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The French are coming: wingers in Ligue 1 that might make it at Bayern Munich

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Part 2 of the ‘End of Robbery at Bayern?’ Here we take a look at prospects from the league that has given us the likes of Ribery, Lizarazu, Sagnol, Tolisso and (via Juventus) Coman.

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 29: Malcom of Bordeaux gestures after his goal during the Ligue 1 match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux and AS Saint-Etienne at Stade Matmut Atlantique on November 29, 2017 in Bordeaux.
BORDEAUX, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 29: Malcom of Bordeaux gestures after his goal during the Ligue 1 match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux and AS Saint-Etienne at Stade Matmut Atlantique on November 29, 2017 in Bordeaux.
Photo by Romain Perrocheau/Getty Images

This is part 2 of a three-part series exploring how the Bayern Munich’s winger situation could look after the summer if Ribery and Robben leave. In part 1 we looked at Bayern’s current squad situation and potential talent from the Bundesliga. We concluded that as the Bayern’s future on the wings consists of Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry (if he even wants to come) and Thomas Muller (if the coach moves him out wide again).

Ligue 1

Most of the rumors as to how Bayern can add to that group this season have come from the French Ligue 1. In December, we looked at several prospects, including Florian Thauvin and Malcom, who had been linked with Bayern. Then in February we got the news that Bayern may have already negotiated a basic agreement with Malcom. The question that needs to be asked, though, is whether either one of these players is the right fit.

A strong pro is that, with Coman and Tolisso, we have two French players already in our squad. So in this post I will discuss some of the most prominent Ligue 1 players linked with Bayern, adding others who I think should bear consideration. The format will be as follows:

Name - age - position - (games played in/ goals/ assists/ minutes played)

Followed by a brief analysis.

Florian Thauvin of OM during the French Ligue 1 match between Lille OSC (LOSC) and Olympique de Marseille (OM) at Stade Pierre Mauroy on October 29, 2017 in Lille, France.
Florian Thauvin, October 29, 2017.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Florian Thauvin - 25 years old - Right wing - (42/ 18/ 16/ 3162)

Thauvin is a good couple of years older than most of the other players here, but if you go by the numbers, you might conclude that he would be an immediate injection of talent. More on that later.

The point about Thauvin’s age is interesting, because Bayern are investing heavily in their youth academy and want to make a stronger commitment to bringing players into the first team. In the last half year, they have been linked to under-18 wingers such as Crysencio Summerville, Willem Geubbels and Darly N’Landu.

This could mean that adding a slightly older player such as Thauvin, would give them the ideal time frame of up to five years—when he would be 30 and presumably need to be replaced himself—to develop someone in their own academy and slowly bring that player into the team.

In my opinion, though, Thauvin’s stats make him look better than he actually is. I took the time to watch all of his goals and assists, as well as extra tape on him and this is my assessment: Thauvin is a tough player who can hold opponents off, but he does not have elite speed; he dribbles and twirls on the ball when he doesn’t need to (which comes across as arrogant and wasteful) and—worst of all—his assists and goals quite often came against defences that were playing simply awfully. I think the hype around him is a reflection of a good—not amazing—player who looks better than he is because he plays in an average league where defenders are falling all over each other.

This opinion is underlined when you look at his Ligue 1 performances versus three of the top teams in the league (Paris, Monaco and Lyon) over the last 5 seasons. His record against these teams is far less dazzling: 29 games, 2 goals and 2 assists. On top of that, 1 goal and 2 assists came this season; the only other goal was four seasons ago.

Also, when Thauvin played against tougher opposition in European competitions (Europa or Champions League), he only managed 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 15 games (not including qualifiers). And when he was on loan in Newcastle for half a year (in a league with better defenders), he failed to contribute to a goal at all in 13 games.

And then there is the ludicrous price tag: Marseille boss Jacques-Henri Eyraud claimed on telefoot that the 25-year-old would not be sold even for € 150 million.

Malcom of Bordeaux in action during the Ligue 1 match between FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Montpellier Herault SC at Stade Matmut Atlantique on December 21, 2017 in Bordeaux, France.
Malcom in action, December 21, 2017.
Photo by Romain Perrocheau/Getty Images

Malcom - 21 years old - Right wing - (29/ 8/ 7/ 2411)

At this point in time, Malcom is probably the most hotly discussed player associated with Bayern. But should he be?

When you look at Bayern’s record in signing South American players—at least, those without prior Bundesliga experience—it’s not that great. While players such as Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Dante and Luis Gustavo successfully navigated the transition to Bayern, players from outside the Bundesliga have not found it so easy (dos Santos, Sosa, Breno). More recently, Douglas Costa left after a couple of up and down seasons. I never really got the feeling that he was part of the team—although he is undoubtedly gifted.

Costa, one might argued, was not done any favours by Carlo Ancelotti, who somehow managed to upset several key players. Even James played poorly under him, despite his status as Ancelotti’s version of “Thiago oder nix.” Presuming Bayern have learned their lesson, the club now must think about who will be the manager next season and whether Malcom’s mentality will be a match. Several different German managers are being discussed, but it remains to be seen whether there could be much of a clash.

But now to the player Malcom, only considering football. The first issue I see is production. Malcom has as many goal participations as Julian Brandt, but has also played almost 500 more minutes and in Ligue 1. One big plus is that he is there in big games. Against the previously mentioned top 3 teams, he has scored 4 goals in four games this season.

However, Malcom is also averaging around 160 minutes per goal participation. Last season it was even worse, at over 200 minutes. Of course, you have to consider the caliber of the players around him, which is perhaps not as high as it would be elsewhere. Nonetheless, if Ribery and Robben were to leave, he would have to be a starter straight away, but I think that Bayern is a bit too big a leap for him.

There is no doubt that he is a good player with speed and strength, but he still needs a year or two at a slightly better club to develop. He is talented and showy and has been linked to a lot of big clubs, so his price will be high—but in my opinion too high. And I don’t think Willy Sagnol’s connections will help bring the price down enough for it to be worth Bayern’s investment. There are better options.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Julian Draxler - 24 years old - Left wing - (38/ 4/ 9/ 2105)

Draxler is one of the German players that I have been the most up and down on in the past few years. Mostly down, if I’m honest, at least until recently. Here is how his story reads: talented youngster at Schalke. Decided to leave for Wolfsburg because he felt there was too much pressure from the fans. Was often injured and could never fill de Bruyne’s shoes. Then moved on to Paris where he started to play well, had a strong showing at the Confed Cup, only to have Neymar and Mbappe put in front of him.

In terms of his attitude, he often reminds me of Mesut Özil: he disappears for long periods of time, then has some great moments, but he is definitely not a leader. Compared to the personalities and drive of Ribery and Robben, he is a clear mismatch.

Also, if you look at his positioning he is no pure winger. In a 4-3-3, 4-1-2-3 or 4-1-4-1 he tends to move inside and come from deeper positions. I actually see him as a better player from there. So another question I would ask is whether he is the type of player we are looking for. What speaks in his favour is that he is a German national who has even captained die Mannschaft.

With Neymar out until the end of the season, it could be really interesting to see what Draxler does if he gets more game time, and then whether he is in the starting line up for Germany in the World Cup.

Since leaving Schalke, he has never managed to get 20 scorer points in one season across competitions, and he hasn’t been at terrible teams. Even when he was at Schalke he managed 20 only once. He is at an age where you would expect him to come in and make a team better. I don’t think he has that ability to improve Bayern.

Sporting CP v AS Monaco - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Thomas Lemar - 22 years old - Left wing - (28/ 3/ 8/ 2073)

Lemar hasn’t been linked with Bayern directly much since after Christmas, but he is being linked very much with a move away from Monaco. In addition to that, he is not having the best season, which could lower his price tag. Apparently Monaco’s high asking price dampened Bayern’s interest in the first place.

Since Bayern have recently been reported to have moved away from Lemar, I won’t go into much detail, but there are a few key things I noticed. On the positive: he has a strong long-distance shot, can come from deep and plays very maturely. He is not flashy and does not rely purely on speed. On the contrary, he seems very intelligent.

On the downside, you could also say that he has to play this way because, similar to Thauvin, he does not have elite speed. He moreover has had only one strong season: last year. This year he is playing well, but not brilliantly.

Simply because of his attitude I prefer him to Thauvin and Draxler, I also think that he would have an easier time settling in than Malcom, with two french guys already on our squad.

Analysis

I have to say that none of these players would be my clear-cut number one choice. While they all bring more maturity and polished class in their game than Brandt, Pulisic and Bailey from the previous article, I still think that Werner would be a better match than any of them.

Apart from Thauvin, each of these players has interesting aspects that could make them a fit for Bayern, but none of them stand out as a must-have. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Lemar because I think he would fit in the best at Bayern. I do, however, think that Malcom probably has the biggest upside—if he can realise it—but there are question marks as to whether he would fit in at Bayern.

Nonetheless, there are a couple of really interesting guys in part three who may be better choices. Stay tuned.

Stats courtesy of transfermarkt.com