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Roster Analysis: What if Bayern Munich don’t make any more signings this summer?

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It’s not an outcome that anyone wants, but it might just become a reality. What would happen if Bayern decide to go into next season with minimal investment?

Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Well here we are folks. It’s almost the middle of July, and Bayern Munich have only made three summer signings thus far. The promised replacement to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery is nowhere in sight. While there’s still plenty of time left for business to get done, it is beginning to feel a lot more likely that Bayern will go into next season with just 19 players in the squad.

How so? Well, Leroy Sané has yet to respond to Bayern’s interest, although we should get a reply eventually (who knows when that will be). The pursuit of Ousmane Dembélé meanwhile is contingent on Barcelona landing both Neymar and Antoine Griezmann, and waiting Bartomeu to get anything done is essentially a fool’s errand.

Every other transfer target seems to fall short of the standards set by the club, so there is a decent chance that no more moves may be made this window.

What happens if that scenario comes to pass? Let’s take a look at all the factors:

Starting XI

As of right now, Bayern have a perfectly adequate starting XI, ready to take on the best teams in Europe. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller are world class together, while Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are heavily underrated despite their incredible performance numbers.

Bayern’s midfield is full of quality and options — Thiago Alcantara is arguably a top-3 midfielder in the world and definitely the best in Germany, while Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka are both excellent players and accustomed to the big stage. In addition, Javi Martinez can be an option against more aggressive teams in Europe, such as Real Madrid and Liverpool — his ability to shield the back line is invaluable against such opponents.

As for Bayern’s back line, the defense has already been strengthened by the addition of Lucas Hernández, who will likely take Mats Hummels’ spot on the lineup. Hernández brings the speed and athleticism that was missing from Hummels’ game, and with him Bayern can expect to be much more solid at the back — so long as he is fit.

And that’s where the conundrum begins — fitness and depth.

Depth

While Bayern have a starting XI capable of beating anyone on their day, the reality is that injuries (and suspensions) happen, and they tend to happen to Bayern more often than other teams. How many times have we seen a promising Champions League campaign killed by key injuries at specific positions?

However, while a squad of 19 players seems rather thin, it needs to be pointed out that unlike most teams, squad players at Bayern would be starters at other clubs, and indeed most of them were. A team like Manchester City has only two World Cup winners on its roster — Bayern Munich may well end up with three of them on the bench (Jerome Boateng, Benjamin Pavard, Corentin Tolisso).

In addition, many players on this squad are versatile, allowing for more effective depth than the squad size suggests. Pavard, for example, can play both as a center-back and as a right-back, and he can even fill in as an emergency defensive midfielder. Joshua Kimmich can play every position under the sun.

Therefore, let’s take a look at each position individually, and assess the depth on a case-by-case basis:

  • Striker: Robert Lewandowski is the undisputed starter and essentially made of iron. It’s impossible for Bayern to find a backup that is both good enough and willing to come off the bench. A young player like Arp is a decent compromise in this scenario, and Serge Gnabry can also fill in if that doesn’t suffice. Conclusion: Not a problem.
  • Attacking midfield: Thomas Müller is essentially bulletproof and virtually immovable from the lineup. As soon as he is benched, Bayern’s attack slows to a crawl and Lewandowski goes to the media begging the coach to bring him back. This is essentially the reason why James Rodriguez left. While Müller is here, the AM position at Bayern is under lockdown, and part-time attacking midfielders like Goretzka and Tolisso can do the job if the need arises. Conclusion: Not a problem.
  • Wings: This is a major problem area. Bayern have three natural wingers, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, and Alphonso Davies, and two of them are injury prone. Even though Müller can fill in on the wings, that’s simply not enough. Conclusion: Serious liability.
  • Midfield: This seems easy on the surface — Bayern have a ton of mids, to the point where there’s a serious chance that a logjam develops next season. However, there is no direct replacement for Thiago Alcantara, arguably the third-most important player on the team, and that is a problem. While Niko Kovac might devise some other midfield combos (e.g. Kimmich at DM), it’s not ideal. Conclusion: Slight liability.
  • Fullbacks: Joshua Kimmich almost seems bulletproof at times, and barring something catastrophic we should be covered in the long run. Benjamin Pavard can also cover his position at right-back. David Alaba is more of a concern, but both Lucas Hernández and Alphonso Davies can cover for him in a pinch. Conclusion: Not a problem.
  • Central defense: With the departure of Mats Hummels, Bayern currently have 4 central defenders, three of them World Cup-winners. The only one that isn’t — Niklas Süle, is pretty solid himself, you might say. He is expected to be a permanent fixture at the back next season. The concern is Lucas Hernández. Having suffered a serious knee injury last season, it remains to be seen how the Frenchman will perform in his new role at the club. Hernández and Pavard may also be called upon to man other positions, stretching the depth further. Conclusion: Moderate liability.
  • Goalkeeper: Between Manuel Neuer and Sven Ulreich, Bayern Munich have perfectly appropriate keepers for a team with Champions League ambitions. Conclusion: Not a problem.

Formation changes

From the above, it’s clear that the wings are the most serious problem area for Bayern. Quality players are absurdly expensive, and our existing players, while good, are all injury-prone or inexperienced. However, there is a solution here, one suggested by the coach himself — switching to a winger-less formation, like a 3-5-2.

How would such a thing work? Well, here’s what you need:

  • Two strikers.
  • Three or more central midfielders.
  • Good attacking wingbacks.
  • Center-backs who can go out wide.

Bayern’s lineup meets all these criteria. Here’s what a potential 3-5-2 would look like:

That lineup indeed solves a lot of problems:

  • No wingers are harmed in the making of this lineup.
  • Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba get to realize their dreams of being attacking players, with actual defenders behind them to cover when they screw up.
  • We keep the unbeatable Müllendowski duo intact.
  • It makes the best use of Bayern’s large number of midfielders.
  • The issue of center-back depth if mitigated because Javi Martinez becomes an extremely viable option as a CB when it’s a three man back line.
  • Kovac is familiar with the formation, so it should not be too hard to make the switch in the event of an injury crisis.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The 3-5-2 comes with its own set of issues:

  • A 3-man back line hasn’t been viable in Europe for years now. The last good team to try one was Antonio Conte’s Juventus, and they had abysmal results in international tournaments.
  • With no true inverted wingers, Bayern will become very reliant on crosses to score goals. Lewydependencia will become even more pronounced.
  • The 3-5-2 is an inherently defensive formation and struggles against teams that sit back and defend deep.

So there are trade-offs, but there are always trade-offs. That’s the case with anything in football. And if things get really dire, there’s a lifeline ...

The winter transfer window

If management decide not to make any more moves and things don’t work out for us on the injury front, then there’s always the winter window. You can get some quality players during January — just ask Liverpool — and even a couple of signings could turn an ailing squad back into a Champions League contender. So, not making moves in the summer isn’t the end of the world — unlike Chelsea, we don’t have a transfer ban incoming.


Conclusion

In the end, it seems like without any new signings, Bayern should be alright next season, barring anything catastrophic happening. Of course, it is scary to go into the new season without much depth, but the fact is that if an injury crisis hits, then there’s very little that an extra transfer could do that we can’t do already.

Therefore, there’s really no need to panic at the moment. Signings are most likely going to come, and even if they don’t, we’ll be alright.

Poll

How do you feel about Bayern not making any more signings this summer?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    It’s fine, the squad is versatile enough to remain competitive regardless of injuries.
    (241 votes)
  • 74%
    *terrified screaming*
    (697 votes)
938 votes total Vote Now