Big competition in the Bayern Munich midfield is no news. Many young talents have tried but failed to break into the first team. Will Bayern’s record signing Corentin Tolisso be one of them?
Following this article on Sebastian Rudy a few days ago, there was a lot of discussion in the comments about whether Tolisso might in fact be more likely to leave Bayern. Some argued that he was under-performing and should be sold on; others felt that he was still young enough to have room to grow. Yet another view was that he simply didn’t fit the Bayern system. Let’s have a look at some of the critiques and then the numbers that back them up.
What our readers thought
If you look back at Tolisso’s surprise transfer to Bayern, many people felt he simply was not worth the money Bayern paid. Of course, signing any players in a superheated market is difficult, and some will argue that Bayern need to invest big money to stay competitive with their biggest rivals. Although I would argue that that is not the Bayern philosophy and that Bayern would not be where they are now if they followed “the way everyone else is doing it,” there were some comments that particularly caught my eye.
In the interest of not making this article too long I have limited myself to three major points:
- twocolorcrayon noted that:
It’ll be hard for any young midfielder to show that quite at this moment on this squad...I don’t think a single one of us expected him to really be challenging for a starting position.
- Bayern München mentioned some of Tolisso’s positive stats before Bayern’s game against Paderborn and—similar to the comment above—the presence of older players on the squad:
5 goals and 5 assists having played 1671 minutes . . . the others are 30 [Vidal], 29 [Javi], 27 [Rudy] and an injury prone 26 [Thiago].
- and finally, at_sunshine talked about another important aspect of any player’s performance, whether he fits the team’s system:
Tolisso still seems like more of a 4-3-3 midfielder than a 4-2-3-1 one.
To address these concerns, let’s look first of all at Tolisso’s performance, in particular his stats. Like Vidal, Tolisso is a modern box-to-box midfielder, although he tackles somewhat less often. For context, we will compare the performance of the two players below.
Their playing time is remarkably similar: Tolisso has played in 28 games this season (1729 minutes/ 6 goals/ 5 assists), and Vidal in 27 (1747 minutes/ 6 goals/ 2 assists). While all of Vidal’s goals and assists came in the Bundesliga, Coco has also contributed in the Pokal (1 goal/1 assist) and Champions League (3 goals/ 1 assist). On top of that Tolisso, has picked up only 5 yellow cards compared to Vidal’s 9.
Most of Tolisso’s goals and assists came in games in which he played a full 90 minutes. In fact, in the 11 games Tolisso played for 90 minutes, he had 5 goals and 4 assists. Vidal, in contrast, only managed 3 goals and 1 assist in his 11 games over 90 minutes.
So while Tolisso may still have a lot of room to grow and is far from a finished product, he has shown that he can deliver already as a starter, even on the big stage and in his first season. Should he be taken into consideration as a starter over Vidal? The stats say yes.
While the right system can elevate any player’s skills and potential, the statistics prove that Tolisso can play in Bayern’s system. Bayern currently have three main lineup formations: 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3.
While Tolisso can play box-to-box, his greatest strengths clearly lie in the final third. The latter two systems—the 4-3-3 and Heynckes’s recent 4-1-4-1—present greater opportunities to maximise these strengths because they rely on a single deep-playing 6. These systems have also been utilised more in recent times due to personell changes. With the departures of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso, Bayern doesn’t have anyone in the squad who can dictate the play from deep with long passes.
- The next generation squad for Bayern. A look at players that have been confirmed to for Bayern, are on loan, or could fill gaps. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images
- Goal: Manuel Neuer (31). Nothing need be said about his pure class, which will stay for years to come. Backup: Christian Früchtl (18). Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images
- LB: David Alaba(25), has already proven his worth over years and is still only 25. Backup: Marco Friedl (currently on loan at Bremen) Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images
- CB: Niklas Süle (22). A pillar of the defence for the future, and not just because of his size. Backup: no young backup. Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images
- CB: Felix Götze (19). Götze has already flashed potential in his few starts for Bayern. Backup: no young backup. Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images
- RB: Joshua Kimmich (22). Kimmich is an aggressive leader and a force going forward. Backup: Sebastian Rudy (although a bit older at 27). Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images
- LW: Serge Gnabry (22). Currently on loan at Hoffenheim, Gnabry is a winger with a knack for scoring goals. Backup: currently no one under 30. Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images
- CM: Leon Goretzka (23). Goretzka is potentially the midfield leader of the future. Backup: no one younger. Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images
- CAM: James Rodriguez (26). James is currently absolutely on fire, coming into his own at Bayern. He should be signed beyond his current loan. Backup: Thiago Alcantara (26). You can’t even call Thiago a backup, since he would be playing as well if not for his current injury. Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images
- CM: Corentin Tolisso (23). A force box-to-box, with strong finishing and already showing chemistry with James. Backup: Renato Sanchez (20). Sanches hasn’t had the best start but is still really young. Give him time. Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images
- RW: Kingsley Coman (21). Coman can play both wings, has great speed, and amazing talent. Backup: no one young. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images
- ST: This is perhaps the biggest question mark for the future and something Bayern need to address. Backup: Kwasi Wriedt(23), not the biggest talent at his age but would be a solid backup. Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images
Nowadays Bayern have more dynamic, forward-playing types like Thiago and James (no. 10s) and Tolisso and Vidal (no. 8s), while Martinez can play behind them as a clear no. 6.
If we look at who might leave the squad in the near future, we should also consider what Karl-Heinz Rummenigge mentioned in an interview on Sky before the Paderborn game. He said that Bayern were building the squad around talented, young players like Kimmich, Süle, Tolisso and Coman.
We can add to that list slightly older players such as David Alaba, Thiago and James, include returning loanees like Gnabry and Sanches, and the new addition of Leon Goretzka. All of a sudden Bayern need just one more young center-back and a striker to field a young but highly competitive U-26 squad. A new keeper is not necessary as long he Neuer stays healthy; even at 31, he is still young by keeper standards.
With two midfielders potentially arriving in the summer—depending Sanches's situation—the logical solution is that Bayern will shed at least one midfielder. Considering players' age and their general fit for the team, the likely option is not Tolisso, but Vidal.
To come back at last to Rudy and the question of sales: I still think Rudy will keep a spot on the squad spot, as mentioned in the previous article, due to versatility including at RB.
Verdict: Is Tolisso in a similar situation to Rudy? No. He is younger, has a higher upside and also plays a different position: no. 8. He will probably step into the shoes of Vidal if and when he leaves the club in the summer. Tolisso is rightly regarded by Rummenigge as one of the building blocks for the future of Bayern.
Stats from transfermarkt.com