FC Bayern Munchen have opened up a 20-point lead between themselves and closest pursuers Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and rate a more fearsome prospect than even the all-conquering vintage of 2012/13.
That’s a lead of some three-points greater than they held at this stage of the previous campaign, while, unlike last term, they’ve yet to be beaten.
It all begs the question, “how has Pep Guardiola managed to improve a near-perfect team?”
FCB are 13/50 to avoid the nail-biting tension of last year’s Champions League round of 16 second-leg tie by beating Arsenal in their next outing.
The fact that it’s virtually impossible to predict their starting line up for the aforementioned duel offers the key to understanding how the Spaniard has gone about improving the unimprovable.
Bayern added Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze to their already formidable ranks last summer and the embarrassment of riches at Guardiola’s disposal enables him to field vastly differing teams, leaving their opponents constantly unsure how they will set up.
No fewer than 14 players have started more than ten of the 24 league games for Die Roten this season, yet only stopper Manuel Neuer and defenders Rafinha, Philipp Lahm, David Alaba and Dante have begun more than 20 of said fixtures from the off.
Lahm’s conversion into a holding midfielder has already been widely praised as ingenious.
Yet Javier Martinez’s use as a number ten against Borussia Dortmund is just one further example of the way in which Guardiola has recognised and facilitated his players’ abilities to perform in a plethora of positions.
Their weekend win over a Wolfsburg side two points off a Champions League place at the time, illustrated this awe-inspiring depth and versatility in microcosm.
Out went Bastian Schweinsteiger, Alcantara, Gotze, Martinez and top scorer Mario Mandzukic, all of whom had started the previous outing against Schalke.
In came Lahm, Thomas Muller, Xherdan Shaquiri, Franck Ribery and Jerome Boateng, with a 6-1 victory the end result.
Swiss winger Shaquiri, who scored the equaliser, was employed in the number ten role behind line-leader Muller as Guardiola switched from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1.
Die Roten are now as short as 2/5 to see out the season unbeaten in the Bundesliga.