The arrival of Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich placed him as some sort of genius arriving into a difficult situation, trying to change too much of a perfect thing. Javi Martinez being left out early on might have been his biggest mistake, but a manager like Guardiola realizes at some point that despite all of his ego, there are some things he shouldn’t let his pride decide on.
Martinez might not be perfect for the Guardiola playing system. He’s an excellent defensive midfielder for a team with a direct approach, like Bayern have been all of last year, that doesn’t excel in doing things that are too complicated offensively. Passes on 5-10 meters, nothing more. No special dribbling or vision. A clever player, who knows when to press and when to let go, who makes life a living hell for midfielders around him, and the ability to play centre back.
That Martinez was the one who saved Bayern Munich from a loss to an inferior and close to violent team in the European Super Cup. It also helped Guardiola avoid added pressure on him after missing out on a second title during his first month on the job. A goal, in the final minute of extra time, to make it 2-2 and send the match into a penalty shootout.
Maybe if Thiago Alcantara wasn’t injured we wouldn’t have seen Martinez take the field. The Spaniard was the one who helped Guardiola salvage the game after his arrogance kept him on the wrong course early on. That 4-1-4-1 can work with a quality defensive midfielder in place, but not when Philipp Lahm is playing way out of his position. Martinez came on for Rafinha early in the second half, and Bayern’s problems from the first half, with Chelsea actually controlling the match, were solved.
But there was much more to Bayern than only Martinez slowly winning back the place he owned last season. The second half and extra time (against 10 Chelsea players) was one long stretch of Bayern pressure that brought the best out of Petr Cech. Most of it didn’t come from substitutes Mario Gotze and Xherdan Shaqiri, both of them looking slightly out of position, or operating in too much of a crowded room.
Mario Mandzukic was dangerous, but was also frustrated from being beat up on for the entire night by Ivanovic, Cahill and David Luiz. Franck Ribery had his moment of magic when he scored the equalizer for Bayern, but wasn’t consistent in his delivery and ability to create chances. Toni Kroos was a bit more concentrated and accurate in his decision making, while Philipp Lahm and Alaba kept pushing crosses into the box.
Bayern Munich aren’t a weaker team than they were last season, but they seem confused early on. While Guardiola is trying to revolutionize a team just for the sake of having his name being the one in the headlines, there is a perfectly good system of making things work just they way they did last season. One of the biggest parts in that machine was Javi Martinez, and maybe his late goal and ability to install some order in the Bayern midfield will end up steering Guardiola in the right direction.