If you paid any attention to mobile technology news in the past twelve months, you might have heard of “Project Ara“. Project Ara is a Google run initiative that is aiming to create a modular smartphone, which allows the user to build up a device that is specced up to suit their wants and needs.
The phone consists of a frame to hold the different parts together, with the different parts being “modules”. The modules are the components of the phone, like the screen, battery, processor etc.
The great thing about this product means that you can swap out the modules you don’t need at certain times for other, more useful ones. For example, if you need more juice, replace your camera with an additional battery. If you want a faster processor and don’t need a speaker, swap the modules.
At the heart of this project is the idea of modular design. Modular design is defined (according to our good friend Wikipedia) as the following:
A design approach that subdivides a system into smaller parts called modules, that can be independently created and then used in different systems.
Watching Bayern’s game against Darmstadt this weekend, this idea of modular design jumped to mind – with the Bavarian side probably the poster boys for this type of strategy, without even knowing it. The players are the modules and the different systems at play are the slight variations of Juego de Posición that Guardiola employs each game.
Take this weekends game against Darmstadt for example. Bayern have struggled recently with injuries to centre backs. This weekend they started the game with a centre back pairing of on-loan Serder Tasci (an actual centre back) and Joshua Kimmich (a midfielder). Kimmich is only 1.76cm tall and weighs 70kg, by no means the build of your traditional centre back.
On 53 minutes Guardiola hauled off Tasci and replaced him with Juan Bernat, meaning there was not a true centre back in the eleven, with little under half the game remaining.
This modularity; the ability to play players in different positions and still function as the same, complex side, is what sets Bayern apart from the top teams in Europe. This is likely down to Guardiola’s style of play and how he coaches his team – teaching them a strategy that all his players understand and can therefore execute, in many positions on the field.
Looking at some positional data from Transfermarkt, we can see how varied the positions taken up by these players are. For example:
Even in Kimmich’s limited games for Bayern, he’s already played in a variety of roles. I’d expect this to continue as his Bayern career progresses.
Alaba is Bayern’s Swiss Army Knife. His positional flexibility is a real asset, and I’m holding out for him to appear at striker soon.
Even Manuel Neuer!
OK so I’m joking on this one, but you could see it happening.
Like Project Ara, Bayern are able to completely change the makeup of their side while still functioning within the same system. Even without a camera, Project Ara is still a phone. Without a recognisable centre back, Bayern are still Bayern. I’m unsure other sides in Europe are as flexible.
We mentioned in the latest episode of the Analytics FC podcast how potentially Steven Naismith should get some minutes at centre back, or Russell Martin should be tried up front, you’ve probably got ideas of similar player-positional changes in mind. Introducing this sort of modularity could be a good way to survive an injury crisis, or even find a players true position.
I’m sure Pep is going to bring some elements of Bayern’s “modularity” with him to the Etihad in the summer. Kolarov at false 9 anyone?