Bayern Munich's stretch between transfer windows is another testament to the club's dominance over the last two and a half years. A few of their iconic players are shelved with injuries, and yet the squad has not missed a beat. They sit atop both the Bundesliga and their UEFA Champions League group, and have not conceded a goal in 658 minutes.
The best of Bayern is arguably yet to come too. Only one question remains: what happens to the squad when they get some of their players back? Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Sebastian Rode, and Xherdan Shaqiri are already struggling to get a game, and more returns could have more implications for the squad. It is a balancing act that Pep Guardiola has not yet figured out, but luckily Bavarian Football Works is here to help.
Here is BFW's top players in the squad, taking subjective views and objectifying them in the aggregate.
|Pepe Reina's Calf||–||–||–||–||16||–||22||–|
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"–" = not ranked
Brought in as a last-minute addition near the end of the transfer window, Alonso has become the focal point in midfield that Guardiola has wanted since his appointment at Bayern. He touches the ball more than anyone else, directing everyone of their duties as he does so. It is not a coincidence that Bayern have conceded just one goal since Alonso's arrival. His continued form could cement a place in the side, even when Schweinsteiger and Thiago return from injury.
The designation might be fair, but the fact remains that he was one of the more critical pieces to Bayern's defense before he got hurt. His thigh injury in conjunction with Benatia's increasing fitness now leaves him on the outside looking in once again, but that might not be a bad thing. Bayern are arguably more equipped in defense without him than when he got his knee injury. He will have all the time he needs to recover, and his impact for club and country could be greater upon his return.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Cowper's Rank: 6 | Aggregate: 13) – The team is fundamentally reliant on one or two box-to-box style midfielders. So far, those duties have fallen to Lahm and Alaba with Rode making brief cameos. While all of those players have had fantastic performances playing in those roles, it could be better. This is essentially comparing filet mignon to kobe steak and getting angry. At the same time, the strength of Schweinsteiger in that box-to-box role is completely unrivaled in modern football. Neither Lahm, Alaba, nor Rode can match his instincts in the final third, and this is a system built on the strengths of that skill-set. Bayern are good, but with Schweinsteiger, they have the potential to be so much better.
Mario Götze (NoVaBurgher's Rank: 1 | Aggregate: 7) – Right now, he is our best player. Ever since Bayern got Götze in the much hyped transfer summer before last, I have been praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that he would find the form he is in now. He has brought a new confidence to his game and found a new chemistry with his teammates that was just not there before. Götze has been consistently outstanding the previous several matches and has not really had a bad game this season. With Götze's recent form and his week to week improvement, the sky is the limit for him.
Rafinha (Quinn's Rank: NA | Aggregate: 16) – Depending on the formation that Guardiola decides to run out at any given time, there are several players that could occupy the same space that Rafinha would on the field. Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Sebastian Rode, Pierre Hojbjerg are four that come to mind. The formations would need to be adjusted for whichever player was thrust into that position, but Bayern could easily get by with any of them on the field instead of Rafinha.
Franck Ribéry (Rudnik's Rank: 6 | Aggregate: 10) – Despite still being injured (but appearing to get close to returning), a fully fit Ribéry would mirror the effect that Robben has had on the right side, and would probably even amplify it. As serviceable as Bernat has been (and improving), adding Ribéry on the left side improves the overall attack by an order of magnitude, and opens up space for everyone else. Bernat does not have that kind of influence.
Berni (Schrameyer's Rank: 18 | Aggregate: 23) – I am stunned, just stunned. Stunned! Stunned is the only way to describe how stunned I am that everyone else on this blog left Berni off their list. How could they? Berni is the heart and soul of Bayern Munich. Some people might say Schweinsteiger is or Lahm or maybe even Müller, but nope. It will always be Berni. He has the strongest selfie game of anyone in a Bayern shirt. He's a world traveling, beer drinking, go-kart riding, gelato enthusiast who has a way with the ladies. What else could you want in a bear? Not to mention he's reliable. Robbery? They're out injured all the time. Schweinsteiger? What does he do with his free time? Wears hats and sits on docks. Xabi Alonso? Sometimes there's more to life than passing a ball. But Berni! Berni gets to Allianz early. He pulls on his #12 shirt, laces up his Copa Mundials and sets out on to the pitch to kick the ball around, mingle with fans and occasionally conduct orchestras. Who's the first one at Säbener Straße and the last one to leave? Berni! Who doesn't forget one of his kumpel's birthdays? Berni! You look me in the eye and say Berni isn't the most important...erm...bear to ever put on a Bayern shirt. Wait, you can't. No one can lie like that. He would be number 1 on my list if Pep had the balls to actually start him one day. He's a natural striker and would score more goals than Lewandowski and Pizarro combined. It's a fact so START HIM, PEP. #teamberni
Philipp Lahm (VanOpdorp's Rank: 2 | Aggregate: 6) – Though his impact is different, he is still very impactful. Even in midfield, he has shaded more to the right, and attacking flows of Bayern's opponents have diverted away from his side of the field because of it. He is still the most intelligent player on the field, getting himself into scoring positions when he has to even when he has the shooting ability of an adolescent. He is still central to Bayern's identity on and off the field, and until that changes, he is going to be one of the first three players put on the team sheet.
He has returned to training, and now Thiago Alcântara could be close to a return to the pitch. There may not be a spot for him in the squad on the surface, but that was a similar assumption a year ago when he played close to every match since his return from his ankle injury. Guardiola will move pieces around even more to accommodate him, and his playmaking ability could add a totally other dimension to an already dominant side.