There is – to make a significant understatement – a lot going on in terms of football right now. The World Cup is in full throes, transfer rumors and realizations are occurring rapidly, and many teams are beginning preseason training – Bayern Munich being one of them.
With all this commotion, it’s perhaps a good time to make some very early predictions on the roster and how each player may be expected to contribute in the coming year. I peg now as a "good time," because it’s always interesting to look back at these types of things at a later date for a hearty laugh. Early predictions have a propensity to be far off the mark, and – as a sacrifice to BFW – I am willing to offer my prognostications for your entertainment and ridicule!
For the purposes of this discussion, I have coined a few types of roles that may be distributed among the squad. It’s difficult to pinpoint certain players, due to the tremendous amount of talent on this team; but I’ll do my best. Below, I’ll define each role that I intend to utilize:
- Starter: Pretty self-explanatory. This player will likely feature in the Startelf for the majority of matches.
- Rotational Starter: These players will either start, but not every week; or they may start often, but find themselves moved around the pitch due to versatility.
- Super-Sub: This player may not start, but will be used as an impact player. If Bayern is struggling to achieve a result, these super subs will be brought on to create a spark and make a difference.
- Depth: These players will rarely start, if ever, but they’ll often feature on the matchday rosters. Although infrequently called-upon, their presence is valuable for practices, and in case of injuries or required rest for starters.
- Developmental: Much like Depth players, these guys won’t see much first-team action, but they’ll practice with them and hopefully grow into eventual starters, whether this year, or beyond.
- Loan Potential: These players generally double down as Developmental. In all likelihood these are young players who are road-blocked by established starters, and could benefit by minutes elsewhere.
So, shall we begin?
#1 Manuel Neuer
There really isn’t much to discuss here. Unless – God forbid – everyone’s favorite Torwart experiences an injury or needs a rest, he’s the man between the sticks. He’s spent this World Cup reminding the entire planet why he’s arguably (?) the best there is.
Role: Starter, duh.
#22 Tom Starke
As mentioned with Neuer, Starke is unlikely to be utilized unless called upon to spell the Nummer Eins. He’s been steady, if unspectacular, in his spot appearances previously.
# (???) Keylor Navas
In addition to rumors, it appears that a the VP at Levante has confirmed that the Costa Rican keeper will be joining Bayern shortly. He had a phenomenal World Cup, and it may be a boon to the club to bring in a younger, more dynamic back-up for Neuer, beyond Tom Starke.
The Brazilian had a strong start to the 2013/2014 campaign, had a drop in form toward the end of the calendar year, and then had a mostly impressive Hinrunde to cap off a largely positive year. At this point, one would presume that he’s one of the two starting center backs in Pep’s four-man backline.
In his first year at Bayern, Guardiola did something extraordinary in effectively transplanting Philipp Lahm into the role of a #6. With the captain’s phenomenal play in that role, Rafinha benefited from the additional playing time, and performed admirably in the process. Unless Pep decides that he requires Lahm at his prior right back position, Rafinha looks to remain the starter for the time being.
#17 Jerome Boateng
Much like Dante, the Germany international had his ups and downs last year, although I think it’s fair to say that he had far more ups than downs. Further bolstering his likely starting position with a solid World Cup, Boateng seems likely to be Dante’s counterpart in the starting eleven.
#18 Juan Bernat
Welcome, welcome, Juan and all! Aside from easy access to terrible puns, this surprise transfer appears as though he might serve as a deputy to left back, David Alaba. In his welcoming press conference, Karl-Heinz Rumenigge indicated that Burnat was not brought in as depth on the bench. One might venture a guess that he could be worked in a rotation with Alaba, and one or either may find themselves pushing in a more advanced role, depending on the formation and tactics. He seems very dynamic, much like Alaba, having been tabbed as both a fullback and a winger.
Role: Rotational Starter.
#27 David Alaba
As mentioned with the incoming transfer of Juan Bernat, it seems that Alaba is possibly to be rotated with the incoming Spaniard. The young Austrian has performed at a relatively high level at left back for two solid years, and I would be surprised if the arrival of Bernat spells a significant reduction in playing time. Having previously been used as a holding midfielder and on the wing, perhaps Alaba will find himself alternating between defense and midfield, again, at Guardiola’s discretion.
#28 Holger Badstuber
Let’s keep our fingers crossed, folks! After two successive knee injuries, one simply hopes the homegrown product stays fit this year, before one predicts any significant contributions. He is currently training at Säbener Strasse; but after missing practically two years at Bayern, it’s hard to determine his role. He was emerging as a star in the central defense prior to his knocks, and I would surmise that he’ll either be used as a back-up to Dante to ease him back in, or he may perhaps be loaned out to get some much-needed playing time. Either way, I think I speak for all of us when I say that I hope he remains fit, regardless of his role.
#6 Thiago Alcantara
Despite an injury-riddled first year with the Bavarians, Thiago showed enough flashes to have most supporters very excited, including perhaps the goal of the season. He’s a phenomenal talent, and he appeared to excel most at center mid, rather than in a holding position. He’s capable of playing at practically any spot in the midfield, but his injuries may limit his playing time early in the season. He’s likely to be moved around and earn himself frequent starts.
Role: Rotational Starter
#7 Franck Ribery
Kaiser Franck started off the season with a bang in 2013/2014. Through the first eight matches in the Bundesliga, he collected three goals and four assists. Starting on Matchday 9, however, he had his first in a series of injuries that would interfere with what looked to be a prolific season. With joint pain, a fractured rib, back pain, and what we’ll call a gluteal injury, Ribery missed nine of the next 15 matches in the league. When he returned, he performed phenomenally in spurts, but was unable to consistently threaten as he had early on in the campaign. Hopefully a summer of rest will suit him well, and he’ll return as the regular starter on the left wing.
#8 Javi Martinez
Like Thiago, Javi found himself playing mediocre in one position, and showcasing his talents in another. Pep used Martinez sparingly early on due to injuries, and then insisted in placing him at center back upon his return. Toward the end of the season, injuries forced Javi into use at his preferred CDM position, and he played exceedingly well down the stretch in the Bundesliga and in the Pokal. His performance should merit frequent starts in the holding midfield, pending a carousel at the position.
Role: Rotational Starter.
#10 Arjen Robben
The Flying Dutchman had perhaps one of his best years. Aside from a superficial leg injury caused by a reckless tackle from Augsburg keeper, Marwin Hitz, he did not miss any significant time. His 11 goals and six assists contributed to a convincing Bundesliga Championship in Pep’s first season. Having appeared to get through the entire World Cup without any significant knocks, he seems poised to pick up as the starting right winger for Bayern.
#11 Xherdan Shaqiri
This burgeoning Swiss international had a forgettable club campaign, largely attributed to unfortunate injuries. He missed 13 matches due to fitness reasons, but found himself on the pitch for 17 of the remaining 21 matchdays. He was primarily used as a substitute, but got occasional starts to spell either of the established wingers. Shaqiri’s biggest obstacle is the talent ahead of him. On another team, he’d be nearly a guaranteed starter; but Ribery and Robben limit his access to first-team minutes. With both of them over 30, it’s not unreasonable to think that he may get additional time in spelling them. He’s likely not a regular starter, but he’ll get a handful of full matches and plenty of opportunities to substitute on.
Role: Rotational Starter/Super Sub.
#19 Mario Götze
After his shock move to Bavaria, Götze had himself a solid season. He started many matches as a CM in the four-man midfield, and often found himself on the left wing, due to the injuries of Ribery and Shaqiri. In all competitions, he garnered 15 goals and 13 assists, and he is likely to maintain a similar role as a versatile starter. He’s not guaranteed to be on the pitch for every match, but hardly anybody is with this team’s depth in the middle.
Role: Rotational Starter.
#20 Sebastian Rode
This former Eintracht Frankfurt cog has long been rumored to arrive at the Allianz Arena, and now here he is. Even as a young, promising player, he is going to have a hard time passing the likes of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, and Martinez for his preferred spot as a deep-lying midfielder. That said, he may have been acquired as an eventual heir to one of the former two, who are still playing at a high level, but may only do so for a few more years. He’s likely to only get sparse minutes this season, unless he finds himself utilized elsewhere, perhaps on defense.
#21 Philipp Lahm
Der Kapitän is – and I say this with zero hyperbole – perhaps the most intelligent, versatile player in the Bundesliga, if not beyond that. Aside from his vision, anticipation, and reading of the game, he’s also unbelievably durable. He played 90+ minutes in nearly all of the 28 league matches he started, and only missed four matches, two of which were to rest him. He played the vast majority of the season as a DM, and excelled in his new role. Pep fully endorses Lahm as the most intelligent footballer he’s had the pleasure of managing, and it’s safe to assume that he’ll be perhaps the most consistent fixture in the Startelf, aside from Manuel Neuer.
#23 Mitchell Weiser
Weiser was acquired from Kaiserslautern in mid-2012, and was subsequently loaned back to 1.FCK for development. He notched 19 appearances for FCB II, and found himself earning playing time in three matches for the first team at right back, toward the end of the season. Weiser is listed as a winger, and played largely as such in the Regionaliga; but it’s yet to be determined whether Pep prefers him attacking, or as more of a wingback. Either way, he’s unlikely to accrue substantial minutes this season, and I would expect him to serve as depth, or potentially get loaned out for experience.
Role: Depth/Developmental/Loan Potential.
#25 Thomas Müller
Poised to possibly earn himself a second Golden Boot in as many World Cups, Müller is hopefully preparing to define his role at Bayern. Having expressed some discontent with his irregular playing time in 2013/2014, he signed a contract extension that hopefully signifies some assurance of a role. He earned minutes in all but three league matches, and found himself on either wing (primarily on the right), as an attacking midfielder, or as a striker/supposed False 9. I’m not certain what discussions occurred between him, Pep, and the Bayern Board leading up to his renewed contract, but I’d imagine his identity in the squad will be sorted out this year. For now, I would assume he’ll serve in those various roles, as necessary.
Role: Rotational Starter.
#31 Bastian Schweinsteiger
The one and only Fussballgott regrettably spent the middle third of the Bundesliga season dealing with some nagging injuries. When fit, however, he was an excellent utility player for Pep, playing as a holding midfielder, a central player in the four-midfield set, and an attacking mid. I’d imagine -- presuming he remains healthy -- that he’ll be regularly rotated amongst those positions, and will continue to remain part of the foundation of the weekly squad.
Role: Starter/Utility Player.
#34 Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
Despite limited playing time for the developing Dane, it was clear to see that Pep likes the player. With nearly 400 minutes garnered with the first team at 18-years old, Højbjerg found himself playing across the midfield and seemed to shine in most opportunities. I’d anticipate that he’ll get more minutes, but will not be a regular starter in 2013/2014. He’s probably too valuable in terms of depth to loan out, and he’ll continue to grow with the big boys over the next year.
#37 Julian Green
While he garnered a mere two minutes for the first team, the young German-American enjoyed an impressive season with FCB II, collecting 15 goals and eight assists. Guardiola seems impressed with him, and if he doesn’t see spot minutes with the first team in this year, it may be wise to loan him elsewhere for developmental purposes. He’s quick, crafty, and seems ready to take the next step in his club career. I’d assume any playing time will be earned on the left wing, or as a False 9 in Pep’s scheme.
Role: Depth/Developmental/Loan Potential.
#9 Robert Lewandowski
Seriously. Seriously, you guys. We got this man for free? FOR FREE?! Ahem. Excuse me for that. As we all know, the arrival of the Polish international has been long-assumed/confirmed. He’s a complete forward in the utmost sense. With the Club-in-Yellow-Who-Shall-Not-be-Named, he tallied 28 goals and 15 assists in all competitions throughout 2013/2014. Lewandowski is a lethal finisher who can put the ball away from close range, just as easily as he can crush a long-distance shot into the back of the net. He’s an excellent dribbler, and does all the things you could possibly want in a forward. Pep has to be absolutely thrilled with this acquisition, and he’ll almost assuredly be a week-in, week-out starter.
(Author’s Note: We now interrupt this article for this very important piece of nastiness:)
#14 Claudio Pizarro
Honestly, what a joy it was to have Pizarro on the squad last year. He was a valuable sub, and played phenomenally in his occasional starts. In the final four matches of the league season, he had a lot of fun (and so did we!), as he netted five goals down the stretch. At 35 years old, he can only be considered as a sub or occasional starter, but he seems pleased to play that role in the twilight of his career.
Role: Depth/Super Sub.
# (???) Patrick Weihrauch
The homegrown German prospect was reportedly highly regarded by Pep prior to his arrival last year, but a mediocre season in the Regionalliga didn’t appear to help his cause. Listed as a striker, but often used as a winger, the young player may find himself on the wing, up top, or as a withdrawn striker. Having renewed his first-team contract recently, he’ll probably find himself on the bench, or loaned out for minutes.
Role: Depth/Developmental/Loan Potential.
#26 Diego Contento
There have been rumblings over the past year that Contento is seeking a more predominant first-team role, whether at Bayern, or elsewhere. Despite showing some versatility as both a center back and a left back, the German-Italian homegrown product is likely to look to other clubs as he enters the prime years of his career. Alaba and now Juan Bernat stand in the way of a larger role, and it’s hard to blame him for looking into a move.
Role: So long, old friend.
#39 Toni Kroos
I think many Bayern supporters, myself included, have mixed emotions about Kroos. On one hand, he has shown flashes of being one of the best facilitators on the planet, threading incredible passes and launching ferocious shots on target. On the other hand, he’s also been inconsistent with those performances, and his nonchalant attitude toward the club seems to point to a desire to move elsewhere. Reports have indicated that Bayern does not wish to reach a certain price point which it reserves for club talismans and pivotal figures (i.e. Lahm, Schweinsteiger), and Kroos does not seem poised to achieve that status at this point. While a phenomenal player, it seems he’s destined to move elsewhere, and the latest rumors suggest a transfer to Bayern’s 2013/2014 Goliath, Real Madrid. If that comes to fruition, I do wish him well, as he has (largely) been a pleasure to watch.
Role: Goodbye, Toni! Helllooooo, $$$/€€€!
So, folks, there you have it. I’ve taken a very rough stab at the possible sticking points for each player on Bayern’s current roster, and there’s a fairly high probability that I’ll be proved very wrong in a matter of weeks. But hey, that’s part of the fun of these things, am I right?!