Munich - In addition to announcing a record turnover and a healthy profit, FC Bayern München also had some good news on the personnel front at this week's AGM, with club president Uli Hoeneß able to reveal that Bastian Schweinsteiger's operation for a long-standing ankle problem had “gone well” and the influential midfielder could accordingly be back in action sooner than anticipated.
Another midfield stint for Lahm?
When, precisely, remains open to question, however. Bayern were guarded in the first place as to how long Schweinsteiger might be sidelined in the wake of the second bout of surgery on his right ankle since the end of last season, necessitated, as club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt explained, by “post-operative ossification”, resulting in “tendonitis due to mechanical stress”.
In layman's terms, as the 29-year-old vice skipper himself acknowledged, his last few games had been “very painful,” making a follow-up operation unavoidable. And while it's a case of so far, so good on the recovery front, head coach Pep Guardiola is naturally assessing his alternatives for until such time as Schweinsteiger is back to full match fitness. And it has to be said, no club in the Bundesliga and very few elsewhere have quite the calibre of alternatives as do FC Bayern.
For starters, the single holding role directly in front of the defence preferred thus far by Guardiola was only occupied by the 100-time Germany international for the opening four matchdays. After that, the equally experienced Philipp Lahm was surprisingly parachuted in from right back. Bayern promptly dispatched Hannover 96 and the FCB and national team captain held onto his newfound post, with Schweinsteiger subsequently taking up a more attacking role - mostly down the right, inside winger Arjen Robben, but also occasionally to Lahm's left.
Martinez back in the fray
The move was soon being hailed as a tactical masterstroke as the German and European champions started to really hit their stride and dominate the opposition arguably even more impressively than in their record-breaking 2012/13 campaign. For Guardiola, however - despite praising Lahm as possibly “the most intelligent player I've ever worked with" - it was one born of necessity and, “he'll likely return to his old position when the other players are back”.
The “other players” the coach had in mind were his Spanish compatriots Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, both sidelined with injury problems of their own. Martinez made his comeback off the bench in the 3-2 home win against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 10 and has started in the central holding slot in the two Bundesliga games since.
Thiago on the comeback trail
Thiago, Guardiola's former FC Barcelona protege, meanwhile returned to team training earlier this week after almost three months out on the back of an ankle operation. With only a rump squad at his disposal during the current international break, the Catalan tactician certainly has time aplenty to ponder how best to reintegrate his one 'must-have' summer signing into his ever-progressing FC Bayern project.
Another multi-talent only recently back from an extended injury absence is, of course, Mario Götze. Guardiola has already deployed Germany's number one wunderkind at inside right, and the former Borussia Dortmund star has shone many a time for club and country in a more central midfield role as well as out wide. Throw in the proven adaptability of the likes of Toni Kroos, not to mention hungry young guns such as Pierre Hojbjerg and Mitchell Weiser itching to make their mark, and Bayern fans look to have little cause for concern - however long it might be until Schweinsteiger takes to the pitch again.