It shouldn’t have seemed strange that Bayern Munich opted to heavily reinforce their attacking lines over the summer. Following their disappointments last season, the aim was to add depth right through the team.
The form and finishing ability of Mario Gomez was among the best in Germany last season (second best to be exact), and while the attacking options might not have seemed so high up on the agenda, the club did, however, swoop for their former striker Claudio Pizarro, who arrived on a free from Werder Bremen, and the in-form Mario Mandzukic following his performances during Euro 2012.
It would be a step too far to suggest that the Premier League is littered with teams looking for a powerful front man in his prime, but those who are looking to take that fourth place Champions League spot for themselves might have missed a very good opportunity with the Croatian international.
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Mario Gomez has been able to remain on the sidelines and continue his rehabilitation at a steady pace due to the exceptional form of Bayern in Germany this season. The club’s leading scorer last season has yet to feature this term but certainly has a good level of competition when he returns due to the very capable options Jupp Heynckes has available.
Claudio Pizarro has begun claiming a few starts as this season has progressed, but it has so far been the scoring form and qualities of Mandzukic that have spearheaded the Bavarians to the top of the Bundesliga table.
It would have been easy to miss his signing in the summer, such was the speed at which Bayern went in and completed the deal. There was rightly a lot of attention on Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels and even Bastian Schweinsteiger to a lesser extent. But Bayern went in almost unopposed and picked up a powerful goal scorer for a price that even the owners at Liverpool FC couldn’t have said no to.
The 26-year-old Mandzukic has already done a lot to repay the reported 13 million euros Bayern paid for his services, picking up eight goals in 10 games in the league for them this season. He drew plenty of attention for his two-goal display against the Republic of Ireland during Euro 2012 and grabbed another during Croatia’s encounter against Italy. Both of those games gave good evidence to his qualities as a powerful but mobile front man – tall, excellent in the air, able to hold the ball up, and more than capable of being a consistent threat in front of goal with the right service.
Bayern Munich, with fire and drive to move on from the crushing disappointments in Europe and domestically last season, have more than enough creative prowess to feed one of their new additions to an already very good strike force. And even with a number of Premier League fans who are yet to be convinced of the Bundesliga’s credentials, Mandzukic has thus far given a lot of evidence that he would have been a very good buy for any of the big clubs in England.
The drawback and the sticking point for many clubs might have been his personality and probability to self-destruct on the pitch. Mandzukic had been able to establish himself as a good and even important player for Wolfsburg in Germany, but there’s an uncertainty to him and as to how he may equally heap enormous pressure on his team.
The responsibilities and promises of success may have allayed that for now, as so far the player has been nothing but an excellent target for his creative teammates on the pitch at the Allianz Arena. The leg work is done from the powerhouses in the midfield, the wide areas are well covered by fantastic options in either Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery or Xherdan Shaqiri, but Mandzukic is best left to his natural game – leading the line with full focus on the attacking side of the game. Can he be a nuisance to have in the team? Yes, but his edgy and at times aggressive nature to the way he attacks can be a real bonus for any team.
For Bayern, and especially considering their full house of strikers, Mandzukic gives them something different while never compromising on results or attacking ferocity.
It may have been a risk to opt for the Croatian international as the solitary and only striking option in a team, but he could have been a very good compliment to a number of good Premier League attacking sides.