Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac has used the preseason to experiment with a 4-3-3 formation as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 that became the preferred alignment for last season’s roster.
With the shift, some players may not have a defined role and one of them is team stalwart Thomas Müller. As AZ reports, Müller is likely currently considered a back-up option at striker, both wing positions, and central midfield, but not part of the team’s starting XI. Maximilian Koch writes,
Müller will therefore have to be patient. He is currently only the first alternative both at striker behind Lewandowski and on the two outside attacking positions. The world champion could also be used at the 8 position.
Müller seems as if he can feel the shift and realizes that he is the odd-man out of the rotation:
I prefer to play in the middle. As I’ve been trying to communicate for ten years, that’s where I can play to my strengths best. The eight position is also a middle position.
Müller’s importance to the Bayern line-up was evident last season. Since Müller has at least a handful of productive years left in his career, it is conceivable that a term on the bench will not sit well with the 29-year-old star. For his part, Müller had nine goals and 16 assists across 45 games in all competitions last season.
With a roster full of midfielders in Thiago Alcantara, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Javi Martinez, and Renato Sanches, Kovac appears to be trying to sort out how to best utilize the volume of players he has in the central midfield. Müller would presumably be in the mix to compete for time at the 8 and would likely be battling with players like Thiago, Goretzka, Tolisso, and Sanches for that central role.
Bayern has also Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry as a its primary wingers and potentially Leroy Sané making his way from Manchester City. With Lewandowski entrenched at striker, the options for Müller to get on the field across those front three positions might be limited as well.
A fair question to ask about this move, however, is whether Kovac is trying to mitigate a roster logjam in the central midfield as opposed to using his best XI? Müller’s importance to the lineup has been discussed ad nauseam among Bayern Munich fans, but the former Germany international might not have convinced Kovac that his presence in the lineup is essential.
The shift to a 4-3-3 and the subsequent emphasis on younger players could be the breaking point one way or the other for Kovac. If it works, he instantly becomes the creative genius who figured out a way to best utilize the assets on his roster.
And if it fails? Kovac’s grace period in Munich will be over and the coach could become susceptible to a mid-season exit.