Getting substituted out in the 70th minute for David Alaba is probably not what Sebastian Rudy had in mind before the game on Saturday against Mainz. When asked by Sport1.de last week about his midfield competition, his answer was: “I don’t need to hide. I look forward to our next challenges. Then we will see what the following weeks bring.”
His words echo another Sebastian who once played for Bayern Munich. This one said in a Kicker interview in December 2014, “with what I have shown so far, I don’t need to hide.” That was Sebastian Rode; he left the club six months later.
Rudy got some rare game time in the last two weeks due to Javi Martinez’s injury, but failed to impress. While the team struggled as a whole early in the game against Hoffenheim, both early goals were scored through the center, leading to questions regarding Rudy. His performance was not much better this weekend against Mainz, where he disappeared for large chunks of the game. Will he suffer the same fate as Rode and be shipped off without making a real impact?
While it would be premature to say that Rudy is a bust, it has to be said that in his best games he sorts and distributes quietly from the back and in his worst you don’t realise he is there at all.
What Rudy lacks for someone playing in the midfield for Bayern is presence and drive to the goal. When most teams sit deep, he can pass the ball around well, but Rudy is not much of a threat going forward.
If we compare Rudy to Javi Martinez, we find that defensively Martinez is the standout of the two. While Rudy makes an interception every 46.9 minutes, you can expect one from Martinez every 31.3 minutes. Perhaps it is due to the fact that Rudy intercepts less that he has to make more tackles, recording 27 in 797 played minutes while Martinez has only 19 tackles in 1064 minutes. Nonetheless, when it comes to clearing the danger Martinez is once again on top with an average of two clearances per 90 minutes, while Rudy takes almost 3 games to make a single clearance.
So is the problem that we should be looking at Rudy as a more offensive option? This is thin ice when you consider the squad: Tolisso and Vidal play at the no. 8 spot, and Thiago, James, and potentially also Müller at the no. 10. Rudy wouldn’t have much chance there, leaving him the role of playmaker at the no. 6 spot.
That is exactly what Rudy is. But going back to the offensive stats, while Rudy has a higher key-pass and overall pass completion percentage than Martinez, Javi gives you twice as many shots per game. That danger on offence coupled with better defensive skills and presence make Martinez a far better fit for Bayern.Rudy thrived in Hoffenheim precisely because he didn’t need to be an offensive threat, while the team played tighter in the center.
Going back to the question at hand, the big difference between Rudy and Rode, is that Rudy has more utility. He could be used as a backup to Kimmich if Rafinha leaves at the end of the season, a position that he has played before for the German national team. This would allow Bayern to focus on different positions in the transfer market. With Goretzka and possibly Sanches coming next season, moving Rudy to right-back could be a good long-term step before he gets pushed out.
Rudy is also similar to Kimmich and Alaba in many ways. Both have publicly stated that they would like to play in midfield, but I believe that their physical stature makes all three more appropriate for a fullback position. While I am not saying that Rudy is at the same level as those two he would be a solid backup.
Of course, it all depends on who the new manager is and how he decides to let the team play, but in my opinion the competition for Rudy will be too strong in the coming seasons.
Verdict: Rudy should not suffer the same fate as Rode. He may stay at Bayern, but move to back-up fullback.
All stats from whoscored.com.