Sign a defender, don't play Gotze as a false nine & five things Guardiola must do at Bayern

The former Barcelona coach will address the press for the first time since his appointment on Monday to start a new era at the treble-winners – but how much should he change?

COMMENT
By Fabio PortaThe wait is over at last. At 12:00CET on Monday, Pep Guardiola will be presented to the press as Bayern Munich’s new head coach. Much has been said and written about the 42-year-old since the Bavarians announced his appointment in January and the hype surrounding the Spaniard has reached new heights. But until the new season gets underway, the question of Pep’s potential impact in Bavaria will remain unanswered.

The main question is whether Guardiola will instill his own philosophy at the Bundesliga giants. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is confident that the former Barcelona boss will not alter Bayern’s identity, but Pep’s tactical ideas leave plenty of room for debate as fans and experts are curious about how he will look to sharpen the tactics of Europe’s current finest side. A three-man defence, just one holding midfielder, playing with a ‘false nine’, or a traditional 4-3-3 – how should Guardiola look to build on the best?

 PLAY JAVI MARTINEZ IN MIDFIELD

Martinez has developed into a key figure at Bayern after some initial struggles to adapt to the side. He played an invaluable role in the treble triumph at the heart of midfield, but Guardiola is not a fan of a double-pivot, and his compatriot could lose his spot alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger – even though he attempted to sign the player for Barcelona prior to his move to Germany.

The Spain international can also feature in defence, but that’s not necessarily the right choice. He can anticipate quick counter-attacks from the opposition while positioned in midfield, keeping things tight and organised in the process, while he is also frequently the starting point for his own side’s formidable attack. His work-rate in midfield also ensures Schweinsteiger can pull the strings from the middle, resulting in what was arguably the Germany international’s best season of his career in 2012-13.

While he could provide defensive cover alongside Dante, particularly due to the continued absence of Holger Badstuber through injury, it would be a waste of his talent to use him at the back in the long term.

DO NOT PLAY MARIO GOTZE AS A ‘FALSE NINE’

Lionel Messi flourished in the ‘false nine’ role at Barcelona under Guardiola, and enjoyed the greatest goals-to-games ratio the modern game has seen. Many expect Gotze to become Bayern’s very own Messi next term once he completes his €37 million switch from Borussia Dortmund, but using the German in the same style could nullify his own undoubted talents.

Bayern and Guardiola would be wise to operate with a true centre-forward. Mario Mandzukic, though nowhere near the level of Messi in terms of goal-scoring, proved a crucial part of Bayern’s fluid attacking system last season, ousting Mario Gomez from Jupp Heynckes’ plans. Even Spain, who adopted a ‘false nine’ approach for much of their victorious Euro 2012 campaign, have opted to restore a true striker in the Confederations Cup this summer, and have 15 goals from three games to show for it.

Gotze belongs in an attacking midfield position, where he can add something to the team with his talent and creativity, and set up Bayern’s attackers with his intelligent passes. Only in midfield can he develop into the player he aims to become – a rival to Messi at the top of the footballing pantheon, rather than an imitation of the Argentine forward.

Bayern still have room for improvement in the back four, despite their astonishing defensive record last term. Admittedly, Jerome Boateng and Daniel Van Buyten enjoyed a good 2012-13 campaign, but there is no guarantee they can replicate that form next season: Van Buyten does not have age on his side, while Boateng, though vastly improved, remains susceptible to the occasional error.

If Guardiola indeed opts to field Martinez in midfield, he will have to strengthen his defence. Bayern have recently been linked with Valencia wing-back Jeremy Mathieu, while Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny has also made the Bavarians’ shortlist. FCB need a strong defender who can also contribute something in possession, and the France international would fit that particular bill.

Bayern compete in three competitions again in 2013-14 and they will be aiming to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League title. This will be a tough task without another top-class defender.

DO NOT CHANGE BAYERN’S IDENTITY

The one thing Bayern fear most is that Guardiola will fix what isn’t broken in Bavaria. The Spaniard was calling all the shots at Barcelona and did not disappoint his superiors, but his desire for a large degree of control over first-team affairs could rub up Uli Hoeness and Matthias Sammer the wrong way, with sporting director Sammer in particular renowned for a passionate – and often heavy-handed – approach to matters on the pitch.

The most important thing for Pep will be to treat club icons such as Philipp Lahm and Schweinsteiger with respect. Guardiola always picks the players he feels are best suited for the job and is not afraid to leave out a big name, as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will vouch for. Dropping the aforementioned duo or someone like Thomas Muller will not go down well with the likes of Hoeness and Sammer.

It will all be about chemistry between coach, players and the board of directors in the Guardiola era, even when the results are good. Jupp Heynckes knew exactly how to deal with the Bayern hierarchy and it remains to be seen whether Pep will be similarly capable in this area of the job.

INCREASE STRENGTH IN DEPTH

The signing of Gotze was already a clear signal of intent toward players like Muller, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and others. The stiff competition for places and strength in depth has done Bayern a world of good in 2012-13, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri playing a key role in the club’s success despite generally starting from the bench.

The treble-winners are likely to make a few more signings this summer in addition to Gotze. The pursuit of Robert Lewandowski looks set to continue for some time to come, while the likes of Thiago have been linked with a reunion with his old boss in the Bundesliga. However, whether Bayern will manage to lure further high-profile names to the Allianz Arena will probably not become clear until the closing stages of the transfer window.

It would be a good idea if Guardiola were to further strengthen his squad. Not every Bayern player will be able to replicate last season’s form and the Spaniard will need hungry and talented players on the bench to improve the team and keep everyone within the side motivated to maintain the phenomenal standards of the past 12 months.

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Man behind the myth: the real Pep Guardiola

With the Catalan coach set to be unveiled officially by Bayern Munich on Monday, Goal takes a look at the human side he showed during his ultra-successful stint at Barcelona

By Pilar Suarez | Barcelona Correspondent

“There is nothing more dangerous than not taking risks” was one of many great phrases left by Pep Guardiola in his four years on the Barcelona bench. The quote came from the coach, but also from the man himself who, like anybody else, may feel fear in certain situations; that, however, is no obstacle for the slender yet imposing figure of the 42-year-old.

His presence in a press room, in a stadium or a restaurant, is enough to petrify anyone in the first instance. He has the ability to speak like few others; Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not wrong to describe Pep as a philosopher – that is exactly what he is. In his hundreds of appearances before the press, the Catalan coach gave us pure philosophy, of football and of life itself. Behind the coach who spoke of footballs and formations, there was a human being with a smile and a fixed glance to accompany his wise words.

“Talent depends on inspiration, but effort depends on each individual.”

It is difficult to separate the coach from the man. Pep rarely hides his emotional state; it is enough to see him in the press room to know what kind of news he will deliver over the next few minutes. He decides who gets to know him and who will not, his intimacy is his alone and he defends it tooth and nail. True to his beliefs and his own identity, Guardiola does not allow himself to become easily attached, only to intelligent people and circumstances as wise as himself.

“I believe that in the places where one manages something, you have to be of the idea that tomorrow you could leave…”

Guardiola only offers interviews when it is necessary to do so (such as at the Fifa Ballon d’Or), is not interested in fame, nor in adulation; he knows who he is and does not doubt himself. For Pep, God does not exist. Catalunya is his nation, football his life and failure merely a part of success.

And at times, he lets it show that there are battles going on inside, his gut and heart versus his head and reason, but he tends to follow the most noble and sensitive part within. “Part of me tells me to go on being involved with football and another part of me tells me to get away,” he once said. And after a while, he took time out for a sabbatical, but with his strength recovered and his batteries charged, he feels energised for a new challenge, perhaps the greatest of his professional and even his personal life: Bayern Munich.

The man and the coach live side by side, day by day. The greatest mistake would be to think that this genius lives only thinking of long-term strategies: “I am incapable of planning something more than half a year or a year ahead. I get tired. It’s impossible for me.”

That’s why Pep is fascinating, able to produce surprises when one least expects it. That’s him, his feet firmly planted on the ground.

“You are good and you know you are good. Go out there [and show it]. I am a great defender of human beings and I believe in them very, very, very much.”

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Neuer relishing life under Guardiola

The Bayern Munich star says he is eagerly anticipating his first training session with the former Barcelona coach next week

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says he is looking forward to working under new boss Pep Guardiola.

The former Barcelona coach will take his first training session with the treble-winning side on Wednesday, following the departure of Jupp Heynckes, and Neuer is relishing the prospect of beginning summer preparations under the 42-year-old.

“I think this is another new experience for many of us, to work under a foreign coach,” Neuer was quoted as saying by Bild.

“It is a new start, I’m looking forward to Wednesday. We have previously gone in to the break after negative experiences, [so] this time it was a good feeling to start the holidays with the treble.”

Die Roten sealed an historic silverware clean-sweep on June 1 by beating Stuttgart 3-2 in the DFB Pokal final, having already won the Bundesliga and defeated fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley.

Dante: I dreamed I'd score against Italy

The Bayern Munich defender was thrilled to net on his return to Bahia and is optimistic of the Selecao’s chances of retaining the Confederations Cup

Brazil defender Dante was delighted to get on the scoresheet on the return to his hometown as he helped Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side finish top of Confederations Cup Group A with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Italy.

The Bayern Munich star replaced David Luiz, who suffered a dead leg in the first half, and opened the scoring for the South American nation on the stroke of half-time.

Speaking to reporters after the game, the 29-year-old expressed his happiness at scoring in front of his family.

He said: “It seems like a joke, but it isn’t. I was dreaming about this [scoring against Italy, in Bahia].

“I bought 60 tickets for my family, so there’s a lot of people there who came here to see me. I wanted to show them something, show something to my family and to everyone else who came here to see us.”

Dante produced a solid defensive display to keep AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli at bay and was complimentary towards his opponent.

“Balotelli is one of the greatest centre forwards in the world. He gets out of the box a lot, so we had to watch out for him. But the important thing is that the team played really well.”

Brazil will most likely face Uruguay in the semi-finals and Dante is convinced that the Selecao can retain their Confederations Cup title.

“The most important thing is that we’re well aware that we need to beat everyone if we want to be champions. So we don’t choose who we want next,” he continued.

“We have to continue the way we are, with our heads held high, working hard in order to get more victories.”

Abidal nearing Monaco move

The outgoing Barcelona defender is being chased by three French clubs, according to his agent, but Claudio Ranieri’s side are the most appealing

Outgoing Barcelona defender Eric Abidal is set to seal a return to Monaco within a week, according to his agent David Ventidelli.

The full-back, who will be a free agent at the end of June due to Barca having decided not to renew the Frenchman’s deal, is being pursued by three Ligue 1 clubs – Olympique Lyonnais, Montpellier and Claudio Ranieri’s side.

His representative revealed that the 33-year-old is likely to be given a short-term offer to due to his age but that a return to the club he left in 2002 could be wrapped up withing seven days.

Ventidelli told Fichajes: “[Monaco, Lyon and Montpellier] are interested in Abidal. There’s interest from other leagues too, but Eric’s preference is to return to France for family reasons. Monaco are his number one choice.

“[The Monaco offer] is a relatively short contract because Eric is 33 years old. Despite the health problems he’s had, he is in good shape. The contract duration will be short but there could be options afforded to the player once we’ve completed negotiations.

“Negotiations with Monaco will be settled one way or another by next week as Eric has other proposals. We must be respectful to other clubs.”

Abidal made his name as a world class defender at Lyon before moving to Camp Nou in 2007 and his agent accepted that a return to the Stade de Gerland

“Of course, because Eric Abidal is Lyon,” he added. “His international career started through playing at Lyon.

“He has a great relationship with the club. There are talks with Lyon and his relationship with the club means there’s a chance, but we’re concentrating on Monaco at the moment as it’s his first choice.”

Ventidelli also dropped a major hint that incoming Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola was eyeing a move from Abidal but that the France international would prefer to play football back in his homeland.

“There are some clubs in Germany [that want to sign him],” he teased. “There’s a close friend and coach who knows Eric well but, again, his preference is to return to France.”