When Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidžić began rebuilding his roster this summer in the wake of Robert Lewandowski’s transfer window exit to FC Barcelona, there was a glaring hole at the top of the club’s formation: no true No. 9 to take the Polish Hitman’s place.
The odyssey that has ensued since that point has not exactly been overwhelmingly good, but it also has not been horrific either. While Bayern Munich still just has one loss on the season, the team has shown a propensity to under-perform and, frankly, lose its focus at the end of matches.
One theory to bandy about is that the 4-2-2-2 system — while perfectly suited to utilize personnel on this squad — might be too intricate given the “position-less” nature of how it is being run.
The top four positions in the formation frequently interchange and appear to have the ability to roam freely in the final third. Left-back Alphonso Davies has been given free reign to push up into central positions, which can often leave the formation unbalanced and exposed. The situation becomes more unstable because Davies — for all of his otherworldly talent — is losing the ball at an alarming rate.
Joshua Kimmich has taken more of an advanced role because Marcel Sabitzer has elected to hang further back to provide a steady presence to help thwart counter-attacks. With Leon Goretzka returning to the squad, however, the positional battle between he and Kimmich for who will barrel forward into the box could leave a huge gap in the formation.
Bayern Munich fans knew that no one could replace Robert Lewandowski and it is hard to discern exactly what Sadio Mané consistently does different than the club’s other wing options like Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, and Serge Gnabry — and why it is considered so much of an upgrade that it was worth logjamming another capable body into the position group.
Regardless, Mané is still a great talent, but — like we knew — he cannot replace Lewandowski alone.
None of this is to say that the 4-2-2-2 is bad (it’s not, it’s likely the best way to use the roster’s talent), but perhaps it could be refined to create a little more positional stability. The breakdowns are frequent, the offense has been very choppy for long periods (while also being extremely deadly to the opposition for others), and the results are, well, not up to the standards of Bayern Munich just yet.
Should Julian Nagelsmann tone it down and stabilize things more — or is the sometimes chaotic and frenetic pace the attackers play with eventually going to be the key to a long run in the Champions League? There is good and there is bad for sure, but with only one loss to his name, Nagelsmann probably feels like his squad is evolving to where he wants them to be. The result, after all, are not horrible.
Last season, Nagelsmann tinkered and toyed with his formation and the roles within his system. For most Bayern Munich fans, winning just a Bundesliga title was not quite good enough. Will supporters have the stomach for another season where winning multiple trophies is at serious risk? Time will certainly tell that tale.
The Golden State Warriors made “position-less basketball” all the rage in the NBA just a few years ago. Can Julian Nagelsmann do the same in European football...or does he need to make some adjustments to become less of a boom or bust-type team?
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