Lahm's move to midfield can inspire Bayern to greatness


It’s easy to label a team 'the greatest' just because they are the best of the current era. Not every team to win the Champions League is great.

But not since the inception of the Champions League have a side looked so well-equipped to retain their title and thus truly be considered the greatest side in over 20 years.

Bayern Munich may achieve this in Lisbon next May and, right now, you have to wonder if anyone can stop them. Sure they could have a bad day, but not over two legs.

On Wednesday night, Bayern went into the back yard of Manchester City, a team many believe to be Premier League favourites. And, they made them look like a pub team. Individual errors helped Munich's cause, but who cares? For 90 minutes, Bayern demonstrated the stranglehold they currently have over the rest of Europe.

Pep Guardiola’s job was always going to be a subtle one. Integrating his methods without unsettling the balance is harder than it sounds when you are walking into a dressing room that has just won domestic football’s biggest prize.

But it’s the seemingly minor adjustments that could see Guardiola squeeze the extra 10% out of this already brilliant side. And such subtle tweaks are no clearer than in his deployment of Philipp Lahm as a defensive midfielder.

Having spent his entire career at full-back, a position in which he was considered one of the world’s best, Lahm’s partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger in the middle of the park now looks to be the bedrock for Guardiola’s Bayern.

Lahm has long possessed the technical ability to play further up the pitch, but it was considered a safer bet to play more distinguished, combative players in that role. However, Guardiola doesn’t do conventional, and his understanding that Lahm can offer much more in midfield illustrates what makes the former Barca boss such a bright coach. He’s prepared to trust his best players.

Guardiola has described Lahm as the most intelligent player in the Bayern side. A player that understands not only his own position, but understands the role of everyone in the team and can adjust his performance accordingly. There is only one player Guardiola has ever referred to in those terms before, and it’s Xavi. Praise indeed.

The heartbeat of Guardiola’s Barca side during their best years, Xavi’s role is the blueprint for Lahm at Bayern. Lahm instigates moves with his early, accurate passing. He wins the ball back with his disciplined pressing and he provides an understanding with Schweinsteiger that goes back to their youth.

Lahm is not the new Xavi, because Bayern are not the new Barca. They are better than that. And frighteningly, the best may still be yet to come.

 

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Bayern are 4.00 favourites to win the Champions League.