Martinez injury piles pressure on Bayern
Bayern Munich lost the German Super Cup to archrivals Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday and the ramifications of the 2-0 defeat have deepened amid confirmation of Javi Martinez's ruptured cruciate ligament.
Bayern confirmed the bad news on Thursday and for Pep Guardiola and the reigning champions, it is a crushing blow.
Bayern are already short in central defence according to many of the club's fans, and seeing Martinez depart on a stretcher after 31 minutes would have concerned everyone of a Bayern persuasion. There were hopes the injury was not as serious as this, but now Martinez will be out long term.
"Obviously I'm extremely sad at this moment," the 25-year-old said. "But don't worry -- I'll come back even stronger."
As Guardiola said, the 2-0 defeat is secondary. While the Super Cup is officially classed as a competitive game, the trophy is not exactly one you proudly present in your club museum. The match being played in preseason says a lot, and both teams still lack fitness -- Bayern obviously more than Dortmund, because of their many international players still on holiday or yet to be introduced back into the side following a grueling summer at the World Cup.
After originally being done with transfer business with the signing of Pepe Reina, Bayern could be in the market for a centre-back now, with Martinez out for a prolonged spell.
Issues need to be clarified at the back. Holger Badstuber has just returned from long-term injuries himself, while Jerome Boateng is recovering from a long World Cup with Germany and Dante did not have his best season under Guardiola last term. If Bayern continue to play in a 3-4-3, David Alaba is an option as well, but his strengths are clearly on the flank.
One could even argue that Bayern would need two new centre-backs, should their three-man defence be the main system in the future. Players like Mehdi Benatia and Konstantinos Manolas have been linked with the Bavarians recently, and the former at least would certainly be a huge improvement.
Bayern could also look to Spain again and possibly to Bilbao -- Martinez's former club -- with Aymeric Laporte providing a younger option that has reportedly been on their radar for some time as well. All in all and regardless of the tactical system, not signing at least one central defender would be grossly negligent.
To take something positive from Wednesday's match, it was the glimpses of potential shown by Sebastian Rode and 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino -- son of former Bundesliga player and German international Maurizio -- in central midfield, where both combined well and took responsibility in the opening stages of the game. They were on their own too often defensively though, which had a lot to do with Dortmund's relentless pressing and Bayern's tactical system.
Speaking of the system, a debate needs to be had regarding whether 4-3-3 would be better than 3-4-3.
Guardiola will most likely use several different tactical schemes anyway, so it is too early to judge his decisions considering the lack of fitness, absence of many key players and the point of time in preseason.
Only the next few weeks will reveal how the club copes with the unpleasant situation they are in now, with Martinez's injury a terrible note on which to start the Bundesliga title defence.