European Champions Bayern Munich have officially unveiled the Barcelona prodigy Thiago Alcantara today following a transfer for a reported fee of €25 million.
The 22-year-old was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League Champions Manchester United, as he looked for regular first team opportunities and while the Red Devils were ready to activate his €18 million release clause; the lure of working with his mentor, Pep Guardiola meant that the Barcelona man snubbed the Premier League champions in favour of the German outfit.
It is understood that Pep’s assurances to the Spaniard, that he would be given regular first team opportunities at the Bavarian club, has sealed the deal in favour of the European champions. Here we take a look at some of the possible formations Pep might use to accommodate his new signing.
Last season, Jupp Heynckes used several formations depending upon the opposition and availability of his own players. But mostly the game plan of the Bavarians centred on the 4-2-3-1 system.
Bayern fielded the reliable back-four of Lahm, Dante, Boateng and Badstuber, till mid of October before Badstuber got injured and was replaced by David Alaba.
Likewise, in the midfield, Luiz Gustavo and Bastian Schweinsteiger formed a formidable duo until the Brazilian got injured in the month of November, which forced him out into the sidelines for a long period of time, while he was swiftly replaced by the newcomer Javi Martinez.
In the typical 4-2-3-1 formation, the dynamic Toni Kroos was deployed in behind the lone striker Mandzukic, while Muller and Ribery drifted wide on the right and left side respectively. Often Kroos was replaced by young Shaqiri while Arjen Robben replaced Muller, depending upon the opposition.
Now, with the arrival of Guardiola and subsequently two new players – Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara, expect a tweak in the system and formation.
Should Guardiola revert back to his favourite 4-3-3 formation, it is likely that the Spaniard would switch to the Barcelona model here. He might use Schweinsteiger in the Sergio Busquets role, Thiago as a regista in the mould of Xavi and Kroos in a more attacking role, akin to the Iniesta role. For this, he will have to push back Martinez in the centre back role to accommodate his fellow compatriot.
In that situation – Ribery, Muller and Gotze will take up the front three, with the former Borussia Dortmund player, playing in the false 9 position.
This is the one of the possible ways he can accommodate Thiago and Gotze in the side, without altering their natural position.
Meanwhile, plenty of alterations are likely to be in the store, as Pep will have to rotate the squad in order to accommodate so many stars. Thereby, Gustavo/Martinez and Schweinsteiger may form the partnership in a 4-2-3-1 formation too at some point of the season. Having said that, I am not discarding the possibility of using Thiago alongside the German maestro as well.
It should not be a problem though as both the players are technically brilliant and can compliment each other nicely, provided their roles are shared accordingly.
Guardiola may also use the flexible 3-4-2-1 formation to optimise the effect Thiago and Gotze can have on the team. In fact, it would suit Bayern perfectly with Martinez forming a defensive trio with Dante and Badstuber, where he will play as a ball playing defender or perhaps an advanced Sweeper, while the roles of other two are more limited.
Lahm and Alaba can play higher up the pitch in this formation, but will drop deep to help the defence. Kroos and Ribery will have space to roam about and can drift inside too, allowing Gotze to play as the false 9. The system could easily be transformed into 3-4-3 depending on the situation of the game, where Gotze could drop deep helping the midfielders.
Further the three players upfront blessed with versatility can easily interchange the positions, making it almost impossible for the opposition to man-mark any particular individual.
This could be a very balanced formation and Pep has used the system previously with Barcelona. Thiago could pull the strings from his usual regista position, beside Schweinsteiger, who will act here as a midfield-volante.
Pep has also used in past, the 4-1-4-1 system. In such a scenario, hoping Martinez to play as a centre-back, then Schweinsteiger could be used as a deep-lying holding midfielder. And a quartet of Kroos/ Shaqiri, Gotze, Muller/Robben and Ribery can form an attacking cloud just behind Mandzukic. However, Thiago probably will miss out in such a rigid system.
However, irrespective of how Pep’s Bayern line up next season, excitement and innovations are just about guaranteed with Pep Guardiola at the helm. What will be most intriguing is how Guardiola incorporates his disciplinary philosophies within Bayern’s game without sacrificing certain aspects of the German champions.
All the tactics board are taken from EPL Index