The summer is young but Bayern Munich will already have a different look next season. Leroy Sane has been signed from Manchester City; Philippe Coutinho's loan deal has not been made permanent. How will Hansi Flick line his side up in his first full campaign as coach?
It barely seems fathomable that Flick is only eight months into his first senior top-flight role as a manager. The 55-year-old was Joachim Löw's assistant coach when Germany won the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and performed the same role for Niko Kovac before replacing the ex-Croatia and Eintracht Frankfurt boss in the Bayern dugout last November.
Fast-forward to July 2020 and Bayern have gone from fourth in the table to winning the league 13 points clear of runners up Borussia Dortmund; completed the double by beating Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Cup final, and have already added Alexander Nübel and Tanguy Nianzou to their squad for next season as well as the acquisition of recent Premier League superstar Sane.
Before circling back to Sane, one safe way of predicting how Flick might assemble his side is to look at how he has done so already. A defensive midfielder when he featured in more than 100 games for the record champions in the 1980s, Flick has had a decidedly attacking outlook as a coach. Of Bayern's 100 league goals this season, 75 were scored under Flick. Bayern's average of 2.5 goals scored at the start of the campaign under Kovac rose to 3.1 with the new man in charge. His win ratio of 88 percent is a Bundesliga record.
Both coaches leant heavily on a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Flick's first real departure from Kovac's reign was to reinstate Thomas Müller in the No.10 position. In the 10 games up to and including Bayern's 5-1 reverse against Frankfurt last November, Coutinho had enjoyed 828 minutes under Kovac. A frustrated Müller had featured for just 221. The Brazilian may be a headline act in world football, but Müller remains an anomaly. Awkward gait or not, the game's preeminent Raumdeuter concluded the season with an all-time record of 21 assists, and a hand in a goal every 78 minutes he ended up playing.
Watch: Müller under the tactical microscope
Flick kept some things the same. It had been Kovac who put natural centre-back Benjamin Pavard at right-back to allow Joshua Kimmich to blossom as a central midfielder, and the experiment of playing Alphonso Davies - signed as an attacking winger - at left-back was instituted by Kovac. But Flick deserves immense credit for sticking with the project after David Alaba and Lucas Hernandez returned from injury. Indeed, he made Alaba his first-choice centre-back, spotting that the 28-year-old Austrian's central position widened his range of distribution; and that his wise head made him the perfect on-field general to marshal the teenaged Canadian through his new role.
Flick settled on his best possible team early and stuck with it. February's 3-2 win over Paderborn was the only time he deviated from his first-choice players and system - a 3-5-2 with Alvaro Odriozola getting one of just two starts at right wing-back.
But most importantly, what the cases of Müller and Davies show, is that if you're good enough and fit the system, that makes you young, or old enough for Flick. Thirty-year-old Müller had been jettisoned from the Germany set-up; 19-year-old Davies had made one league start for Bayern. Both did their jobs with aplomb, and the net result was a happy dressing room alongside all the points and goals.
"His door's always open," Alaba explained recently. "He has a very positive way of leading a team that I've never seen before. I felt comfortable as a full-back, but that also applies to central defence. As a person and on the field, I took another step forward because I can lead the team differently. He conveys this hunger and we absorb it. He's created a great team spirit. Every single player goes into every game to win it."
So, what does that all mean for next season? The summer transfer merry-go-round may not yet be in full swing - and one effect of coronavirus may be that it spins slower anyway - but Bayern already look incredibly settled in terms of personnel. Coutinho is set to return to Barcelona and Ivan Perisic's loan from Inter Milan has not been made permanent as of yet. Of the confirmed arrivals, Schalke shot-stopper Nübel will likely have to be patient in trying to supplant the world's best goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, whilst 17-year-old Paris Saint-Germain defender Nianzou looks to be one for the future.
Sane, though, is a different animal. A promising prospect when he left Schalke for Manchester City in 2016, the 24-year-old returns to German football as the finished article; a two-time Premier League winner who plundered 20 goals and 25 assists in his last two full league seasons before a cruciate ligament injury sustained in last August's Community Shield victory over Liverpool.
Watch: Sane's Bundesliga mixtape
Two of the three attacking positions behind perennial Torjägerkanone winner Robert Lerwandowski were occupied by the same two players most weeks last season: Müller and Serge Gnabry. But the third, on the left, was shared equally between Kingsley Coman (1,294 league minutes under Flick), Coutinho (1,243) and Perisic (1,169). Sane should slot straight in as the first choice. He and Gnabry either side of Timo Werner is Löw's preferred choice for Germany. That pair either side of Lewy doesn't bear thinking about for opposition defenders.
Another point of interest is the rise of Leon Goretzka. Although Thiago Alcantara and Kimmich were the preferred double pivot anchoring the midfield for the majority of last season under both Flick and Kovac, Goretzka's influence grew alongside his biceps in the Rückrunde and then again following the lockdown. Directly involved in one goal in eight Hinrunde games; the former Schalke midfielder had a hand in nine from 15 after Christmas; this, despite lining up deeper. Indeed, Goretzka scored three and assisted four from the No.6 position beside Kimmich.
Watch: The numbers stacking up for Goretzka and Bayern
And Kimmich isn't going anywhere. Previously regarded as the world's best right-back not called Trent Alexander-Arnold, he made the central midfield role his own. Thiago - a paragon in the position - completed 91 percent of his passes last season. Kimmich completed 92. Thiago's 2,055 touches came in at a rate of 104 per game. Kimmich's league-high 3,216 came in just fractionally below at 103. His average of 7.9 miles covered, meanwhile, left everyone league-wide - including Thiago - standing.
At the back, fully fit versions of Niklas Süle and Hernandez will put pressure on Alaba and the rejuvenated Jerome Boateng for starts in central defence; and there is still surely some transfer business to be done. But even at this early stage, Bayern already look like an incredibly intimidating proposition in 2020/21.