When Leon Goretzka announced that he would be joining Bayern Munich last January, it was expected and excessive all at the same time.
Sure, it was no surprise that Bayern would be seeking wrap up a German talent like Goretzka, but Die Roten already had a battalion of attacking and central midfielders competing for time at the “10”, “8”, and “6” respectively.
Where would Goretzka fit with the likes of Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez, Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal, Javi Martinez, Corentin Tolisso, Sebastian Rudy, and Renato Sanches? Some of those choices were made not long after Goretzka officially joined the club in July.
Vidal, the box-to-box warrior, was shipped off to FC Barcelona, while Rudy, a true pivot, was sent to Schalke 04. Down to seven players competing for three spots, it is still a daily battle for who will see the field and exactly when and how long they will see it.
If performance matters to Niko Kovac, however, it can be assumed that Goretzka has given the former Eintracht Frankfurt coach a great view of his capabilities in “8” role.
Goretzka scored a goal and registered an assist in Bayern’s 3-0 win over VfB Stuttgart last weekend, but was an integral figure in all three goals and was a terror in the offensive end for Die Roten.
Filling the void
Goretzka’s skill-set is different than that of Thiago, whose footwork, passing artistry, and composure on the ball actually make him a better fit at the “6” where he can use his vision to kick start the Bayern offense. Similarly, Goretzka’s deft ability to find space around the goal, pure aggression in attacking, and ability to remain calm under pressure in the box make him a match-up nightmare. Tolisso is the next closest thing to Goretzka, but isn’t quite as refined as a finisher. Goretzka is just a bigger, more physical presence with a greater hunger for the goal than most of the candidates who play the “8” for Die Roten.
This type of player is precisely what Bayern has been missing from its offense in past seasons. Sure Vidal played with a similar aggressive mindset, but Goretzka’s ability to maneuver through even the most compact of defenses is what separates him from the pack.
It was a small sampling, but Goretzka’s ability to work with Muller and Robert Lewandowski within the box gave Bayern a different and more potent look than it has had in a long time. With all three players capable of creating and finishing, the by-play between them could be mindblowing if the trio is given ample opportunities to play together---which may be difficult when considering that James Rodriguez and Tolisso are going to be in line for more minutes at the “8” or “10.”
As good as advertised
Goretzka may have started his rise at Schalke, but it was his work at the 2017 Confederations Cup that really cemented his status as a top-flight prospect. His 2017-2018 season at Schalke was not exactly overwhelming, but his role was to not be quite as advanced as Bayern lets him play, which is a hindrance to his game.
Some have scoffed at the freedom Goretzka’s been given so far with Bayern, citing that he’s too wild to be relied upon in important matches, but the counter to that argument is that if Goretzka is enabled to play instinctually and with assertiveness; other teams will have to account for him or pay the price.
What the future holds for Goretzka in Bayern’s crowded midfield
A future tandem of Goretzka at the “8” and Tolisso at the “6” would be exciting, but that will depend on Tolisso’s ability to adjust to a deeper role. Much like Thiago has faced, there is some doubt that Tolisso could adapt to a move like that for the long-run.
The qualities that make Thiago such a dynamic fit in a deeper role are not fully developed with Tolisso as of yet, but he has time to ensure those part of his game evolve while watching the likes of Thiago and Javi Martinez.
Regardless, Goretzka is well on his way to asserting himself firmly as the “8” of choice for Bayern.
This post originally appeared on www.thebarrelblog.com