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Pep Guardiola's newest tactical iteration at Bayern Munich relies on the 3-man midfield

The lackluster first half against Mainz highlighted the need for the 3-man midfield at Bayern Munich. And without Rode and Vidal due to injury against Dinamo Zagreb, Bayern Munich need to have a functional alternate plan.

Simon Hofmann/Getty Images

While Saturday's 3-0 win over FSV Mainz 05 looked good on the score sheet, Bayern Munich's first half performance was woeful to the point that they only notched 5 shots from open play, with four coming from outside the box. That lack of action in the final third wasn't something you'd expect from the interchange and play of an attacking corps of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Douglas Costa, and Kingsley Coman.

The real root of that issue lays deeper though, in Guardiola's decision to field what was ostensibly just a two-man midfield of Xabi Alonso and Thiago. Müller's propensity to both drift wide right and push up alongside Lewandowski left Bayern Munich with aggressive wingplay but little action at the top of the box because of an outmanned central midfield. To Guardiola's credit it was a good gameplan considering Mainz of recent year's has been a particular thorn in Bayern's side with a noted history of flooding the midfield with a 4-man diamond and stifling Bayern's creative ability.

Rather than square off in that battle again, Guardiola opted to focus solely on supporting his wingplay to break down Mainz. However, Martin Schmidt played this game straight up so not only were their numbers wide capable of addressing the Bayern attack, their 3-man midfield left Thiago and Alonso isolated from the rest of the attack. The result was an anemic first half.

Ordinarily this isn't going to be an issue as both Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Rode's box-to-box play alongside Thiago will be more than enough depth for Bayern Munich. But in the situation where two or more of them are injured --  for example, the situation Bayern Munich find themselves in right now -- there may be serious issues with the midfield's ability to support the rest of team.

In times past David Alaba has been the fulcrum from which Bayern Munich pushed support into midfield, and while he was adept at picking his spots on Saturday, the defensive issues this caused against Mainz should be enough to scare Bayern Munich fans when they look at an upcoming fixture slate that includes Borussia Dortmund on the weekend, and Arsenal and Wolfsburg after the international break.

Finding a way to get the linkup play between those zones correct is going to be tantamount in this type of scenario and it might behoove Guardiola to switch from the more striker/winger-minded Thomas Müller to the creative playmaker of Mario Götze in these scenarios. While Götze may not offer the same level of box to box skill that Rode or Vidal do, his ability to drop deeper and combine with Thiago and push high and interchange with Lewandowski, will at least assure that Bayern Munich's attack isn't completely isolated from each other.

Vidal and Rode offer the best solution, but as we're going to see tomorrow against Dinamo Zagred, there has to be at the very least be a solid backup solution. And it wasn't what Guardiola tried on Saturday.

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