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Why Bayern Munich shouldn't let Arsenal take Mario Mandzukic

The rumors surrounding Mario Mandzukic could just be the product of an overeager press. Either way, the Croatian striker still has a lot to offer Pep Guardiola's side.

Martin Rose

We've reached that point in the January transfer window when the rumor mill goes into overdrive, with David Moyes' presence in the crowd during the Mönchengladbach game on Friday adding fuel to speculation about the futures of Dante and Toni Kroos.

Another Bayern player who's been touted for a potential departure is Mario Mandzukic. Pep Guardiola left him out of his 18-man squad for Friday's game despite no apparent injury concerns – a decision that, according to Matthias Sammer, came down to a lack of effort in training. Cue an excitable response from the English media amid speculation that Mandzukic could be part of Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger's plans for the remainder of this Premier League season.

Sammer's comments were tempered by the admission that Mandzukic's omission from the squad sheet was little more than a reactionary measure. After all, a side with as much depth as Bayern's has enough competition for places to punish any complacency among squad members. Nevertheless, speculation about a spat between the forward and Guardiola has been well-publicised, and it certainly won't die down after Franz Beckenbauer's apparent assertion that Mandzukic can "pack his bags" next summer.

Away from personal disputes, the main issue at play here appears to be a tactical one; specifically, the manager's preference for a false 9. That role has most recently been occupied by Mario Götze, while Thomas Müller has also shown himself capable of playing in that position. If Mandzukic were to leave, it would also pave the way for the summer arrival of Robert Lewandowski – a player who most sources inside the club seem to agree provides a better fit for the Spaniard's system.

Therein lies the issue – Lewandowski's not playing for Die Roten just yet. Bayern's current ten-point lead over Leverkusen in the Bundesliga title race is a big gap, for sure, but not enough to sell your main out-and-out striker with the latter stages of the Champions League looming and almost the entire Rückrunde still left to play.

Even with the likes of Götze and Müller at Guardiola's disposal, Mandzukic has something to offer his side through a different kind of physical presence and link-up play. He was a mainstay of the starting lineup last season as he led the line for Bayern's treble-winning triumph under Jupp Heynckes, while this season has seen the 27-year-old notch a respectable 12 goals in 20 appearances so far.

He may lack the kind of agile movement and trickery that Guardiola likes to have in his forward ranks, but at the very least, Mandzukic is capable of providing a solid Plan B when the need arises. If nothing else, last weekend's disappointing friendly against Salzburg showed us that Guardiola's tactical decisions aren't always infallible, and the striker is a valuable asset to have for those rare occasions when things aren't going Bayern's way.

Whether you believe current rumours or not, Lewandowski's arrival at the Allianz Arena next season could most likely make selling Mandzukic a viable option for the Bavarians. But for now, allowing the Croatian player to leave without the presence of a like-for-like replacement would be a risky move this soon before the end of the season.

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