When Sebastian Ride joined Bayern Munich ion a free transfer over the summer, it was with whispered trepidation. Another defensive midfielder? Bayern Munich already have somewhere between 5 and 8-million of those, why do they need another?
Enter Sebastian Rode on Matchday 2 against Schalke 04. While the end result was a draw, it was a game that saw Sebastian Rode dominate midfield alongside Xabi Alonso, including a deft attacking maneuver that assisted on Bayern Munich's opening goal. It was an early highlight that was forgotten as the Hinründe unfolded and Pep Guardiola chose to lean heavily on Philipp Lahm and David Alaba in a midfield bereft of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez among others. A 90 minute shift in the thrashing of Paderborn was a lone performance in a run that saw the young German feature mostly as a substitute.
The loan whispers started. He wasn't featuring or developing. Bastian Schweinsteiger was closing in on a return.
Then the Hoffenheim game happened.
Coming off the bench shortly before the 60th minute, Rode injected a pace and directness into Bayern Munich that was unmatched and unequaled by Hoffenheim. His direct runs and interchanges with Ribery and Robben confounded a Hoffenheim defense. When Bastian Schweinsteiger made his return to the pitch for Bayern Munich after months of absence just 20 minutes later, he slotted in alongside Rode and the two worked in nearly synchronous tandem as they crashed the Hoffenheim box, netting Bayern Munich two goals in the span of seven minutes to close out the match. Rode's workout combined with that of Schweinsteiger took the Bayern Munich midfield into new heights of vertical direct play that have been almost unseen since the tenure of Jupp Heynckes.
That play continued with a string of solid performances (albeit brief) against Manchester City and Hertha BSC. It was the 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen that catapulted Rode into Pep Guardiola's starting 11 on a more permanent basis. He came in at the halftime break, and subsequently dominated the midfield, giving Roger Schmidt and Bayer Leverkusen fits. Speaking after the match, Pep Guardiola effused praise for Rode, " "He has given us more full throttle. He trains and always plays 100 percent, always thinks of the team. He's a good guy. I am very happy for him, he deserves my compliments. "
Rode also spoke up for his performance, saying "In the changing room Pep Guardiola hugged me, so I assume from that that I played well. I came on and wanted to show what I'm capable of. I think I managed to do that quite well so now we're looking forward to the Champions League game on Wednesday. I've been accepted into the team and when I play I don't think there's a dip in quality in our team."
However, it's been the performances since then that gave come to define what Sebastian Rode can bring to this Bayern Munich side. His rightback performance against CSKA Moscow was understandably tepid until he was thrust into the middle of the park, once again pairing with Bastian Schweinsteiger. At that moment, Rode came to life as the duo took apart the Moscow defense in combination with Arjen Robben. Fittingly, that game's final goal was a lovely chip from Schweinsteiger to Rode.
The duo once again played tandem fiddle to great effect in the 4-0 win over Augsburg, logging three assists between them as they combined flawlessly with their attacking counterparts.
The rapport Rode has developed with Schweinsteiger and the rest of the Bayern Munich squad aside, Rode has also taken a step forward himself, reaching for new heights as a player. One only has to look at his statistics in the Bundesliga compared to last season to see that.
|Pass %||Touches/90||Shots/90||Chances Created/90|
Better passing (albeit marginally), more touches per 90, more shots per 90, and an obscene increase in his chances created per 90.
|Tackles/90||Interceptions/90||Duel %||Aerial Duel%|
More tackles per 90, more interceptions per 90, winning duel after duel in midfield.
In almost every category of offensive and defensive output, Sebastian Rode has come on leaps and bounds this season. He's bid his time well, learned from this team and Guardiola as coach, and he's starting to reap the rewards. It was no wonder that when Abenzeitung interviewed Sebastian Rode about a potential loan move earlier this month, he stated " On the part of Bayern, I also know that they do not want me to leave."
Sebastian Rode has been a huge piece for Bayern Munich and he's fully demonstrated that he has the ability and tactical acumen to be a huge component of Pep Guardiola's plans for Bayern Munich this season. His development and advancement are the product of the work he has put in. I, for one, look forward to seeing him in a Bayern Munich shirt for a long time to come.