I’ll continue to hold firm with the stance that Bayern Munich have the strongest squad in Europe, with the Bundesliga leaders sitting 11 points ahead of their nearest challengers Bayer Leverkusen. But with all the depth and experience at the tip of the sword, manager Jupp Heynckes really only has one natural starter for the lone striker role.
Mario Gomez has only recently entered the fray this season at the Allianz Arena, with injury keeping the German international out up until this point. In his absence, Mario Mandzukic has been the name to draw plenty of headlines, leading the Bavarians to top spot in the table and scoring nine league goals so far this season. Claudio Pizarro, a player who spent much of his earlier days at Bayern, was also picked up by the club this past summer and has done well when in rotation with Mandzukic.
But there are very few as good as Gomez inside the penalty area, and with a title charge that maybe needs an added breath of fire, Gomez’s lethal instincts should be exactly what Bayern need going forward.
It was smart for Bayern to go after Mandzukic in the summer; a good alternative was needed and the Croatian’s experience in the Bundesliga helped for an easy transition from Wolfsburg to Bayern. But now that Gomez is back in the squad and fit, the need for rotation should become far less.
There may not be a better player suited to the needs of Bayern Munich and the strength of it’s key players. The creativity in the side is fantastic, but Gomez’s 40 goals last season is testament to how important he is to the team.
Bayern are good enough to wipe the floor with almost any team in domestic competition, and their charge for another go at the Champions League should be reinvigorated following the winter break. But Heynckes needs to look to his strongest starting XI and stick with it. Rotation is all well and good when the fixtures start to pile up, but Bayern have the comfort of a well-rested Gomez to lean on and, as mentioned, the approaching winter break.
Last season saw Borussia Dortmund overcome a poor start to the season and storm their way to the league title. They were unbeaten in the second half of the season, while also going on to demolish Bayern 5-2 in the German Cup Final. The threat is very real and Dortmund are more than capable of putting together another assault on the title as we move into next year.
But Bayern have also been hit with a number of defensive problems, with Jerome Boateng suspended for three games and Holgar Badstuber sidelined for five-six months through injury—rounding out the remainder of the season. Heynckes will move things around at the back and there’s always the option of pairing Javi Martinez with Dante in the centre of defence. But with a defence that may be unsure of itself initially, the need to remain focused and firing at the other end of the pitch becomes imperative.
Gomez is not without his faults, as even Bayern president Uli Hoeness said the player wasn’t a world class striker following the failure in the Champions League final last season. But there’s no doubting the player’s predatory instincts and his ability to come alive in the final third.
Gomez produced far more in the short time he’s been back compared to Mandzukic, scoring three goals and assisting two more. It’s not just that he’s a better striker, but the team also seem far more threatening with him in the side.
Bayern will be confident of bringing the Bundesliga title back to Bavaria at the end of the season, but Gomez’s value to this team has and will continue to be extremely telling. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aside, there are very few forwards who can score over 40 goals in a season, and Gomez has already done enough to force his name onto the Bayern team sheet every week.