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My Bad Take: Julian Nagelsmann was going to unleash a Bayern Munich back three this season

Hey, it still might happen! Maybe next year?

TSG Hoffenheim v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Markus Gilliar - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

It's the season for bad takes, so I should chime in with one of my own. I thought that Julian Nagelsmann might accelerate his plans to shift Bayern Munich to a back three in year two, but now that looks further away than ever.

Honestly, Bayern have a lot of decent pieces for this. Alphonso Davies is a highly potent offensive wing-back, and Noussair Mazraoui is coming along nicely on the right. Bayern have a cream of the crop set of starting center-backs for present and future in Lucas Hernández, Matthijs de Ligt, and Dayot Upamecano. The latter two are freshly arrived from Juventus and RB Leipzig, while the club are clearly trying to extend Hernández for the long haul.

Three center-backs would help in midfield, too: it could give Joshua Kimmich some more license to roam forward in different phases of play, knowing there is some cover at the back behind him. De Ligt could step forward as a stopper, for example, leaving the speedy Upamecano to sweep behind. Finally, wing-focused play might have focused the reconfiguration in attack following striker Robert Lewandowski’s departure to FC Barcelona.

But Nagelsmann’s 4-2-2-2 has worked wonders this season, and when it ran into trouble, shifted seamlessly into a 4-2-3-1. Sadio Mané as a fluid central forward morphed back into Sadio Mané in his Liverpool FC comfort zone on the left. If Bayern do sometimes build out from a 3+1 shape with the right-back tucking in for support, it’s still a distinctly back four flavor — all the more so when it is Mazraoui and not Pavard. Depth on defense — further whittled down by injury — has meant the available center-backs are all needed just to fill rotations.

And for next season, Bayern seem to be locking in to the good ol’ back four even more. Pavard looks to be hankering to leave, and another midfielder, Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer, is set to join the rotation alongside Kimmich and Goretzka. Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman look far away from their dalliances at wing-back in 2020/21.

Maybe Nagelsmann still has some secret machinations to evolve Bayern back towards the back three style he has flaunted in the past. Perhaps it’s waiting for the right opportunity on the market — or it’s ready as a failsafe in case Bayern should fail to hold on to one of their many uber-talented attackers.

As it stands, the back four is going swimmingly well and looks set to do so for the long haul. It will just happen to be one that features three of the best center-backs in the world. And that’s just fine by me.

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