Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has set his stall out early on at the Allianz Arena, using a system packed with playmakers including summer signings Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze.
While Guardiola has built a stellar reputation on patient possession football in the final third, he may well regret selling his only recognised midfield destroyer in Luiz Gustavo.
The Brazilian international knew his days in Bavaria were numbered fairly soon after Guardiola’s arrival, with captain Philipp Lahm preferred in an experimental holding midfield role for much of pre-season.
With his place at next summer’s World Cup in jeopardy without playing time Gustavo decided to leave two weeks ago, signing for Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg.
Now without question Guardiola has a vast array of midfield talent at his disposal, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos making a living out of providing a consistent supply line to feared forwards like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.
It’s when Bayern lose possession that Gustavo’s sale may have presented entirely avoidable problems. His sense of awareness in averting danger can perhaps only be matched in the current Bayern crop by Javi Martinez, who is himself currently fighting for a starting spot at centre-back.
Sloppy defending has also been evident in two of Bayern’s first four Bundesliga encounters, with lapses in concentration allowing Borussia Monchengladbach and Freiburg to beat Manuel Neuer in the past few weeks.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game which every manager should have a contingency for, but Guardiola has key players out with no direct replacement just shy of four weeks into the campaign.
Schweinsteiger limped out of last night’s draw with Freiburg, while Thiago could face at least two months on the sidelines with a torn ankle ligament after having an operation earlier this week.
Friday’s Uefa Super Cup should provide a perfect early test of what Pep’s Bayern look like under pressure, forced to track runners in a potentially swamped midfield against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
While Arsenal rued missing out on Gustavo earlier this month, it may well be Bayern who are cursing a poor piece of business in the transfer market come May.
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