Despite Bayern Munich’s inconsistent form, David Alaba has arguably been Niko Kovac’s most consistent performer this season. The 26-year-old Austrian has been a force on the left flank for what feels like a decade, and sometimes it is easy to forget that he has only just entered his prime. Alaba’s consistency has largely gone unnoticed due to the gaudy numbers of Joshua Kimmich and question marks elsewhere throughout the pitch.
Fans’ love and affection for Alaba’s German full-back counter-part is well-deserved, but Kimmich’s propensity to join the attack has left Bayern exposed at times. Alaba’s continued maturation in his role on the left has cemented his status as the world’s best left-back (don’t @ me Marcelo, Andy Robertson, or even you Jordi Alba).
Alaba has recorded a modest 1 goal (which was spectacular) and 3 assists in Bundesliga and Champions League play, which are not indicative of his performances. His positioning, timing, and end product have been a stabilizing force for the Bavarian giants, who have deployed three different wingers on the left flank throughout the campaign.
The defender’s recent first-half performance against Hoffenheim was the perfect representation of his quality.
Let’s take a closer look.
In the first clip below, Alaba stands at the top center of the screen serving as an outlet for Mats Hummels, who receives a back pass. Although the Austrian is known for bombing forward on offense, he drifts high and holds his position. This forces the his opponent on Hoffenheim to leave Kingsley Coman, who then makes a run to receive Hummels’s pinpoint ball. Alaba’s restraint in moving forward ensured his French teammate would have space to exploit, which an elite passer like Hummels can take advantage of.
In the next clip, the Bavarian left-back’s mature spacing is on full display. Hummels plays a line-splitting ball to Thiago in the center of the park. The Spaniard turns and is uncharacteristically dispossessed. Alaba or Kimmich in the last campaign might have been tempted to overextend themselves, counting on Thiago to drive forward. Instead, Alaba stays level with the ball and recovers quickly, cutting off a passing lane and diffusing a counter-attacking situation that has done serious harm to Die Roten in the past.
Bayern’s number 27 also did not neglect his offensive duties, putting his skill on full display all match long. Below, Thiago plays a perfectly weighted ball to Alaba, who seemed to be on the same wavelength as Coman. As soon as the young winger steps forward, drawing his Hoffenheim defender upfield, the Austrian breaks down the touchline and plays an impeccable first-touch ball to Robert Lewandowski, who would probably finish this opportunity nine times out of ten.
In the next scene, below, Alaba makes himself available following a scrum for possession that drew Nagelsmann’s men to the right side of the field with all eyes on Kimmich. Bayern’s left-back found space, took a touch to settle the ball, and quickly played a pinpoint pass to the head of Thomas Muller, who was unfortunately unable to direct toward the goal. Instead of dwelling on the ball, the elite full-back recognized that Hoffenheim were recovering and struck quickly.
As seen in the last clip, Alaba is capable of playing long balls on the same level as Kimmich. Unfortunately, his teammates have not finished as consistently on the end of his crosses. Below, Alaba found space and quickly played a ball over the top to Kimmich, who redirected it across the face of goal. Later in the match, James Rodriguez orchestrated an identical sequence which resulted in Lewandowski redirecting a Müller cross for a goal. The fact that Kimmich was able to connect with this ball on the volley is indicative of how perfectly it was played.
Next, the Austrian captain played another long ball from deep, which he found success with throughout the first half, to Thomas Müller. If Lewy had not attempted to play the ball, the Raumdeuter might have been able to connect with the cross in stride. A miscommunication and scramble in the box prevented a perfect pass from coming to its rightful conclusion in the back of the net.
In the end, the world’s best left-back finally received his reward. Off of a Hoffenheim corner, Bayern were able to launch a counterattack spearheaded by Coman. Coman found Alaba storming down the left flank, and the Austrian played a perfectly weighted ball in the path of Goretzka. His pace down the wing was electric, forcing Hoffenheim to send two defenders his way, and the ball could not have been better. What was most impressive about this sequence, however, was Alaba’s decision to play the ball early. Had he driven further down the wing, Hoffenheim would have had time to recover or execute an offside trap. Alaba’s awareness and trust in this situation put a dagger in Julian Nagelsmann’s side right before the half.
Hoffenheim’s lone goal saw Alaba stranded on an island with Nico Schulz who pulled off a moment of brilliance to take a goal back. Despite this blip on the radar, the tape is backed up by statistics. With 3 key passes, 4 tackles, 91% pass accuracy, 1 interception, 1 clearance and 1 assist, the world-class defender quietly put on a man-of-the-match performance as he has all season.
What do you think of BFW’s first film room?