Analysis: How is Pep Guardiola transforming Bayern Munich to play the Barcelona way?

By switching Lahm to a sole holding midfielder the new coach has forged a more attacking line-up

What do you do with a team of champions? It is the problem facing both David Moyes and Pep Guardiola this season, the hardest balancing act in sport: what to change, and by how much, in order to impose their own character while not losing what made the side so successful.

While Moyes might be criticised for the limits of his ambition at Manchester United, no one can say the same of Guardiola. His goal, as Brian Clough said in an equivalent position nearly 40 years before, was "to win it better". Jupp Heynckes may have won the treble for Bayern Munich last year, but Guardiola wants to do it again, with style.

CLICK HERE to follow the latest news from tonight's Champions League, including Manchester City v Bayern Munich and Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City

Fortunately, the Spaniard knows a thing or two about successful, attractive football. His Barcelona team was the best of its generation, with the trophies and – just as importantly – the performances to prove it.

But there is a difference between FC Barcelona and FC Bayern. At Barça, Guardiola was managing the club he had captained, a team of players nearly all raised playing the same system in the same academy. It was a case of cajoling his squad towards an already shared ideal.

In Munich, though, Guardiola is imposing a foreign system. He needs to convince the players of the merits of his approach and then teach them how to perform it. "The way he wants to play, that needs time," Uwe Rösler, the Brentford manager and BT Sport Bundesliga pundit, told The Independent. "Now you have to tell a team who played one way to play a different way. To get the mechanisms – the relations between the players and the units – optimal, will take time."

In practical terms, that means changing Heynckes' preferred 4-2-3-1 system for a more ambitious 4-1-4-1. Guardiola thinks he only needs one holding player, thereby allowing him two creators and two wingers behind his lone centre-forward. The whole team plays further up the pitch, pressing hard from the front to win the ball back as quickly as possible, with a brisker tempo in possession as well.

And at first it was difficult. Guardiola's first competitive game was the Super Cup against Borussia Dortmund, and he used Thiago Alcantara – the man whose La Masia education should help to integrate the new system – as the holding midfielder. Dortmund ran through Bayern and beat them 4-2.

In the Bundesliga, Bayern were not particularly convincing in their first two league games – wins over Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt – before they could manage just a 1-1 draw at Freiburg, as they slipped two points behind Dortmund.

It was not an easy time and Bayern's sporting director, Matthias Sammer, attacked the players in public, saying they were "playing football without any emotions" and were "hiding behind the coach".

Sammer was felt to have overstepped the mark but his words inadvertently worked. The last few games have been far better, with the new coach finding an unlikely answer to his issue of who to play in that crucial lone holding midfield role. Not Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez or Thiago, but Philipp Lahm.

Not an obvious choice, perhaps, but Guardiola – who had coached Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi – said right-back Lahm was "the most intelligent player" he had ever coached. And Lahm's tactical awareness and technical quality have been perfect, freeing up those in front of him to attack.

Since then, Guardiola's Bayern have started to play the football some had hoped of them. The players, it seems, are buying into his approach. In what should have been their hardest game of the season so far, they won 4-0 at Schalke, the favourites for third place. They have won their two games since. Something might be starting to click.

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?