Bayern Munich have been bit really hard by the injury bug this season — what else is new? Thiago is the latest player to join the injured list with an ankle injury picked up in Bayern’s 2-1 win over SV Rödinghausen in the DFB-Pokal. The Spaniard is set to be sidelined for at least a few weeks and will miss a crucial stretch of matches for Bayern, including the season’s first Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund in two weeks time.
Niko Kovac will be forced to make tactical adjustments to his midfield, where Thiago has played an integral role for Bayern this season. Without him, Kovac now must find a midfield system that works and doesn’t compromise the ebb and flow of the team’s offense and defense.
Here’s how some of us at BFW think he should utilize his midfield in Thiago’s absence:
James Rodriguez — Leon Goretzka — Thomas Müller
This formation consists of 3 different kinds of players that can all thrive off each other, thanks to each player‘s special skillset.
James has been a bit of a forgotten man so far this year, but after so many injuries to the Bayern midfield he should definitely expect to be remembered. He scored 7 goals and assisted on another 11 in his debut season and is really the linchpin in this formation. Many of Bayern’s attacks will run through him. If he can regain his confidence from last year and hit his stride again, Bayern won’t feel the losses of players like Thiago and Tolisso. James is capable of being the set-up man that can find that final piece of inspiration that Bayern has been lacking.
Thomas Müller should be the most forward player in this group. He needs to play like that Raumdeuter we know he is. Whether he is finishing the ball or making incisive runs to free up space for Lewandowski, he will be critical to the functioning of the team as a whole.
As the defensive number 6 in this formation, Goretzka should be able to hold his own both in supporting the back line and in getting forward as well. Most importantly, he needs to be conservative in his forward movements. We all know how good he is going forward, but with two other attackers in this grouping, it will be more than enough if he just plays within himself and allows the game to come to him.
The 23-year-old has shown that he’s confident both in possession and when winning the ball from the other team. He has the Arturo Vidal-esque box-to-box mentality and should be very successful by giving Bayern a strong foothold in their matches.
This potential formation and Renato Sanches’s boundless energy off the bench give the Bayern faithful a glimmer of hope. This seemingly impromptu team could get the job done.
James Rodriguez — Javi Martinez — Thomas Müller
To me, the midfield and wings will have to be planned out strategically and with much thought for each game. Sure, my trio is who I’d roll with (today) if I had to pick a starting XI, but there are variables to it. I would see whether it made sense to push Müller out to the wing and insert Goretzka into his slot in the midfield. I’d also have to examine each fixture independently and figure out how to mix-and-match all of these pieces.
For Robert Lewandowski alone, I’d push to see how he performs regularly with James and Müller behind him — but again I’d be looking seriously at every matchup. I’d also STILL like to see what James looks like on a wing at some point, as well. The more flexibility I have the better — even if that means using Sandro Wagner in a two-striker formation at times.
I have never really been “Team Javi,” nor have I have ever really been “Team Sanches,” but desperate times call for desperate measures. I respect what each guy brings to the table, even if I often find myself griping at what they respectively don’t bring. Regardless, I would want these two rotating almost on a game-by-game basis to ensure Javi is kept fresh and that we don’t end up finding out that it might be too much, too soon for Renato (who is steadily making progress and seems to be one of the few players that Kovac has a feel for when to use).
Coming into the season (as one of the leaders of the Goretzka Hype Train) I was hoping that Goretzka would be able to shift to the 6 if needed, but right now he is too offensively-driven to contain himself in a bit more of a restrained role at the 6. Perhaps he will grow into it at some point, but for now is an 8 (or occasionally a 10) for this team.
With so many injuries, everything would need to be planned out based on individual match-ups, but give me Müller, James, and Martinez if I need to win one game today.
James Rodriguez — Javi Martinez — Renato Sanches
This is a time when Bayern can experiment, and what better way than to experiment with the young talent that will be the face of Bayern for the next few years. Playing this formation would help build on the already great chemistry between James and Renato Sanches, which has produced phenomenal goals, including in the UCL group stage against Benfica.
I’m not a fan of Javi whatsoever, but like Chuck, I just can’t trust Goretzka to stay home and play the number 6 role. I think his days as a defensive midfielder are over until he settles into the Allianz. So, with Corentin Tolisso out until the New Year, the only logical move is to put in Javi Martinez. His form has improved since the international break (except for the Mainz game), so why not capitalize on it and try to coax more good performances out of him?
In terms of replacements, both Müller and Goretzka are good options to replace Sanches. Both have a nose for goal, and help bring up good chances. James consistently contributed to the score sheet since he joined, and he should remain in the lineup.
What midfield formations do you think Niko Kovac should use in Thiago’s absence? Tell us your picks and why!