Pep Guardiola loves to experiment. We all know it, and we all love/hate it. From the highs of Javi Martinez central attacking midfielder and Philipp Lahm midfielder extraordinaire to the middles of Xabi Alonso, world's slowest centerback, to the lows of Javi Martinez, eternally torched rightback, Pep Guardiola's propensity to mix things up tactically is definitely all over the map.
Saturday's 2-0 win over Hertha BSC was no exception when he started Jerome Boateng in midfield, and put natural midfielder Javi Martinez at centerback. If wasn't a good experiment as Boateng spent 10 listless minutes tucked wide-ish right moving up and down in midfield and splaying long balls into the box. That was basically his entire contribution i that phase of the game. Worse than that , it restricted the space Philipp Lahm had to get forward, cutting him off from his teammates, specifically Thomas Müller who received little support as well.
After the game, Pep Guardiola acknowledged it didn't go well. But while the tactical idea was half-baked, it wasn't dumb. It was in essence a pseudo-rightback, a position that Boateng has played to great effect at for both Bayern and the German national team in the last two seasons. The role wasn't unfamiliar for him, it was just the positioning amongst his fellow players that didn't work. Part of that likely lies with Philipp Lahm who has seemed downright human this season on offense as compared to his past performances, and without that aggression you end up with the spatial issues that plagued Bayern Munich on Saturday.To that end, this tactical plan would likely have worked with either of David Alaba and Juan Bernat playing on the right, in essence using them as inverted fullbacks from deep.
Alaba is the most exciting as he already dives high into midfield on the left, proving to be Guardiola's equivalent to Thomas Müller in defense in that he just moves into and occupies whatever space is dictated by the game. In this type of setup, Alaba could shift into central midfield during possession while Boateng moves wide right to shut down the counterattack. That effectively instills Bayern with the midfield creativity they need to go along with putting Jerome Boateng's dramatic crossing and long ball ability on the wing to add a dominating aerial attack.
Juan Bernat offers the same option but with principle difference being pace. The pace and dribbling ability to evade midfielders gives Bayern a way to unlock staunch defensive midfields in much the same way that Arjen Robben cutting in off the wing does. Only in this instance, you're targeting the defensive midfield and compacting the opposition. That ultimately creates more space for Boateng out wide to put in those dangerous crosses.
The main impetus here is using the naturally left footed player to drive into the center of the field, supporting the box-to-box midfielders and injecting attack thrust from wide toward the center. The main aim of this is to open space on the right side of the field for Jerome Boateng to deliver in these crosses. That comes with a desired predilection to use an aerially dominant game to break down an opposition.
While neither tactical option is something that Guardiola should (or would) use on a regular basis, this kind of experimentation yields yet another idea of how to use this versatile and cross trained team. And that becomes extremely necessary when they need to find that special key to unlock a particularly potent defensive force.