It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the midfield is a rather important part of modern football. To this end, clubs that want to win the Champions League always stack their midfields with Europe’s best and brightest. For example, look no farther than defending European champions Real Madrid. They have Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Casemiro, Mateo Kovacic, Dani Ceballos . . . the list goes on.
Most teams would consider two quality players for every position more than enough — but not Bayern Munich. No, Bayern must be better than everyone else, which is why instead of five or six midfielders, we have NINE. While that would make sense for a team that plays a midfielder heavy formation, it’s overkill for Bayern, who generally play only two or a maximum of three mids in any one game.
Assuming the maximum number of games played in a season, and three mids played in each game, then you’d have 14,310 minutes to go around. Split evenly between nine midfielders, that’s only 1,590 per player. That’s a poor haul even for youth players, let alone veterans and stars like Arturo Vidal or James Rodriguez.
Therefore, I propose a solution — let’s have a midfielder XI! We have only 4 wingers, 2 strikers, and 8 defenders. Who cares about them? Let the mids carry us to victory, what can go wrong? To this end, I’ve organized our plethora of mids into an XI, using the vaunted 3-5-2 formation that has seen so much success in Europe over the last decade or so (that’s a lie — literally no UCL winner has used a 3-5-2 in a long time) so as to let as many players play in midfield as possible.
There is only one rule I’ve set myself: no player can be put in a position he has never played before. Let’s get started.
First, the attack
This is an easy one. Leading the line you have James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller, both of whom are the only real attacking midfielders on this team, and who are least likely to lose minutes to the midfield logjam. There is just so much you could do with these two. Play one as a false 9 and the other as a second striker? Done. Play both as false 9s? Too easy. Play both as second strikers and use the the much acclaimed “phantom striker” strategy? Genius! If anyone can do it, these two can.
If all this seems like a terrible idea, then you might be starting to get the point I’m trying to make.
On to the (ahem) midfield
Oh boy. Trying to give everyone a decently suitable role here is tricky, as a 3-5-2 needs wingbacks to cover the flanks, and not everyone can play there. For the left wingback spot, we have Renato Sanches. He was once deployed as a LCM by Carlo Ancelotti (and it was disastrous) but what can you do? Corentin Tolisso, newly crowned world cup champion and Bayern Munich’s most expensive player ever, slots in at the right wingback position. He often played as a right back while he was at Lyon, so he should be right at home on this flank.
In the midfield-within-the-midfield, we have Thiago Alcantara, Sebastian Rudy, and Leon Goretzka. Sebastian Rudy can play a more control-oriented, defensive role, which allows Thiago and Goretzka to get up the field and attack the opposition. Thiago is especially important, because he is the person who steps in to stop counterattacks before they start. This would actually be a pretty good midfield for a top team; here it’s perhaps the only serious part of an article-length joke.
Finally, the defense (and goalkeeper, but come on)
According to my friends over at Black & White & Read All Over, Arturo Vidal once played at center back for them in an injury crisis. That makes him the perfect player to slot in at LCB for this team. For the ... um, central center back, we have Javi Martinez, a defensive midfielder by trade who was often been trusted in central defense by Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti. Javi is a a little bit slow for a center-back, but he has the most experience in this makeshift lineup, so he will bear the main responsibility of keeping the goalkeeper safe from harm.
Now, I’m going to bend my definition of a “midfielder” here a little, and put Joshua Kimmich at right center back. He played at center back (to great success) under Pep Guardiola, and he currently plies his trade at right back, but in truth he is a midfielder. People might sometimes forget his roots because of his incredible versatility, but Kimmich was originally signed from Stuttgart as a defensive midfielder, and he was used in the midfield in his first games. No midfield XI could be complete without him — in a literal sense, we have only 9 mids and 10 outfield positions to fill.
Finally, at goalkeeper we have Manuel Neuer. I’d make a “haha Neuer is a midfielder” joke, but I’m sure someone will take care of it in the comments.
Final lineup: the midfielder XI
The reason I wrote this article is to showcase how utterly preposterous Bayern Munich’s current midfield situation is. Depth is always good to have, but at some point it becomes counterproductive, even for a team with injury issues like Bayern. Players want to play, and not playing breeds discontent in the dressing room. Healthy rotation can prevent this, but there is simply no way that Niko Kovac can give each and every one of his midfielders a decent outing while Bayern Munich are competing on three fronts. There are only so many minutes to go around.
Simply put, Bayern Munich needs to sell players. At least two midfielders have to go, if not three. We have youngsters on this team that need minutes — where are they going to get them when there are six veterans ahead of them in the pecking order?
From a financial perspective, paying salaries for redundant players also makes no sense, especially when you know they’ll be spending most of their time on the bench. Those who are expendable have to go as soon as possible; otherwise a year of middling minutes will see their value plummet. Viewed in combination with all the other factors, a bevy of benched stars is a lose-lose situation.
Hoarding is not healthy. Bayern Munich need to show that they are on top of this by selling the players who are not in Kovac’s plans. They should keep the youngsters, and maybe one veteran, but at least two players should leave. Who should that be? Well, maybe the manager should have the final say.