Arndt’s Analysis – The Inside Story: Second String Doesn’t Fit
After the first three match days, Guardiola’s side haven’t been completely convincing but they have still won all possible points. Their draw against Freiburg is their first setback. The individual brilliance of players like Ribéry or Robben (as seen in the game against Nürnberg) have been the saving grace of the defending champion’s so far. But what if one of them is injured or is rested by Guardiola? At the beginning of the season, everyone was talking about Bayern’s squad being the best squad, maybe the best and broadest in the world. But the match today, tells another story.
No alternatives at the back
Both of Bayern’s full backs are irreplaceable. Lahm and Alaba are both world-class players but if one of them is out Bayern have a big problem. Rafinha, as well as Contento, once again demonstrated that they aren’t quite good enough. Contento’s attacking efforts simply don’t exist - nearly all of his passes went back to Manuel Neuer or one of the centre backs. Add to the fact he is constantly in danger of giving away a penalty because of his awkward tackling ability and the difference is clear. Rafinha on the other flank plays more offensive but, as he demonstrated against Lapprevote in the second half, his defensive quality is alarming.
In the centre of defence, there is one big winner under the new manager and that is Jerome Boateng. He’s the new leader in the back four and currently Guardiola’s number one choice. Against Freiburg, it was clear how important he has become, especially in terms of creating the play. Daniel van Buyten tried to replace him, but he hasn’t got the same quality when it comes to passing. Last year’s revelation Dante seems to still be struggling with Guardiola’s standards, which may be because he missed a big part of preseason. Boateng is the only constant and currently irreplaceable member of the defence. Holger Badstuber’s absence is growing more noticeable.
Problem area: Central attacking midfield
With Goetze and Thiago, Bayern made two spectacular signings in the offseason. Both of them were valid favourites of the new coach - Goetze was even hailed as the “new Messi”. The new Spanish manager has changed the system of his forerunner Henyckes, with Bastian Schweinsteiger as the only player in the defensive midfield role. Thiago is out for two months but in the game against Nürnberg, his relationship to his teammates on the field was still raw. He was one step ahead because he knows Guardiola’s tactics but his teammates weren’t on the same page. Mario Goetze was injured during preseason and has done his best to reach the same level we all know him for, but his performances against Nürnberg and Freiburg showed that he still has a long way to go. A lot of turnovers, lost battles and hardly any offensive action - Goetze hasn’t really arrived in Munich yet. Mueller is constantly looking for the space in the deeper areas and Shaqiri is the first replacement for Robben. For Ribéry, there is only Toni Kroos who can play on the left, but his playing style is far too different from that of Thiago or Goetze. If Guardiola wants to play his 4-1-4-1 system successfully he needs a fit and in-form Goetze or Thiago. One of them is out so he needs Goetze to step up.
The individual brilliance of some of his players has guaranteed success so far, but Guardiola has to search for some different solutions. Otherwise it could turn out that the best and broadest squad has some unexpected weak points.