Of all the strange, inexplicable choices Pep Guardiola has made throughout his career, Bayern Munich fans will be forever grateful for the Spaniard's decision to bench Leroy Sane in the 2018/19 season. By sidelining the Manchester City star, Guardiola gave the Bavarians a prime opportunity to swoop in and snatch up Sane as a Robben replacement.
While Pep probably wishes he'd done more to keep Sane, he might’ve had a point at the time. Following Bayern’s win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Hansi Flick had this to say about the young German star (via AZ): "There is still room for improvement. He scored the goal sensationally well, but there are still some things he can improve."
What does Hansi mean?
Most Bayern fans will probably agree that Sane has had a good start to life in Munich. His debut against Schalke was nothing short of sensational. While he's been unlucky with injuries, the 24-year-old has been a joy to watch whenever he has played.
However, that's probably not what the manager sees. Flick is a bit of a perfectionist, which is a necessity given the finely-tuned system Bayern uses. If a player doesn't do his job on the pitch, the entire system comes undone. Perhaps this is where Sane is lacking a certain something — the pressing/defensive side of his game.
This goes all the way back to his Manchester City days. Pep Guardiola never said it outright, but he was rumored to be frustrated with the German's lack of effort in the team’s press. This is why Sane was eventually dropped for Bernardo Silva, who despite having lower goals+assists numbers, was a pressing machine.
Flick could be referring to something similar. AZ even speculates as much in their article. Could this become a problem?
Should fans be worried?
Sane's lack of work rate is definitely a concern for the coaching staff, but only insofar as being a problem they have to fix. Pressing is something that can be coached and Flick is a master at getting the best out of his players. Bayern’s complete transformation since his appointment is a testament to the man’s brilliance.
The truth is that Sane happened to arrive in a season where preparation time is limited, so there's not much time for the coach to do the fine tactical work that is needed at a club like Bayern. Flick admitted as much a few weeks ago, saying that certain important training sessions were missing entirely.
As Sane continues to train with the team, he should get the hang of things. There is also the (admitted short) winter break coming up, which will give Flick some much needed breathing room to refresh his squad on the nitty-gritty details of the system. Flick's proven that he can do some serious drilling over the course of a break — look no further than Ivan Perisic last season. The Croatian went from a headless chicken to a vital cog in the team’s press after a single training camp.
So, Leroy Sane is in fine hands. There's no need for anyone to worry yet; Flick’s on the job.