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Could Kovac’s 3-5-2 Fix Bayern’s Problems?

After three consecutive disappointing matches, it’s clear something needs to change.

SL Benfica v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Group E Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

A draw at the Allianz Arena was not something any of us expected, especially a draw against a good, but not great, Ajax Amsterdam team. While it’s very easy to highlight some players who had poor performances, point out tactical problems, or question odd managerial choices, I’d argue that Bayern can get their mojo back by changing their formation.

It should have been clear after the game against Augsburg that Bayern’s setup could easily be exploited. Hertha Berlin picked up on this weakness and consequently become the first team to beat Die Roten in any competition this season.

As if the game against Ajax were a final nail in the coffin, some fans may already be asking why Bayern brought in Niko Kovac in the first place. I’d argue one of the key reasons why Eintracht Frankfurt was so successful last year was due to their uncommon formation, a 3-5-2.

Currently, only five teams in the Bundesliga employ a formation using three in the back. Of those, only Frankfurt, Werder Bremen, and RB Leipzig use a 3-5-2. The formation allows for flexibility on the wings and would help Bayern’s tendency to press up the field, while also preventing the center backs from being left exposed to counter-attacks, as they have been apt to be lately.

So, what would this formation look like?


The three in the back should be an easy call of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Niklas Süle. Not only are these Bayerns most capable defenders, but it will also keep them all happy as there will be less need for rotation, with the out of form Javi Martinez being the only other center-back on the roster. Bayern has three great CB’s. We need to be using all of them.


That’s right, wing backs. No need to solve the Robbery problem if their positions are taken. The 3-5-2 has the added benefit of allowing the wings to drop back to help on defense, basically turning it into a 5-3-2. David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich normally press high up the field to send in crosses and take corner kicks, and this formation allows for them to continue their normal pace of play and then take their time getting back. If either needs a break, he might be replaced by Rafinha as a defensive adjustment or either Robben or Gnabry as an offensive substitution.


While at Frankfurt, Kovac’s midfield setup called for one CDM and two CAMs. This team has more than enough talent to fill these roles. Thiago would fill the role of CDM and be in charge of distribution, as he normally is. Moreover, with four options in front of him instead of only Lewandowski, his distribution total will drastically increase. I can see Thiago thriving in this formation, and with Tolisso out for a while, he has the chance to really star in this setup.

The part of the two attacking midfielders could be played by James Rodriguez and Renato Sanches. Both are skilled players and have shown moments of brilliance (see the setup to Sanches’ goal against Benfica). That Benfica game really showed what a partnership between these two could bring, and Kovac should be exploiting this at every opportunity.

Leon Goretzka could play at either of these positions. However, I don’t feel he is ready to step up to the responsibilities of CM, and he hasn’t shown much brilliance in front of goal.


While Robert Lewandowski obviously takes one of the two striker roles, the second striker is up for grabs. I would contend there are two players who should be playing here: Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller.

Since Kingsley Coman is injured and both Sandro Wagner and Franck Ribery look helpless and out of form, the only other option at this position would be Serge Gnabry. I feel that he is more suited to be a winger than a striker, so I won’t include him at this position.

So, who gets the job between Müller and Robben? It’s a tough call, but Robben doesn’t have experience as a striker and Muller does. So, I would start Müller alongside Lewandowski. He may not have been at his best as of late, but, with his nose for goal, he would make the most sense here.

Here is the visual for this hypothetical 3-5-2 lineup:

This formation will allow Bayern to play the possession football they swear by, while also allowing them to prevent counter-attacks that could result in costly goals.

What do you think? Should Bayern make this drastic change, or are we already doomed?

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