Now that Sandro Wagner has departed to Chinese Super League club Tianjin TEDA, where he will make a whopping €15 million, Bayern Munich find themselves without a true number 9 to back up Robert Lewandowski. It is not as if Wagner was getting consistent minutes or spelling the Polish hit man to a significant degree, but the lack of a back-up raises some concerns.
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Considering the Bavarian giants signed Wagner just a year ago due to fears about Lewy’s durability, the fact that Wagner has been allowed to leave without a replacement may worry those aware of Bayern’s tragic track record with the “injury gods.”
So who is likely to serve as Lewandowski’s understudy going forward?
Although it is unlikely that Bayern will bring in a new player with only hours left in the transfer window, especially following failures to lure key targets Callum Hudson-Odoi or Lucas Hernandez to Munich, the record-champions have their eyes on a few players for the future.
The young German striker has been linked with Bayern since he burst onto the scene in RB Leipzig’s first season in the Bundesliga. The 22-year-old currently sits at a goal tally of 11 through 19 Bundesliga matches. The German international possesses blistering pace, improving finishing, and the ability to play on the wing. Werner has the potential to be an elite striker for the next decade. Bayern would be wise to bring him in as Lewy’s eventual replacement.
Jovic, like Werner, has the potential to grow into a world-class striker. The Serbian’s goal rate has reached elite levels. 13 goals and 4 assists in 17 Bundesliga matches have suitors from the world’s top clubs knocking on Frankfurt’s door. The Eintracht front man is a complete forward, in the mold of Bayern’s own number 9.
The Bremen talisman is an interesting option, as his signature would come without a transfer fee. As his contract expires, the German international is looking for greener pastures and the chance to play in the Champions League. Bringing him in to back up Lewandowski would help bridge the gap for a younger prospect or new signing, but at 30 years old, Kruse can’t be viewed as a long-term option. He may be similar in age to Wagner, but his versatility and attacking movement would bring more to the Bayern attack than a target man. He could definitely provide a creative spark and give an occasional breather for the Polish captain.
Jann-Fiete Arp was tagged as the heir apparent to the Bayern number 9 shirt, but a last-minute change of heart and contract extension with his hometown club prevented Die Roten from securing his services. The German youth’s age and Hamburger SV’s position as a strong candidate for promotion to the Bundesliga make this transfer unlikely, although it would not be surprising to see the 18-year-old in a Bayern kit at some point in the near future.
Although the arrival of a new striker would be welcome and probably a safer option, an excessive reliance on transfers would crowd youth products out of the first-team picture. Bayern’s investment in youth won’t yield results if the youngsters aren’t given a run with the first team.
The Dutch product is arguably the most promising prospect in the youth academy. Bavarian Football Works has profiled him extensively and assessed his prospects of breaking into the first team. With size, strength, and technique, the 17-year-old has dominated at every level. Bringing in a player like Kruse could bridge the gap nicely, giving Zirkzee time to develop. He is a low-cost, high-potential prospect capable of replacing the Polish forward long-term.
Kwasi Okyere Wriedt
Wriedt featured under Jupp Heynckes before the arrival of Wagner last campaign, but the 24-year-old has yet to prove himself at a high level. It is unlikely that his breakthrough will come this late, at least in the Allianz.
The most likely solution, however, is the use of a player already in the first team.
The Raumdeuter has proven he can deputize as a striker, while also thriving as a false-nine in his international career. Unfortunately, the German-international has struggled as the point of the attack for the Bavarian giants. Müller’s movement will always cause issues for the opposition in the box and his ability to interchange with pacey wingers like Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry gives Niko Kovac a different option when Lewy needs a rest. This would also open up space for James Rodriguez in the midfield, something some Bayern fans have been clamoring for.
The German international really asserted himself to close the Hinrunde, but the crafty winger has found himself out of the starting XI in the last two matches, as Müller’s shifts out wide. Competition on the wings may limit Gnabry’s opportunities, but his abilities should put him at the top of the pecking order in the attack. Despite his value on the wing, his finishing ability, which is surprisingly refined for his age, as well as his experience as a striker in a two-man front line with Hoffenheim last season, indicate he is capable of producing up top. He would be ideal support if Bayern are looking to promote Zirkzee, or bring in a new player in the Summer, though his future is on the wing.
Who do you think should back up Lewandowski?