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Pep Guardiola needs to switch up his midfield partnerships against Hamburger SV

Pep Guardiola needs to try a new midfield formation against Hamburger SV or Bayern Munich may be in for yet another rough ride in the Bundesliga

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Last Saturday, I highlighted some struggles with Bayern Munich's attack. The biggest piece of the puzzle for Bayern is the lack of deep playmaking while using the current duo of Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The two dynamic midfielders haven't clicked together in any meaningful way for Bayern and it has been far from an effective partnership. While the issue has certainly been exacerbated by a recently vogue tactical choice that involves man marking Xabi Alonso, it's not a new problem.

Guardiola's most common answer to this problem is to shift either David Alaba or Rafinha up into midfield from one of the outside centerbacks slots. This option both preserves the defensive structure of Bayern Munich while also allowing them to selectively load the midfield when it has the ability to make the most impact. Yet as we saw in the match against Stuttgart, this tactic tends not to work against sides that employ a more direct defensive strategy. Wolfsburg played their highly aggressive pressing which uniquely suited Guardiola's use of David Alaba in this role. It was one of the better recent matches with regards to Bayern's ability to build play out of the back.

Meanwhile Stuttgart showed the limited effectiveness of this type of role in matches where oppositions are content to squeeze the middle during build-up play. In that match, Alaba's inability to move up from deep coupled with a strategy built to contain Xabi Alonso left Bayern Muncih without any midfield oomph, leaving them stodgy and ineffective for almost the entire match.

Going into tomorrow's match against Hamburger SV, Bayern Munich are going to need to try a new strategy. Under Josef Zinnbauer, Hamburg only knows one way to play and that is to defend, defend, defend. If Guardiola is set on using  Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger alone in the middle there are going to be issues. To maximize Bayern's potential moving forward, he should really consider a fundamental tactical shift to the 4-3-3 he's used to such great effect with Alonso and Schweinsteiger previously.


With limited options available in central midfield, his best option would most likely be to shift Sebastian Rode into the midfield alongside the duo. Previously, that trio has formed an incredibly potent force with both Rode and Schweinsteiger playing as interchanging attacking threats. This serves both the dual purpose of shielding Alonso from man marking by pushing the Hamburg midfield block deeper while also bringing dual attacking threats into play alongside Arjen Robben and the rest of the Bayern Munich frontline.The caveat with this approach is it requires Rafinha to be ready to play.They need him as the 4-3-3 naturally cedes vast racks of wing space making it a ripe counterattacking zone.  Mitchell Weiser and Rode have filled in admirably as right wingbacks but neither of them have displayed the tactical astuteness and defensive prowess that Rafinha has shown under Pep Guardiola.


Alternatively, with such a tactical strategy Pep Guardiola could move Mario Götze back into his preferred central role. With Robben diving in from the right side of midfield, Götze has shown a tendency to drop deeper combining with Schweinsteiger or pulling out to the left side of midfield. The caveat with this approach though is that it needs Franck Ribery playing his trade on the left side of midfield. The direct threat posed by RIbery forces the opposition backline to play wider allowing more space in the middle for Bayern Munich to work their tight passing circles. If that space isn't open the technical ability of Götze and Schweinsteiger's penchant for reading and moving into open spaces (their best skills) aren't going to be of any use to Bayern Munich.

Yet despite those options, it wouldn't be all that surprising for Pep Guardiola to just run out his standard 3-4-3 lineup and say "have at it boys". He's shown a willingness to trust his team to figure out some way to work together to win the game. For all we know continuing kind of approach may be just what the team needs and a side like Hamburg is still a good proving ground for Bayern Munich -- though it sure would be nice to not watch another game where Arjen Robben carries this team on his back for 90 minutes.

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