By Enis Koylu
How do you improve a near-perfect team? When Pep Guardiola arrives at Bayern Munich in the summer to succeed Jupp Heynckes, he will inherit a side who have won the lot - and in remarkable fashion.
Saturday’s DFB-Pokal final victory over Stuttgart brought to an end a fantastic season. Their statistics are, frankly, ridiculous – they lost one Bundesliga game all season (due to a late own goal against Bayer Leverkusen), dropping just two points after Christmas; they even beat Barcelona 7-0 over two legs in the Champions League.
As it stands, Bayern are a winning machine. Regardless of whether the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk are in the starting XI, the Bavarians have won this season.
They visited Hannover - a team who boast a proud home record - with just a handful of first-choice players and won 6-1. They met Borussia Dortmund, the beaten Champions League finalists, five times across the season without suffering defeat.
Quite simply, nothing needs to be changed. And yet Bayern made their bed by springing for Guardiola in the fear that they would follow up last season’s disappointment with another collapse. It seems obvious that they would offer Heynckes another deal now, given the chance.
Over the course of the last 12 months, the 68-year-old has addressed every deficiency in his team. Luiz Gustavo was considered insufficient for a team with pretensions of European glory, so Javi Martinez was brought in to great effect, having a fantastic influence in his side's new-found stability.
Mario Gomez, despite scoring 80 goals over the course of the previous two seasons, was unceremoniously dropped in favour of Mario Mandzukic, who was able to do what the German never did – score in the Champions League final.
Bayern's Bundesliga season
|PREVIOUS RECORD||2012-13 BAYERN|
| GOAL DIFFERENCE
| GOALS CONCEDED
| AWAY WINS
| TOTAL WINS
Those associated with the club will never want it to end, but on July 1 Guardiola’s reign begins.
And he must not change things radically. Mario Gotze's arrival has already been confirmed from Borussia Dortmund, but the 20-year-old will be more than able to play in Bayern's current system without anything more than a change in personnel, should he play in his preferred No.10 role.
Of more concern will be an overhaul of Bayern's system. Guardiola's tiki-taka style at Camp Nou saw the Catalans dominate Spanish and European football for years, but the Blaugrana were humbled by Bayern's hard-running and incisive counterattacking as recently as April.
Schalke and Dortmund, the next-best teams in Germany, will certainly fancy their chances of beating a Barca-esque Bayern by employing similar tactics. Pep, however, will be aware that he does not have the benefit of players who have a lifetime of playing the system behind them.
Another pressing worry will be the deployment of Martinez. Guardiola's admiration for the Basque midfielder was well known and he was widely linked with a move to Camp Nou prior to his switch to the Allianz, due in part to his ability to play centre-back.
Pep's penchant for playing midfielders at the back has seen Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano deployed at the heart of defence, to some success, but he must resist the temptation to do the same at Bayern with Martinez, who has proved the perfect foil for Schweinsteiger.
Meanwhile, the possibility of playing him in a 3-4-3 alongside two central defenders would be a disaster. Bundesliga teams, for the most part, have quick incisive wingers, who would expose this with ease.
Another mooted experiment is playing Mario Gotze as a 'false No.9', where Guardiola unleashed Lionel Messi with brilliant consequences, but this would be a huge gamble, one the Spaniard is unlikely to take. While he has played there to some success with his country, a foregone conclusion against Kazakhstan is a very different proposition from a Champions League clash with Europe's finest.
|"It's simple. All Pep has to do is win every game, then no-one will say anything!"
- Uli Hoeness
Bayern president Uli Hoeness has acknowledged that Pep has a hefty task on his hands but remains confident that the Spaniard will succeed: "All he has to do is win every game, then no-one will say anything!" he joked in March, before adding: "I can guarantee that Pep will have no problems with us, we are on the same wavelength."
Hoeness might claim such an understanding, but he recently admitted that he had to talk the new trainer out of a move for Neymar, given the club's recent problems with Brazilians who move straight from their homeland to Germany.
But, unless Guardiola tries to to reinvent the wheel and tinker with a winning formula, he should be able to continue the Bavarians' winning cycle. His reign should be a natural progression, not a revolution.
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