During his early training sessions, Pep Guardiola led his slightly confused players into previously uncharted waters. Philipp Lahm shifted up into the midfield, Franck Ribery found himself pulling the strings as the playmaker as the new Bayern coach left no stone unturned in his quest to find an even better winning formula than the one he had inherited.
“The system’s not so important”
After a season in which the records were sent tumbling with an historic quadruple triumph, very few coaches in the world would have dared change the system. Pep Guardiola is one of those few. Some people spoke of a ‘Barcelonarisation’ of the German record champions, others within the club, sporting director Matthias Sammer included, preferred to minimise the issue. “I can only see minor details being changed, nothing more than that,” he said. “We shouldn’t make an obsession out of it.”
On the other hand, Bayern must have known that, in Guardiola, they had hired an advocate of positional rotation - a man who lives by the motto 'standing still is going backwards' and questions every last detail, successful or not. Not that Guardiola likes to place too much emphasis on the subject anyway. “The system's not so important,” he said. “What is important is that every player sticks to their position, no matter what system we play.”
Pre-season friendlies showed that there was more than just minor details being tweaked, though. The Catalan preferred a 4-1-4-1 system, dropping the tried and tested - and successful - double defensive midfield pivot which had served Bayern so well last season.
14 players for six places
The changes under Guardiola will need time, and Sammer knows that while refusing to accept it as an excuse. The getting-to-know-you phase “has got to pass as quickly as possible,” he said. Preferably before the season opener against Borussia Mönchengladbach after the served as a rude awakening.
However, there was still no sign of panic in the Bayern camp. Guardiola does have enough options to keep tinkering away at until he can scream "Eureka!", with former Barca prodigy Thiago Alcantara added to an already immaculate collection of stars.
All hands on deck
With the UEFA European Super Cup, the FIFA World Club Cup, the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League all on the agenda, the Bayern bench is going to be more in demand than ever before. Having such an extensive roster should come in useful with Bayern potentially set to enter encounters at a rate of once every three days.
That is the theory, at least, and now, on Friday 9 August, it will all be put into practice. Rarely has the start of a Bundesliga season been so eagerly anticipated as this one. Not only will the eyes inevitably be aimed at Pep, but they will be ready to dissect his team’s every mistake or failing. There were not too many of those in 2012/13 and if Pep can keep the critics quiet, then he knows, in view of all the scrutiny, he is doing a good job.
Johannes Fischer / Ben Gladwell