Position: Central Midfield
Paul Will arrived in Munich from FC Kaiserslautern on a free transfer during the Summer of 2018. FCK worked tirelessly to retain the services of Will who starred in their youth system and had recently begun training with the first team. The lure of the Bavarian capital proved too much, as the German midfielder sought an opportunity to breakthrough at the Allianz Arena.
The German youth international rose through the ranks, breaking into the U19s just a year after his arrival at the Hessian club in 2015. His impressive performances with the U19s at FCK resulted in his immediate promotion to Bayern II upon his arrival at the Säbener Straße and an invitation to take part in Bayern Munich’s preseason tour of the United States. In light of his impressive club performances, the gritty midfielder has garnered attention from the German national team setup where he has begun to feature for the U-20s.
Although the powerful German plays primarily in the center of the park, his versatility stands out as a real asset for the Bavarian giants, which has probably played a role in his inclusion in first team match day squads throughout 2018. Will can play as a defensive midfielder, box-to-box, as well as a center back and even out wide. This versatility is indicative of his solid skill set and consistency.
While the dynamic midfielder has featured in multiple match day squads for Kovac’s men, he still awaits his first team debut. Considering the seeming inevitability of injuries that have plagued Die Roten and the need to challenge across three competitions, his debut may come sooner rather than later.
Statistics do not paint the entire picture, but they do indicate Will has a relatively complete game, especially when coupled with a study of his play. In 49 matches across competitions in two years with FCK’s U-19s, Will put up a solid nine goals and 4 assists, which built upon three goals and four assists with the FCK U17s. Deployed most commonly as a defensive midfielder, an attacking output of this level is a positive reflection of his technique and work rate.
Will has featured prominently for Bayern II when he is not accompanying the first team, with 14 appearances in the midfield for the Regionaliga side. With a goal and an assist for the first place team in the German fourth-tier, the holding midfielder has helped to set a tempo for a team that boasts a league best goal differential and has two games in hand on the closest title challenger.
Versatility is a defining factor of the German’s game, but this is largely rooted in his complete skill set. In the same vein as Joshua Kimmich, although arguably not as talented, Will can really do it all.
Standing at just over 6 feet and weighing in at roughly 175 lbs, the 19-year-old possesses an imposing build that allows him to dominate between the boxes. His speed is passable to allow him to disrupt attacking moves, while his strength helps him both on the ball and in defense.
His defensive tenacity and intelligence stand out most when first watching the midfielder. As a number six, he personifies the role of destroyer, shielding the back line and suffocating fires before they get started.
Will’s effectiveness is rooted first and foremost in his reading of the game. He anticipates and blocks passing lanes and positions himself brilliantly to mitigate opposition counters. The young prospect’s work rate allows him to maintain his defensive solidity throughout the match and his physicality makes him difficult to bypass. Will never shies away from a tackle, but utilizes effective timing in addition to brute force to ensure that attackers cannot escape.
Offensively and perhaps the most underrated side of his game, the tenacious midfielder is strong on the ball and comfortable dictating play from deep. Although some more defensively-minded midfielders may rely on short, horizontal passes, the youth international prefers to operate with the ball at his feet. His range of passing makes him a threat to split defensive lines and bypass pressing attackers with a diagonal ball or pass to a striker looking to hold up play. When under pressure, he has demonstrated a composure to remain patient, dribble out from the back and make the right pass. This technical ability makes him an asset in a box-to-box role, as he times runs into the box, finds incisive passes and finishes with a pragmatism that won’t make headlines, but will get the job done.
Will’s awareness and intelligence are what set him apart as a player who has what it takes to make a breakthrough. He doesn’t stand out in any single area, but he is rarely out of position, breaks up opposition attacks, consistently makes the smart pass, and picks his moments offensively at just the right times. He is a player that can do it all and is at his best when his performances go unnoticed or under-appreciated.
Despite a well-rounded game, a major obstacle remains that is hindering his first team chances: Bayern have a loaded midfield. Even with the absence of James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, world class talents Thiago, Goretzka, Sanches, Martinez, and even Kimmich remain ahead of the youngster in the pecking order.
Will’s strong defensive ability may suit him since Bayern lack depth at the number six, but a loan may be the best option for him to prove himself moving forward. He is the type of player who can endear himself to Bayern faithful and likely has a role to play down the line.