With a little less than a month remaining in the European transfer window, Bayern Munich are starting to get down to the business end of their preseason. They’ve returned from a reasonably successful tour of North American that saw them finish 1-1-1 and the remainder of their squad has returned to training camp from summer holiday.
The DFL SuperCup is next weekend. The DFB Pokal kicks off in two weeks. The Bundesliga starts in three weeks. The coming weeks are going to be the final clues as to how Carlo Ancelotti’s team is going to be constructed and what holes still remain for them to fill.
Bayern Munich in their customary quick and efficient manner got their summer shopping out of the way in May. Which is before summer. So really, they were ultra quick this season snapping up Mats Hummels and Renato Sanches before anyone else could blink and have spent the remaining part of the summer giving Borussia Dortmund their highly talented castoffs — that’s Sebastian Rode and Mario Götze, people.
But where do they stand going into the final three weeks of preseason? This is Bayern Munich’s current depth chart. Players named in red are currently injured. Let’s break it down.
Strikers and Attacking Midfield
On the offensive side of the equation it all focuses around Thomas Müller and Julian Green. Bayern Munich have a plethora of wide attacking options but the injuries many of these players sustain will likely limit their selection. Bayern Munich have addressed this with quality and depth. The versatile Thomas Müller is not just the team’s backup striker, but also it’s primary attacking midfielder and depth winger. That leaves a potential problem for the team that is solved by Julian Green.
With Thiago Alcantara capable of relieving Müller should be go down — which is just slightly more than the chance the sun won’t rise tomorrow — the question becomes who backs Robert Lewandowski and a left wing that includes Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa. Pushing that into the hands of young Julian Green is Bayern Munich’s answer right now and the jury is definitely out as to whether or not that is going to be effective. The American international was very poor in Bayern’s draw with AC Milan but redeemed himself with a masterful 30-minute first-half hat-trick against Inter-Milan’s first choice defense before a so-so performance against Real Madrid.
Bayern Munich are deep — and injury riddled — in the attacking half and their depth solution might solely be Julian Green. Whether or not Bayern Munich can count on his reliability needs to be answered in the next three weeks. If not, Bayern have a hole they need to fill.
That sure looks like one of the greatest midfields ever assembled on paper.
The only player in that ensemble cast who is not one of the three-or-four best at what they do in the world is Joshua Kimmich — and he’ll probably be at that level in the next six months.
Now bring back Bastian Schweinsteiger Mr. Rummenigge so you can truly lord it over the rest of the football teams on this planet. Or not. Either works.
Bayern Munich’s defense is where the greatest question marks lie. The team features just three dyed-in-the-wool centerbacks and that seems woefully short for a team with the aspiration of winning the Champions League. Luckily for Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola cross-trained the entire defense to the point that centerback is the deepest position available outside of midfield.
Javi Martinez is equally at home in the backline as he is in midfield while David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich proved they alone could hold court for months as the lone defensive pairing. Add in Philipp Lahm’s ability to play everywhere and Xabi Alonso’s revelatory centerback play last season and it’s not an issue for Bayern Munich.
With both Boateng and Badstuber already injured, it’s hard not to feel apprehensive but if there’s one thing the last three seasons have taught us, it’s that devastating injuries problems at centerback are something this team can cope with.
Out wide, Rafinha is a known quantity that Guardiola tuned into a solid first-team contributor. On the left, the question is which Juan Bernat shows up this season. Is it the Juan Bernat of two season ago that lit the Bundesliga on fire and allowed David Alaba to grow into the complete player he is now? Or will it be the inconsistent Juan Bernat of last season?
Should Bayern Munich make another signing?
At the end of the day, the answer is likely no. This team is stacked , cross-trained, and deep across the field. Their season is not going to hinge on what they do or do not have but how healthy they can remain. Extra depth players are not going to change that equation.
The problem is that we’ve said the same thing year-after-year since Pep Guardiola took over and at some point the buck stops with the players. If this team can’t remain healthy with a new coach, new training regimen, and the revamped medical staff, then it needs a fundamental addressing of the player’s themselves.
And it’s bad already. Bayern Munich are down five massive pieces — Costa, Robben, Badstuber, Boateng, and Renato Sanches — and that doesn’t count Ribery who is out with a minor injury. It’s not exactly like this season is getting off to a swimming start.
Addressing that involves shipping players out, bringing new players in and Bayern might need to address that in the next three weeks if this gets substantially worse before a ball is even truly kicked. The team can talk all it wants about loyalty to players like Robben and Badstuber but if they can’t make it through preseason, then Bayern might need to take a serious look at moving on now and letting them sit on the end of the bench in anticipation of their expiring contracts.