Fresh from Bayern Munich’s winter training camp in Doha, Qatar, Hansi Flick openly asked for new signings — ideally at right-back and the wings — to help the club reach its lofty goals. After some back and forth with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, the club obliged: enter Alvaro Odriozola on loan until the end of the season from Real Madrid.
The right-back has hardly played this season. He is behind Dani Carvajal on Madrid’s depth chart, and Carvajal has enjoyed a very healthy season. But Odriozola has excellent potential and could very well be starting for Bayern at right-back as soon as this weekend. OptaFranz shared this encouraging information about Odriozola:
286 - Since the start of the 2018-19 season, @alvaroodriozola was directly involved in a goal every 286 minutes in all competitions, compared to 444 minutes by his competitor Daniel #Carvajal. Attacking. @FCBayernEN @FCBayernUS @FCBayernES pic.twitter.com/wYDDRHdGj4— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) January 22, 2020
Odriozola in fact played a very strong season last year when Carvajal’s various injuries enabled him to play. A goal and nine assists is nothing to sniff at for a player given few chances to get into form.
How might Odriozola’s presence affect Bayern Munich’s starting lineup now?
The lineup with Odriozola
Presuming that Odriozola joins the starting lineup in the near future — and all indications suggest that is precisely why he has been brought to Munich — we can expect to see him starting at right-back instead of Benjamin Pavard. Pavard, in turn, will move back to central defense, where Bayern prefers him to play.
From there, the dominos begin to fall: until Lucas Hernandez is ready to play, Pavard can line up alongside David Alaba, who has proven to be an excellent leader on Bayern’s back line. That enables Alphonso Davies to remain at left-back, where he has, frankly, been outstanding.
What, then, when Hernandez is ready to play? That’s where things get interesting. Flick could very well decide to keep Alaba and Davies right where they are. That would leave Hernandez and Pavard in competition for the remaining position in the central defense. They could also rotate. The defense gains flexibility. Pavard may find himself back in the role of supersub for both right-back and central defender, if Hernandez returns to from. Alternatively, Flick could restore Alaba to left-back, and play both his natural center-backs, Hernandez and Pavard with Odriozola out right.
Davies could then be an option at left wing, if, say, Kingsley Coman needs a break. That might be bad news for Ivan Perisic, but he has shown himself to be the perfect professional as a backup.
In the midfield, Odriozola’s availability means that Joshua Kimmich will not be called upon to move back to right-back. His position at the 6 is set in stone. That creates something of a jam, though, for the other position in Bayern’s usual two-man midfield. Leon Goretzka and Thiago should both continue to see ample minutes. Playing time might grow somewhat scarce for Corentin Tolisso, though, whose performances have been inconsistent this season. Michael Cuisance remains a backup option who will continue to develop with the second team.
The losers of the transfer are first and foremost Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez. Martinez is already Flick’s second choice behind Boateng. It will not become easier for him to break into the lineup. Boateng will presumably return to the bench as he sees out what is undoubtedly his final season in Bavaria. Some pundits even think Bayern might sell him this winter, but that is very unlikely. Bayern does not want to find itself at a loss for depth in central defense again, and Boateng’s high wages make it difficult to find a suitor while he remains on his current contract.
In sum, Odriozola is the perfect solution to accomplish Flick’s goals: he is a good right-back with a potentially great ceiling. He enables Pavard to play as a center-back or resume his role as backup for himself and Hernandez. He enables Kimmich to stay in the midfield. He gives Flick the choice rather than the necessity of playing Alaba at center-back and Davies at left-back.
And finally, Odriozola is at Bayern only on loan. The club has not committed itself to buying him and can decide how to proceed in the summer. That is very important for the club’s other transfer goals, which are a much higher priority. And if and when the time comes this summer, Real and Bayern can negotiate a deal.