Rotation has been one of the key ingredients to Bayern's recent success and maintaining a good atmosphere within a large squad is nothing new to Heynckes. Now though, competition has become even fiercer in the forward department, where nine-goal is disinctly feeling Mario Gomez breathing down his neck.
Goalless since Gomez’s comeback
The issue did not present itself immediately. Gomez was sidelined in August with an ankle injury and Heynckes opted to start Mandzukic up front, with Claudio Pizarro waiting in the wings. This situation, however, has changed since Gomez returned in mid-November, with four goals and two assists in eight competitive outings palpably demonstrating he is back with a vengeance. It may only be coincidental, but in the same period Mandzukic failed to find the target once.
Although Heynckes is reluctant to read too much into the numbers, he is well aware that is statistically the more dangerous option. The former VfB Stuttgart forward has required less than half as much playing time for each goal, while his goals-to-shots ratio also beats Mandzukic's.
Gomez: Better strike rate
The impression is that, while Mandzukic has been apparently finding it difficult to handle the increasing competition, Gomez, who has scored 81 competitive goals over the past two years, is fairly laid back about the situation. "It really isn't important who plays," the 57-time German international said, highlighting the benefits of the fight for a place up front: "It's good for both the team and the coach as it gives him several options. It's all about the team's success."
While both Mandzukic and Gomez are to a great extent forwards in the classic no. 9 mould, one great advantage the former has is his strength in the air. Indeed, Heynckes may well be tempted to prefer the 6'1 Croatian against deep-lying sides, whom Bayern often encounter, given their inherent tendency to dominate possession. Mandzukic has scored 15 of his 29 Bundesliga goals with his head, while Gomez, despite being slightly taller, has converted only one in every five aerial chances to come his way.
There is of course one possible solution which might satisfy all parties, as Heynckes alluded to at a pre-winter break press conference: he could always play both...