Bayern Munich recorded 9 wins, 3 draws and just 1 loss in their first 13 games of the season. Simply put, the team has performed admirably, taking into consideration the fatigue, the tight schedule and a host of injuries that plagued the midfield and defense in particular.
However, fans who watch every Bayern game might’ve been skeptical of their performances so far, and rightly so. Bayern have already conceded 19 goals; to put this into perspective, the team conceded only 32 goals in the entirety of their 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign. Yes, there are niggling defensive issues that need to be worked on, but the midfield hasn’t been stellar at the defensive side of things either.
In a team like Bayern where high-pressing, fluid attacking football is the norm (especially so under coach Flick), the midfielders have a very important role to play as the link between defense and attack. The game plan and structure dictates that the players contribute to the press up front when necessary, and drop back when it’s time to defend. The absences of Kimmich, Javi, Tolisso and Goretzka at different points really hit the team hard, and coach Flick had to get creative to ensure Bayern could field non-Guardiola-esque formations.
With that being said, here’s how the midfielders performed this term:
Thomas Müller: A+
Minutes played: 1793
Let’s get the mammoth out of the way first. Yes, Müller has been categorized as a midfielder, and it is true that you usually find him among the attackers, but this season has been very unusual, and with Kimmich and Tolisso out for significant stretches, Müller has stepped in to fill the role of an ‘attacking 8’.
He did play as a CAM the first few games, being his usual raumdeutering self, terrorizing defenses and showering goals and assists, but with the coach reluctant to play Roca (“Roca who?”, you may ask), desperate times called for desperate measures. Müller had to play as an 8 and sometimes even track back and turn into a ‘false 6’ to help with the defending. But even under these circumstances, Müller thrived.
Averaging 2.4 key passes and 1.5 tackles (!!!) per game with a passing accuracy of 75% (Whoscored), Müller was stellar from a more conservative role, and still managed to galvanize the attack as always, the best example of which came in the game against Leverkusen, where he was omnipresent and omnipotent. He’s never been a more complete player and boy, is he a joy to watch.
Joshua Kimmich: A
Minutes played: 963
Kimmich is our best midfielder when fit, and there are no two ways about it. In fact, he’s the best midfielder in the world when fit, and you know that there’s some truth to that statement when so many football fans outside the Bayern fanbase agree. This season, he’s always been among the top five performers on the pitch whenever he’s featured, and I’ve been very happy with his contributions.
If the ratings focused on game time alone, he would’ve received an A+, no doubt. The reason his rating dips a little is because of the injury layoff (getting injured and missing games will affect your rating) which caused Bayern quite a few problems. Without him, the defense didn’t have its shield, the midfield lacked composure and the attack craved the perfectly weighted through balls and crosses he’s so good at. Most importantly, the team lacked its usual levels of passion and fight.
This factor cannot be exemplified more than in the case of Bayern vs Bayer Leverkusen, where the game was tied till the 65’ when Kimmich stepped on the pitch. The team immediately started roaring, and all you could then see was wave after wave of Bayern attacks. Kimmich showed the world why he’s Bayern’s ‘X factor’ by assisting Lewandowski in added time for Bayern’s second, which would also prove to be the matchwinner.
I’m super glad that he’s back, I’m sure he’d be pissed with this rating. Brace yourselves for an A+++ Rückrunde from Bayern’s midfield machine.
Leon Goretzka: B+
Minutes played: 1124
Buffretzka has had a solid start to the season thus far. Deployed primarily as an 8 but also playing at the 6 for large portions of the Hinrunde, Goretzka’s varied skillset has never been more apparent. With the absence of Kimmich and Javi, Bayern lacked a midfield anchor, and thus, Goretzka had to fill in as a 6-8 hybrid, which he succeeded in doing.
However, as the games came thick and fast, it was obvious that all this work and added responsibility on the pitch was wearing him out. His offensive output decreased as a result, but he still did his best to ensure the gaps in midfield weren’t exposed.
Boasting a superb passing accuracy of 86.1%, 1.7 aerial duels won, 1.8 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game, Goretzka has been very busy helping out the defense. It is true that his presence has been less effective in Kimmich’s absence, but we can be quite sure that he will return to beast mode, with Kimmich back and rearing to pick teams apart.
Jamal Musiala: B+
Minutes played: 516
I controlled the urge to give this young star an A (me being a fan of his) for two reasons: one, I expect much more from him in the time to come, and second, there have been a few instances this season where he’s looked out of his depth. Otherwise, Musiala was Bayern’s best silver lining in a jam-packed, injury infested Hinrunde.
He’s just 17, but already shows enough maturity on and off the ball to get heads turning the world over. Yet another player who would’ve featured in the forwards section if not for Bayern’s injury problems, Musiala was great in an attacking midfield role. He did also feature as an inverted winger in some games, a position that seems to be the perfect spot for him.
His composure on the ball, relentless runs and pressing off the ball and high positional intelligence make him a nightmare to play against. With a passing accuracy of 85.4% (most of those came in the final third!), 1.7 dribbles and 0.9 tackles per game, he’s already become a part of Bayern’s midfield/wing rotation.
The sky is the limit for this young man, and one can only imagine how good he’ll be when he reaches his potential. He has a lot of time and the world’s best coach on his side.
Javi Martinez: B-
Minutes played: 603
Javi’s has been quite solid this season. He’s accepted a bench role, but has performed quite well whenever called upon. His impressive passing accuracy of 90.2%, coupled with his 1.4 interceptions, 0.7 tackles and 1.2 clearances per game don’t begin to describe the defensive solidity he offers.
However, he is far from a dynamic central midfielder, and his not so fast pace and movement both on and off the ball have meant that he offers very little going forward, and in terms of ball progression. That being said, he wasn’t meant to be starter quality, so we can be quite satisfied with Javi’s input. Plus, he bagged us the Supercup with a great goal, giving us such a memorable moment to cherish.
Corentin Tolisso: C-
Minutes played: 895
This was always going to be a do-or-die season for Tolisso, having missed out large periods of previous seasons due to injury, and rarely living up to the expectations of Bayern fans. He did show us flashes of brilliance, like the belter he scored against Atletico. But that’s how you could describe his season so far. He’s been in and out in flashes.
His defensive stats don’t do him any favors, while in the offensive end of things, although he’s been involved in 1.5 successful dribbles and 0.5 key passes per game, he has lacked the end product and luster that other Bayern players like Goretzka and Musiala bring to the table. With Kimmich, Javi and Goretzka suffering from injury layoffs at different points, he did have the time to show his worth, but he didn’t really do that in the starts he got.
Tolisso joined Bayern as a player with a lot of potential... I for one, was incredibly excited to see him in Bayern colors. Sadly though, things don’t seem to work out for him here, and I think a transfer out would be the best solution for all parties involved.
Marc Roca: N/A
The sample size is not sufficient to make an assessment. Also, do you guys know who he is? I’ve never seen him!
Jokes and fun aside, I’m honestly waiting to see more of him. It is quite possible that Flick believes he’s not ready for first team action yet, but hopefully it’s just an integration problem, and he should be part of the midfield rotation soon.
Overall midfield rating: B+
This was certainly not an amazing Hinrunde performance, and the midfield did leave the defense out to dry on several occasions. Injuries and fatigue certainly played a major role in the drop in quality of the performances we’ve grown to expect as Bayern fans.
However, with players like Kimmich, Mueller and Goretzka (with their superb skillsets and immense fighting spirit) and young talents like Musiala, it only feels like things will get better from now on. Maybe a rest and some Flick rewiring is exactly what this team needs to get back to its imperious form of last season.
There is no denying that on its day, Bayern’s midfield is the best in the world, but maybe it needs sufficient rest, time and a talk from the coach to revert to being the ruthless machine it was a few months ago.
Also, once again, Kimmich is back. JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!