Pep Guardiola has highlighted the improvements still needed to be made in his Bayern Munich side after their 3-1 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach kicked off the new Bundesliga season.
Guardiola took charge of his first Bundesliga game as Bayern coach on Friday at Munich’s Allianz Arena and spent 71 of the 90 minutes barking instructions from the sidelines.
Goals by Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic and Austria’s David Alaba gave defending German champions Bayern three points at home on Friday night.
But the Spaniard then presented an extensive list of areas Bayern must improve — something of concern for the club’s senior figures, who have set high standards.
“We didn’t always press well, gave Gladbach too much time, our counter-attacks weren’t always well controlled and when we lost the ball, we didn’t always get back into position straight away,” said Guardiola.
Bayern leaked just 18 goals last season — a record low in the Bundesliga — but goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had a busy night against Gladbach.
“I had lots and lots to do,” admitted the Germany ‘keeper who is more used to quieter evenings when Bayern dominated last season.
Part of the problem stems from Bayern’s new system, with Guardiola having discarded the 4-2-3-1 formation which won the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup.
Instead, Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger is being used as a single defensive midfielder in front of the back four, but as Friday night showed, it can leave big holes.
“Pep isn’t a magician,” admitted Bayern’s director of sport Matthias Sammer, but Guardiola’s team is clearly not yet comfortable with the new system.
Guardiola admits he still struggles to express himself to his players — and hinted the 4-1-4-1 system could be abandoned.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to the players, in my German, what I want,” he said.
“I like the system, but maybe in the future I have to adapt to my players and change it.
“I would have no problem with that.”
As France winger Franck Ribery succinctly put it: “For the first game it was okay, but we need to improve”.
In fairness, Guardiola has had just eight weeks to work with his players since succeeding treble-winning Jupp Heynckes, even less with others.
Brazil centre-back Dante, who conceded an own-goal just before the half-time break against Gladbach, and Spain’s Javi Martinez both came into preparations late after Confederations Cup duty.
And Schweinsteiger also joined pre-season training late after an ankle operation.
“I am not responsible for the tactics, but at the moment some players still need to catch up,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“Especially the Confederations Cup participants as Dante or Javi Martinez, but Bastian Schweinsteiger is still not at 100 percent. We will surely become stronger.”
Guardiola has often acknowledged the pressure he is under at Bayern and it has been made clear they expect to win the treble again this season.
Sammer has directly said the Bavarian giants expect to become the first team to defend the Champions League title.
“At Bayern, there is always pressure, so it might not be bad if Pep gets used to it directly,” added Rummenigge.
“He can’t do anything about the hype around him, neither can the club.
“He is clearly very interesting for the media, but that’s not a problem, we can handle it.”