The ghost of Bayern squads present: taking stock of the current team

It is time to take stock of Bayern’s current squad and how they are faring at present. Can they accomplish what the 2013 squad did?
Coaches come and coaches go – and sometimes they come back again. Bayern are at an interesting period of transition at the moment For some reason, the team has not been able to live up to its 2013 glory amid searching for the right mix of squad and coach. Jupp Heynckes bid a teary farewell only to return again two coaches later.
Almost as if someone had flicked on a switch, the team began to gel together much better and perform with more cohesion. After the era of Pep Guardiola and the brief era of Carlo Ancelotti, it is time to take stock of Bayern’s present situation.

Attack

Bayern have recently signed striker Sandro Wagner to relieve some of the pressure off Robert Lewandowski up front. This is definitely a good idea especially as Wagner is so efficient as a number 9. Before Wagner’s signing, Lewandowski was Bayern’s only traditional striker. Thomas Müller also plays an attacking role but is not a classic finisher – which Bayern does need.

Müller adds creativity in attack and has done so for a very long time. For the past couple of seasons though, under both Guardiola and Ancelotti, he had not been at his A-game. In fact, especially under Ancelotti, he seemed to be getting frustrated. If we take a glance at the number go goals he scored in the three years under Guardiola, we see the stats were not too bad – however, he was not at his highest point. Under Ancelotti, he took on more of a “provider of assists” role.

Season

Number of goals scored

2013-14

26

2014-15

21

2015-16

32

2016-17

9

Now that Heynckes has returned, Müller appears to be more efficient and more confident. It seems like he is back in his old skin. He is once again taking a more active attacking role.

Of course, James Rodríguez has also added a bit more creativity in attack. He adds pace and power, which helps against defensive teams in particular. His strongest position is behind the striker, pushing forward. James has already scored twice this season. His strongest quality is his versatility as he plays behind the striker, moving back and forth and adding attacking creativity.

He is technically capable of playing on the wings although this is not his strong point. This leads me to my next point…

Midfield and wings

Bayern’s attack is not a massive problem – at least for now. The midfield is also strong. The wings, however, are a little worrying. Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben are legends but at 34 and 33 respectively, they are not as young and fit as they used to be. The problem is, they are leaving massive shoes to be filled. At present, Ribéry’s fitness has gone down and Robben’s is beginning to wane as well. Bayern have tried but have not been able to find their replacements as yet.

Bayern signed Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa with the intention to eventually replace Robbéry. Coman grew into his role eventually and has been quite impressive. Costa had some bright moments but was not that strong overall. Eventually, he had to be shipped off to Juventus after scoring 14 goals for Bayern over the course of two seasons.

I was one of the people who believed he may just shine given more time but I understood the reasons for his departure. He did not want to wast his time as a bench-warmer and the club did not want to waste their time waiting for him to get better. While Kingsley Coman has been brilliant especially this season, he cannot be the lone winger. Bayern need wingers who can add lightning pace and feed the ball through to a classic striker like Lewandowski (and Wagner).

Otherwise, Bayern’s midfield is chockfull of talent. With players like Thiago Alcântara, Arturo Vidal and Corentin Tolisso, Bayern are at ease. Vidal, although sometimes a bit clumsy, adds bite and aggression to the midfield which had been previously lacking. Thiago adds speed and intelligence and is also quite versatile.

Defence

I, along with most other Bayern fans, did panic when Philipp Lahm retired. Could anybody ever be as good as him? He would pick up the slack when the rest of the defence was unable to and was a solid defensive presence every single time.

Bayern did, naturally, struggle when he left. Manuel Neuer often stepped in, the sweeper keeper that he is, to act as an additional defender. Lahm’s departure allowed for the rapid rise of Joshua Kimmich. This has proved to be exceptionally useful, considering Neuer has been injured for quite some time. Kimmich rose to the challenge and has been a fast, intelligent tackler at the back who plays high up when needed. He does need a bit more practice but he is well and truly destined for a bright future as right-back.

Bayern’s defence also included Jérôme Boateng (classic) who has not been quite as impressive lately. He is certainly a defensive force to be reckoned with, however. Along with Mats Hummels, he adds experience to the defence.

New kids on the block Nicklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy are also key assets for Bayern and have shown great potential. With them in tow, Bayern’s defence is not a cause for concern right now. In fact, even Javi Martínez has started to look like his former self again under Jupp Heynckes. He is much more confident and less blunder-ous.

The defence is completed by the goalkeepers, of course. Now that Neuer has been out since mid-September, Bayern have dug out their reserve keepers. Sven Ulreich stepped up and although the first couple of games were a bit shaky, he has done a top job. If Neuer is indeed out for a longer period of time, Ulreich will be able to guard the net with no problems.

If Bayern play their cards right and ensure their defenders and wingers step up – which they have the quality to do – they should not have any trouble winning silverware this season. Can they win a treble again? I would say it is not out of the question – but the whole squad will need to turn it up a notch. They certainly have the quality to do so.