— J Asante (@Jnicee17) September 18, 2015
I’ve had the impression that Thiago really does play slightly differently, depending on the side. Whether that’s something he does naturally or part of Guardiola’s instructions, I could only guess.
When he’s positioned on the left, Thiago seems to fall back diagonally more often, almost to full-back positions (an extreme example was the first half against Mainz just now). I assume that’s due to the passing path to central areas being cleaner for him this way. On the right, Thiago seems to play a different role. Instead of being a deep buildup option with occasional attacking appearances, he acts as a true bridge between buildup and attack, playing passes to the wingers/forwards and attempting the occasional dribble.
The question boils down to a personal choice. I prefer Thiago in the role he plays more on the right. A man with such pressing resistance, underrated dribbling abilities and vision in tightest spaces would be wasted as Alonso support whenever he’s man-marked (which is most of the times these days). When you have a player with the rare and valuable skillset of Thiago, you want him to play in the most difficult and demanding area – and that’s the central (attacking) midfield, where spaces are tight and pressure is high.
During the halftime break against Mainz, I read several reactions that mentioned Thiago’s lack of influence and presence. Now I don’t wanna say that these people were wrong…well I kinda do. Bayern’s structure was messed up and flawed, so Thiago had to drop back and support the early buildup. That not only caused the central midfield to be vacated, it also caused him to do things that are a waste of his abilities. In this case, Thiago was misused. For an example of the opposite, check out the match against Olympiacos. Thiago was more advanced, he was the magnet who created and orchestrated almost every attack. That’s what you want him to be.
I still have a dream of Thiago and Götze in central midfield. They’re similar, in different ways. And if I ever want that dream to become reality again, the best option would be to have Thiago on the right and Götze on the left. So there you have it. Thiago in right central midfield, please. Or, to quote Beyonce: to the left, to the left, whoever plays next to Thiago has to move to the left.
— Kid Presentable (@Philanova06) September 18, 2015
Such a difficult question to answer. Every opponent has different strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited best with different backlines. Let’s try to find an ideal solution.
Everybody is fit? That condition already gives me a headache. Do I bench one of Badstuber/Martinez to have Alaba in a central position? I don’t like this question. Alaba can play everything, Alaba can play vertically. So we send him to the wing. Let him do whatever he feels like from there.
Who takes care of the opposite flank? You’d say Lahm. A year ago, I would’ve screamed Lahm. But Lahm looks different. Lahm looks old. He’s earned the right to be that after a decade of excellence. So we move ahead without Lahm, he will retire in 2.5 years anyway. Now I see two options: Arturo Vidal or Arjen Robben. Vidal would feel right but I have to choose Robben for attacking reasons that I will elaborate on in a bit.
So Bayern play with wing-backs named Alaba and Robben. Completely different players but you all know that I love insane lineups. What does that tell you? Back-three alert!
Boateng. Martinez. Badstuber. There you go, easy decision. Boateng and Badstuber are the monsters of half-space buildup, let them zoom passes through opposing lines. The 4-4-2 would be so torn apart by them that it’s going to be called FourFourTom because it’s just a pointless joke at that point. Martinez pushes forward to play the Alonso role without crumbling under pressure.
Since good teams have formations that are connected throughout, you can’t look at defense without looking at offense. This isn’t Ingolstadt. Since Martinez takes care of the central distribution (and Boateng/Badstuber support it), you don’t need Alonso anymore. Let’s create another monster: Thiago and Götze. They’re hungry for tight spaces. They’re similar enough to play alongside yet different enough to not do the same stuff.
Now, why Arjen Robben as wing-back? Because Arjen Robben is a no-brainer for any lineup. But Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski are no-brainers as well. And you want two capable wingers. So the only enjoyable solution is to have Arjen Robben as right wing-back. Up front, you’d have Lewandowski and Müller centrally and Douglas Costa on the left (because even a fit Franck Ribery would be out injured at this point and Kingsley Coman isn’t up for it yet).
Robben and Alaba would play completely different roles. Robben would be the lone soldier on the right flank, playing the isolated style he’s so good at (maybe even the best in football?). Think of what Ginter is doing for Dortmund now but in very good. Alaba on the other hand would be the supporting runner. Filling gaps, creating gaps – Alaba is your gap man. I’m convinced that Thomas Tuchel stole that idea from me.
Because words are confusing, I’ll just give you a graphic to explain it all.