Bayern Munich may be headed for a major system revamp going into the new season.
According to Manuel Bonke and Philipp Kessler from TZ München (via Twitter), Julian Nagelsmann is planning a 3-5-2 formation for his team. The system has apparently already been practiced in the last few training sessions, and seems set to be a solid option, if not plan A itself, going forward.
Over the past decade, Bayern have looked most comfortable in a classic 4-2-3-1. Both Jupp Heynckes and Hansi Flick used 4-2-3-1s when they won their respective trebles, and it does seem to guarantee results. However, the departure of Robert Lewandowski, and the current lack of a classic no. 9, seems to have forced Nagelsmann’s hand to try something new to invigorate his attack.
So what would a 3-5-2 at Bayern even look like? Well, from what Bonke and Kessler have reported, the two forwards look to be newcomer Sadio Mané, and Serge Gnabry, who just extended his contract. The back three will likely be a combination of Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, and Lucas Hernández. Bayern are also currently chasing Juventus center back Matthijs de Ligt, who could slot in for any one of Upamecano or Pavard.
The middle five is where it gets tricky. Will Nagelsmann go for a 3-4-1-2, or a 3-1-4-2? The first option is easier to predict. Thomas Müller would likely be the starting attacking midfielder, maybe sharing minutes with Jamal Musiala in light of a grueling World Cup year. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka would be the holding midfielders, while Alphonso Davies and Noussair Mazraoui would be the wing backs.
The second option is hazy, because none of Bayern´s current crop of midfielders are suited for a sole defensive anchor role. If RB Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer is signed this summer, he could play that role, but as of now, that remains a major question mark.
Another question is whether Nagelsmann will use wingers or wingbacks in the four in front. We’ve seen last season that he can use a three-winger formation, so we could assume that Goretzka and Müller could line up behind the two strikers, while Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman would man the flanks. However, considering the no-wing-back formation was used mainly as a stopgap for Davies’ myocarditis-forced absence, it seems reasonable to assume a 3-4-1-2 might be a more plausible formation.
Some big question marks still surround the 3-5-2. For one, it could rob Kingsley Coman of his starting place. Coman has proven to be a very capable winger over the past few seasons, and shunting him to the bench in favor of a wingerless formation would not do. Another problem is the absence of wingers altogether. Bayern has always been a team with strong flanks, and ditching that approach may not be the best choice. Yes, Nagelsmann has proven that he is good with a back three (or has he?), but such a drastic change is likely to have at least some phase of trial and error. With an immensely tight schedule looming this season, is that something that Nagelsmann can afford as he chases all three trophies?
It will be interesting to see how Bayern line up in their two preseason friendlies, and maybe even against Leipzig in the DFL Super Cup. As good as it feels to lift a trophy, it may not be too far-fetched to think Nagelsmann would use it as another test round, considering the relative lack of preseason matches at his disposal.