friendly, the German giants have won two competitive fixtures (one against lower-league opposition), lost another and were most recently held to a draw.

Bayern's slow start was entirely predictable, with fatigue and injuries playing a big factor. These negatives were only magnified by the fact that Pep Guardiola opted to change his tactical system significantly. All in all, there have been enormous demands placed upon players in the Bayern team, by their coach and UEFA and Bundesliga scheduling.

The international break offers Guardiola some time to reconsider his tactics, identify exactly how much Bayern's results can be attributed to individual mistakes, how much is a matter of players' form and fitness and how much is tactical.

Neuer and Muller played a limited role against Argentina.
Neuer and Muller played a limited role against Argentina.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

The ex-Barcelona man is very intelligent, if stubborn, and at least will have enough time to conduct analysis into what is going right and wrong. The fact that he, after a year of sticking to the same philosophy in good times and bad, was willing to make as radical a change as he did during the summer suggests he perhaps is becoming less bullheaded.

Another huge factor for Bayern is that the international break may indeed be a much-needed "break" for their players, who will train and may ultimately play few minutes. Germany coach Joachim Low opted to use an experimental lineup for Wednesday's friendly with Argentina, which resulted in many Bayern players sitting on the bench. Manuel Neuer started as captain between the posts and was replaced at half-time. Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze also played but only for the final 32 minutes. Jerome Boateng sat out the entire match.

It may be that Low will call upon his Bayern players to take on a bigger role on Sunday in Germany's Euro 2016 qualifier with Scotland, especially considering that the match is competitive. Even so, he'll probably limit their minutes, especially if his team run out with a substantial lead early on. In any case, a workload of 90 minutes (or not much more) played in a period of nearly two weeks marks more of a recovery period than a significantly greater stress.

All the while, Philipp Lahm is in Munich, the former captain having retired from international football following the World Cup. His rest time now is well-deserved and much-needed, considering the yeoman's effort he's given—especially over the last two years.

Simultaneously, injured stars like Thiago and Bastian Schweinsteiger are progressing further and further toward fitness; during the international break, time passes without Bayern having to play without their influential midfielders. The latter may in fact be fit to return to action just a few days after the current break, the latest prognosis suggesting that he may be fit in the middle of September.

August was a difficult month for Bayern, featuring ups and downs that were predictable following the World Cup and considering the many tactical and personnel changes that could be observed at Sabener Strasse. As more time goes by, though, the German giants can be expected to move toward health, fitness, cohesion and an optimal tactical model. It may take some time, but following the international break, expect Guardiola's side to look a much stronger force.


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