Exploring Bayern's versatile midfield options

Bayern have had a multitude of formations under Jupp Heynckes this season. We analyse what works best for the midfield and what does not.  


Jupp Heynckes has used multiple formations after taking over from Carlo Ancelotti this time around.
Unlike his last stint, when he stuck to his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation for most of the season, Heynckes has experimented with a 4-3-3 as well as a 4-1-4-1  and it seems to have paid off well.
With all these formations he has maintained three midfielder types: a pivot; a creative midfielder (either deep-lying or attacking); and a box to box midfielder. There were also a few rare occasions when no box to box midfielders were played. Instead, both a deep lying creative midfielder and an attacking midfielder (either creative or a secondary striker) were played.

The pivot

 Typically known as the CDM (central-defensive-midfielder) or the ‘Javi Martínez’ position, the pivot is the backbone and is arguably the most important role in the Bayern midfield.
The role is to quickly transition from defence to offence and also give cover to the defence. We currently have two midfielders who can assume this position. The first is obviously Javi Martínez who is the first choice, with Sebastian Rudy as a backup. Javi has been particularly strong at this position as he is versatile and clever at switching quickly from an attacking mode to a more defensive one.
Rudy started off the season in spectacular style overshadowing all other summer signings, but slowly and steadily has now turned into a bit part player struggling for minutes and form. With the World Cup looming, he needs to up his game and is desperate to prove he can deliver. Only time will tell.

The deep-lying creative midfielder

This true number 6 role has been taken over and bossed by Thiago Alcântara for a number of years. With the signing of James Rodriguez who can also play this role reasonably well, it is going to be interesting watching the pair battle it out for the position. It will be even more interesting watching them start together compromising on either a box-to-box midfielder or a secondary striker.
Together, I reckon they will form one of the most formidable creative midfield duo in the world by far.

The box-to-box midfielder

 Bayern have had little success in this department in the past few seasons. Except for Arturo Vidal (on recent form), others have shown little promise. Bayern have spent heavily on this position in the previous years, signing Renato Sanches, Corentin Tolisso and now Leon Goretzka.
Sanches, still a raw talent, has disappointed at Bayern and also while at loan with Swansea. Tolisso has shown flashes of brilliance but has not shown enough consistency for Bayern to be able to depend on him completely. Hopefully the third such signing in Goretzka will offer enough for Bayern to hand over the baton.
As of today, Bayern must rely either on Vidal or Tolisso, in that order.

The attacking midfielder

 Bayern have two proper, yet completely different number 10’s. James acts as a creative attacking midfielder, making plays for the attacking trio. James also brings to the table an insane amount of talent over the dead ball with his free kicks and corners.
The other number 10 is the unpredictable Thomas Müller. His superpower is pretty simple, if there is any space provided by the opposition, he makes sure he is inevitably there to exploit it. A brilliant goalscorer and an equally unselfish provider, he brings a totally different angle to Bayern’s attack compared to James. Bayern are more than sufficiently covered in this department.

My thoughts

Bayern Munich are a team with a lot of tactical versatility this season especially in midfield.
Sadly, Javi Martínez is prone to injuries and so is Thiago. As far as Thiago is concerned, Bayern are covered in case of injuries, with the versatile James Rodriguez.
For Javi’s role though, I have some reservations depending on Rudy in big games. I would rather use Rudy as a rotational fullback behind Alaba and Kimmich and sign a young talented holding midfielder (assuming Rafinha leaves).