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Philipp Lahm's midfield duty a bright spot for Bayern Munich

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Pep Guardiola's decision to move Philipp Lahm to the midfield was questioned at first, but the captain's brilliant performances quieted even the most vociferous critics.

Adam Pretty

This season Bayern fans encountered a strange sight: Philipp Lahm, usually seen making overlapping runs from fullback, had taken to hanging around the middle of the football pitch. Upon his arrival at the club, Pep Guardiola had handed Lahm the single pivot position that his system relies on so heavily, essentially emulating Sergio Busquets' role at Barcelona. Lahm subsequently adapted to the position so swiftly that Guardiola hailed the erstwhile defender as the most intelligent player he's ever coached.

Touches/90 Pass % Back Zone Pass % Forward Zone Pass %
97.75 92% 95% 88%

Lahm continued to provide defensive stability and dangerous support up the wings on occasions when he was asked to return to right-back, but it's in defensive midfield that the German international shone this season. Eight assists in all competitions is an impressive total for a player whose main task is to patrol the area in front of the back four, and it's no coincidence that Lahm was back in defence for Bayern's biggest loss of the season against Real Madrid, where he was unable to help his team establish a foothold in the centre of the pitch.

Shots/90 KP+Assists/90 Duel % Aerial Duel %
0.72 1.95 55% 63%

Far from an athletic powerhouse in the mold of Javi Martinez, he made up for a lack of physical stature with unmatched positional awareness and passing consistency. From routine balls to more ambitious passes up field, Lahm was integral to this Bayern side's possession-based football, holding the ball up and dictating the pace of play to allow the likes of Kroos and Schweinsteiger to flourish ahead of him.

Tackles/90 Int/90 Recoveries/90 Clearances/90
1.52 1.37 4.02 1.32

Bundesliga & Champions League

It's hard to think of a stand-out performance for Lahm for the simple reason that he has been so consistently excellent this season. That being said, the outrageous 134 for 134 passes against Hertha Berlin was the perfect example of his value to Pep's setup. To put that number into perspective, that's more than the entire Manchester United team managed in their local derby on the same day. Coupled with his calmness on the ball, it's little wonder that Guardiola's side enjoyed so much possession.

Like so many Bayern players, it has to be said that Lahm's influence did wane slightly towards the end of the season. The loss against Dortmund in April served as a reminder that even the captain isn't always infallible in defense, as he was unable to provide enough cover to prevent his side from conceding three goals. Against Manchester United, Lahm found himself sucked out of position for Patrice Evra's strike at the Allianz Arena, while the headed goal from Nemanja Vidic during the Old Trafford leg was a sign that the diminutive German could potentially be vulnerable on set-pieces.

Of course, these examples were arguably the product of tactics rather than individual form, and it's hard to deny that this side seemed to miss Lahm whenever he was omitted from the midfield. It's clear that Guardiola values versatility among his ranks, and in that respect Lahm has been a revelation - such is his understanding of the game that he could probably play in any outfield position and put in an impressive performance. While Pep's tinkering has been the source of both praise and criticism this season, the transformation of Phillip Lahm was arguably his best decision of all.

Grade 2013-14: A