Hansi Flick and his Bayern Munich henchmen have enjoyed a successful Hinrunde so far, losing only once and sitting pretty at the top of the league at Christmas for the first time in three years (not that that really matters). Overall, all things considered, it can be considered a pretty satisfying start to the season.
That said, the defense was shakier than ever. Bayern have kept only five(!) clean sheets in the Hinrunde in all competitions, and they played a whopping 22 games. That’s only a 25 percent clean sheet ratio, and a lot, if not all, of the blame falls on the defense. Bayern dropped points when they probably should not have on a few occasions, so this is an area that could really use some improvement.
So, who stood out and who flopped? Let’s dive in.
Manuel Neuer: A+
Minutes Played: 1,830
Goals Conceded: 26 in 20 games
Clean Sheets: 4
Yes, he conceded more than one goal per game on average, but you’d be fooling yourself if you think Neuer was to blame for any of Bayern’s defensive deficiencies so far. The Bayern captain has been making some stunning saves throughout the Hinrunde, all year in fact. Whether you want to pick his last second stunner vs Sevilla, his double saves vs Salzburg or Bremen, or his immense one-hand save vs Wolfsburg as his save of the Hinrunde, you’re going to have a selection headache bigger than Neuer’s presence itself. He single-handedly (sometimes literally) saved Bayern from dropping points on several occasions, and was awarded the Best FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award for his efforts. Keep it up, Kapitan!
Alexander Nubel: N/A
Minutes Played: 180
Goals Conceded: 1 in 2 games
Clean Sheets: 1
I think it’s unfair to give Nubel a rating because he didn’t really play that much. His only appearances were against fifth-tier FC Duren and Atletico Madrid when Bayern had already won their Champions League group. His performances weren’t too bad, but his kicking could use some improvement. Luckily, he’s got the best in the business as a mentor.
Benjamin Pavard: C
Minutes Played: 1,188
Pavard’s performances have dropped significantly compared to last season. He hasn’t completed a single dribble in all of his games played, and only has one assist to his name. What’s more, he’s lost his starting position to none other than Niklas Sule, who’s a center back by nature. Now that’s got to be hurtful. But simply put, there’s no reason to be starting Pavard at the moment, because he hasn’t really warranted a starting spot. Let’s hope he gets his groove back as well as his confidence, because Bayern really need a stable defense at the moment.
Bouna Sarr: D
Minutes Played: 545
D for dreadful. Why we got him on a four-year deal is beyond me. Yes, he already has three assists to his name, but considering two of those were against lowly Duren, it really doesn’t matter too much. His defending has been average at best, and that ‘best’ hasn’t shown up at all on a regular basis. Yes, I know he was brought in as a backup, but at a club like Bayern, that’s no excuse for playing bad. Needs major improvement.
Lucas Hernandez: A-
Minutes Played: 1,276
We go from very bad to very good. Bayern’s record signing had a disappointing season for his standards last season (although you wouldn’t know that with the way he celebrated the Champions League win). Thankfully, now he’s putting in stellar performances left right and center...okay, mostly just left. The World Cup winner is showing exactly why he was starting for France in Russia with his pace and tackles, which are a joy to watch. But what really puts Lucas in the A range is his mentality. He’s clearly fighting for the badge and giving it his all on the field, and he has stated multiple times that he wants to prove himself worthy to the club. Heck, he even said that he would die on the pitch for us, but please don’t do that.
Alphonso Davies: B-
Minutes Played: 639
Phonzie’s had a difficult start to 2020/2021, with fatigue from last season forcing him onto the bench, and getting injured the one time he actually did start. It’s sad to see such a young and talented player go through these hard times, but that hasn’t stopped our Phonzie. He gets a B- because he hasn’t shown too much to be impressed about (again, he was injured), but his performances since his return have been pretty decent, so there’s something to be hopeful for.
Niklas Sule: B+
Minutes Played: 1,188
Sule was patchy, but not horrible. When he played well, he played really well, like he did against Lokomotiv Moscow. When he played bad, he played really bad, like he did against Leipzig. The reason he gets a B+ is because he played a bit more good games than bad games, and he actually proved that he’s a pretty decent right back. He started at RB in Bayern’s last games of the year, and his physique, speed, and defending made him a formidable barrier. Don’t be too surprised to see Sule start on the right again, but since his pole position is CB, let’s hope he can play just as well once he goes back there, if not better.
Jerome Boateng: A-
Minutes Played: 1,362
This might be a bit of a hot take, but I personally think Boa’s been our best center back of the season so far. He played the second most minutes out of all our defenders (not including goalkeepers), and he’s showing off his experience to everyone watching. Gone is his shakiness in last year’s Hinrunde, replaced by a new, improved Boateng who knows when to tackle, when to wait, and when to run. In doing so, he’s effectively eliminated his physical deficiencies, making up for them with his big ol’ footballing brain. He’s carrying on his good performances from last season, and for a player who many called finished, he’s shown them the exact opposite.
David Alaba: C
Minutes Played: 1,563
Alaba might be the most disappointing defender on this list. Instead of the calm, composed Alaba who won us the treble last season, we’re seeing a shaky, nervy Alaba who doesn’t seem to discern when to tackle and when to wait, quite the opposite of the aforementioned Boateng. It seems like his mind isn’t really here at the moment, and whether that’s because of his contract issues or something else, his performances are not convincing anyone that he should earn the money that he allegedly requested. Just a year ago, his loss would have been a dagger through the heart for Bayern. Judging from his performances now, his impending departure probably won’t hurt as much.
Chris Richards: N/A
Minutes Played: 230
Richards hasn’t played enough games to warrant him a fair rating, but I will say this: whenever he played, he hasn’t looked too bad. He’s definitely starting to get some more playing time this season, and with good center backs rarely on the market for reasonable prices, it would be amazing if our youth could provide us with the next Alaba or Boateng. Let’s hope he gets even better!
Tanguy Nianzou: N/A
Minutes Played: 21
Plagued by injuries, Nianzou barely played in the Hinrunde, and doesn’t get a rating. Fingers crossed that his injury issues resolve themselves and we can see him play more.
Overall Defensive Rating: D
Despite the good individual performances of some defenders, Bayern have somehow forgotten how to defend as a unit. Yes, you can blame it on fatigue and whatnot, but this sort of defending will simply not do. Manuel Neuer can’t keep bailing us out (or can he?), so let’s get our act together. Resolving the defense is the only way we can get our treble winning form back.