Last season under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern Munich were arguably the best team in football, breaking countless records and winning the German treble, the Bundesliga title, the German Cup and of course the all-German Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.
Under Heynckes, Bayern broke over 30 records in the Bundesliga including, earliest win of the Bundesliga title, least goals conceded, least loses, the list goes on and on. So all that begs the question - why change it?
Pep Guardiola was announced as Bayern’s new head coach half way through the last campaign while Heynckes was still in charge, and why was he chosen? For his brand and previous success with FC Barcelona.
Now on paper, the best team in European football, mixed with a manager who has coached Barcelona and won them the Champions League sounds like a recipe for success, especially since Munich has signed some talented players in the form of Mario Götze and Thiago Alcantara.
However I believe that what Guardiola is doing is trying to turn Bayern into the Barcelona he managed and had success with by chancing their formation and somewhat their style of play, and arguably that is really not the right thing to do with Bayern.
Under Heynckes, Bayern used the 4-2-3-1 formation utilising the wide men with one striker in Mario Mandzukic, which for most of the season was Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery. The reason this formation was successful was highly down to what Heynckes managed to do with it.
He had two holding midfielders, Bastian Schwienstieger and Javi Martinez, who were world class last season. Their job was simple, shield the back four and get the passes going. This worked very well - the back four were rarely threatened and when they were, they dealt with it easily.
The other thing Heynckes did so successfully was make his wide men track back, now for Muller that isn’t so unusual. However for Robben and Ribery this was something they did not like to do, however after watching Bayern performances everyone could see that Heynckes had drilled it in to their heads, so when they did lose possession, they would chase back and help their defenders.
Doing what he did with the style of Bayern’s play, Heynckes turned them from a great team to the world’s best and conquerors of Europe.
Now what exactly is Guardiola doing differently? Firstly he has changed the formation they play with. He has changed the successful 4-2-3-1 into the more attack minded 4-3-3, with more emphasis on attacking rather than holding and counter-attacking.
Straight away with this change of formation, the midfield becomes an issue, as instead of using two holding midfielders and one attacking midfielder just behind the striker, Guardiola will most likely use one holding midfielder and give the other two licence to roam.
In attack this will be fine generally, as the front three will be the same as before only with an extra man in support. The problem arises when they are defending. They will have one less man to cover, and the back four will be exposed a whole lot more.
And with Guardiola, Ribery and Robben are unlikely to be forced to tracked back, so their defence will be over exposed at times, especially on the counter attack.
The only other problem with Guardiola’s style of play is that he is rumoured to want to experiment using the false number nine with Mario Götze - like he did with Lionel Messi at Barcelona. Whether this is true is not important, however if he does do this then he is taking a big risk.
Mandzukic was very impressive last season, scoring all sorts of goals. Now if Guardiola doesn’t use him, they lose the physical presence and dimension he gives, as Götze is a lot shorter and naturally an attacking midfielder.
So if Guardiola does decide to use Götze as a false 9 then he will be encouraging the tiki-taka passing style that he used at Barcelona.
And that is not what Bayern need as they are more physical and direct, especially since Götze doesn’t seem to have settled at Bayern yet, putting in some unsure early performances.
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