With German fußball in a recess, the treble defense is right where Pep Guardiola and FC Bayern München had hoped. The Rekordmeister sit in the driving seat with a game in had in the Bundesliga, and it is once again among the favorites in the DFB Pokal and the UEFA Champions League. With depth once again flowing and individual form in a spectrum of levels, the writers once again got together to create the BFW squad ranking.
For those new to this post, this is not the performance index that you might be looking for. This list is the individual takes of our writers on the importance and role of each player in the squad, culminated into an aggregate rank. The endgame is to create what we would consider a best XI, or a team sheet of 18 that would do battle on the highest of occasions. Injured players are included to project an urgency for their return.
Without further ado, here are the first squad rankings of the new year.
|Daniel van Buyten||17||15||18||16||16||16|
= rank increase
= rank decrease
"-" = Not Ranked
Five goals and an assist in his last seven starts, Götze has seized more of a role under Guardiola after starting as a super substitute. Playing in four different positions, he has been a sealant in the side, filling the cracks Ribéry and Robben have left behind. While not superb finisher, his ability to link the play, create space and pick a pass added a different element up the field than the penalty roamers FC Bayern has seen in the past. His level of importance has reached a level where no amount of added depth will hinder his spot.
Weird to think, the longtime captain, established world talent, and inspiration to short athletes everywhere has a stock that is not as full as before. Perhaps the relatively seamless repair to a side without Lahm during his two week absence due to a thigh injury. Rafinha has extended his contract with FC Bayern and Guardiola has extended his trial period with Thiago as a holding midfielder, both indicators of confidence in those respective options. While the German captain is still crucial to the success of the club, the loss of his services is a little easier to stomach than perhaps some others.
Jerome Boateng (Ryan Cowper's Rank: 14 | Aggregate: 6) – The German international's relative unimportance to this Bayern Munich squad is the outcome of squad depth and the reliance of this team on the midfield; or put another way, the defensive structure of this team is less important than it's midfield composition. The pair of starting centerbacks in Boateng and Dante can be replaced by van Buyten, Martinez, or Contento and the side shows almost no change in defensive form. That built in positional redundancy stems from the reduced impact they have on transitioning play from defense into the midfield as that has become the purview of the single pivot role. Furthermore, the reliance on defending from the front using the high press lessens their need for positional rigidity and forces them into a more last resort modality then any sort of defensive structure. With that their defensive contributions, while important in their own right, are not as overtly important as defending from the front to this team.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Samrin Hasib's Rank: 13 | Aggregate: 17) – Shaqiri played a big role in the Club World Cup final and hence I ranked him highly. He has rarely disappointed when he has come on for Bayern in any competition. He has no complaints and he rarely talks about a move to another club despite having limited playing time. He scored when he came on against Hamburger SV in the final Bundesliga game of the year to finally decide the match in Bayern's favor.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Phillip Quinn's Rank: 5 | Aggregate: 12) – It was tough to do the rankings this time due to the number of injuries that afflicted the team in the first half of the season. I tried to be fair to the injured players when judging their "importance" to the team, while acknowledging that they're out injured at the moment. I still maintain that Bastian Schweinsteiger is the "heart" of this team. Luckily, when he returns from injury, Pep Guardiola will be able to gradually work him back into the side and let Bastian get back into the groove of playing with the team. As the team moves toward another historic season, Bastian will be instrumental in all of that.
Thiago Alcântara (Davis VanOpdorp's Rank: 8 | Aggregate: 15) – It is time to accept the reality of the situation. Guardiola is committed to playing Thiago, and playing him a lot. Since coming off the bench against Borussia Dortmund, Thiago has started all eight of FC Bayern's matches in all competitions, only coming off twice to substitution. His passing ability – whether starting the play, advancing the ball, or facilitating into a finishing chance – is prevalent and developing into a world class attribute, but his work rate is also one of the highest on the team. He is a budding midfield superstar, and he might commandeer minutes away from some of the senior players when all is said and done.
The club's trip to Qatar will be most important for the players coming back from injury. Arjen Robben has the opportunity to reiterate the resources he brings. Götze, Thomas Müller, and Xherdan Shaqiri have all tried to fill his shoes, but someone has yet to occupy the right flank the way Robben does. Once he shows his laceration his healed and his fitness is restored, Robben will be slashing and dashing and winding up left footed lasers in no time.
Feel free to add your own top twenty, and give your 18 for crunch time!