A key component in the Bayern machine, Bastian Schweinsteiger has struggled for fitness during Pep Guardiola's reign
A key component in the Bayern machine, Bastian Schweinsteiger has struggled for fitness during Pep Guardiola's reign

Exposing FC Bayern München's bare midfield bones

Munich - For an FC Bayern München side chock full and brimming with stars, it can be rather easy to forget about the potential shortcomings bubbling beneath the quadruple-winning surface.

Short supply

It goes without saying head coach Pep Guardiola boasts one of the finest midfield ensembles in world football, so it seems almost absurd to even moot the idea of a 'crisis'.

Yet for the abundance of quality available to Guardiola in the forward positions, the sale of holding midfielders and Emre Can to VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen respectively have left the record champions decidedly thin on the ground in front of the back four - seemingly now more than ever.

Plagued by a niggling ankle complaint, Bastian Schweinsteiger remains a doubt for Saturday's clash with Hannover 96, while Javi Martinez's season, a decisive cameo in the UEFA Super Cup aside, has yet to even get off the ground. Throw in a seven-week lay-off to No.6 Thiago Alcantara, and you can begin to see the scale of Guardiola's predicament.

Limited options

This is perhaps where the versatility of Toni Kroos comes in. The issue here, however, is that he is far more comfortable further up the field. When deployed in a deeper-lying role on previous occasions, the natural No.10 has generally been partnered by a more defensive-minded accomplice. Guardiola's current 4-1-4-1 system has no place for such a pairing.

The Bayern coach has also experimented with captain Philipp Lahm as the midfield destroyer, most recently in the Super Cup, but it's hard to imagine the Catalan making a habit of utilising one of the world's most consistent full-backs out of his natural habitat. Indeed, Bayern were far more effective once Lahm reverted to right-back and Martinez entered the fold.

Compensation package

So where does Guardiola go from here? With Basque battle axe Martinez sidelined once again and question marks hanging over the fitness of the influential Schweinsteiger, it seems that the 42-year-old's contingency plan will almost inevitably involve either Lahm or Kroos, which given the all-round experience of the two Germany internationals at the highest level of the game, might not be such a bad idea after all.

And let's not forget the likes of , , , and : just a selection of the A-list Bundesliga talent Guardiola has on tap to compensate for any perceived cracks in the Bayern paintwork. So much for 'crisis'.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge