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FC Bayern München 2-0 Al-Merrikh SC | Analysis

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A lot of experimentation, a lot new faces, and a lot of fun to watch for a friendly

Alex Grimm

As I said when the lineups were posted, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Pep Guardiola grabbed the occasion of a friendly against a Sudanese club to tinker like no tomorrow. He mixed and matched, turned his lineup upside-down and right-side-up, and put people in positions never even considered.

Julian Green scored the only goal in the first half, and Claudio Pizarro scored the only goal in the second half. Two sets of ten players took the pitch, with Tom Starke staying in between the pipes for all 90 minutes.

My observations were captivating, exhilarating, and mesmerizing.

  • While the positioning up front was curious, Green did a tremendous job on the left flank. He made terrific runs and his spatial awareness was very mature. Once got an opportunity, when Mario Götze passed him the ball on the left side of the box, he put his laces behind the ball and pulled it near post passed the dive of Akram El Hadi Salim. Green has a legitimate shot of cracking the FC Bayern squad some day, which would be a great prospect for the United States if he decides to strap up for them.
  • Seeing Mitchell Weiser as a right back was a bit of a shock, although not out of the realm of possibility. Vladimir Ranković, who has played mostly as a right midfielder for the reserves, is considered to be one of the right back candidates to potentially replace the aging Philipp Lahm. David Alaba started as a midfielder himself, and now among the elite left backs in the world. Emre Can is even playing in defense for Bayer Leverkusen. Weiser could just be another experiment, and who knows. Position flexibility is a very attractive attribute.
  • One aspect of Lahm's tenure in midfield is that the center backs can move forward and have a bit of cover behind them. While Dante and Jérôme Boateng have not done so too often, Javier Martínez sure did. Part of the reason could have been the double pivot Guardiola employed in the first half, with Toni Kroos and Lahm moving back when Martínez moved forward. This movement may be a strategy when FC Bayern is struggling for goals, although seeing it in a friendly in Qatar does not mean the tactic translates to the Bundesliga.
  • What a wacky way to come out in the second half. Guardiola came out with a diamond in defense, with Boateng as the sweeper and Pierre Emile-Højbjerg as the holding midfielder. With Ylli Sallahi and Thomas Müller on the wings, Alaba and Rafinha could not come forward as the two usually do. What the set up did allow for is Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandžukić to play next to each other, a combination that was very fun to watch. In fact, Pizarro's goal came off of a header back from Mario Mandzukic, a combination that may not have happened. Once again, a combination that may work in a friendly but not translate against greater competition.
  • Seeing what Højbjerg, Green, and Alessandro Schöpf makes me disappointed that reserve matches are not as accessible. Even Ylli Sallahi provided decent service on the right, although seeing him in the friendly attested to why he has not seen a lot of pitch time with the reserves. All three will be great, creative players, whether for FC Bayern or for whatever club they take the field with.
  • Although Starke did not concede a goal, do not be fooled. He only faced one shot on target, and at times came off of his line in a perilous situation. Perhaps the fact that Guardiola pushed his defense high up the pitch contributed to his sweeper mentality, but he does not have the same instincts that Manuel Neuer has coming off his line. This further engrains the point that if Neuer gets injured, the defense for FC Bayern is totally different, and the German number one the most irreplaceable player on the pitch.

FC Bayern München have three days to train before it takes on Al Kuwait SC in Kuwait City. Daniel van Buyten was the only healthy player not to play, while Bastian Schweinsteiger could return sometime next week since he is back training with the team.

Match Details

1:0 Julian Green (35')
2:0 Claudio Pizarro (53')

First Half XI: Starke; Weiser, Martinez, Dante, Contento; Lahm, Kroos; Shaqiri, Götze, Green; Ribéry

Second Half XI: Starke; Rafinha, Boateng, Alaba; Müller, Thiago, Højbjerg, Schöpf, Sallahi; Pizarro, Mandžukić