David Alaba has recently been dubbed as Bayern Munich’s “defensive chief” at the center of the back line that’s been working significantly better than it did in the beginning stages of the season. Since Flick took charge of the club, Bayern have kept 5 clean sheets in the Bundesliga and 2 in the Champions League. Under Kovac, there had only been 3 clean sheets across all competitions. With Flick though, Alaba emphasized, the stand-in manager has got the team playing together as one again, not just defensively (Az):
He just pushed all the right buttons. He managed to flip the switch within a short time, the atmosphere within the team is very good as a result and we are working as a team again, playing the football we are used to .
Technically, Niko Kovac was the first one to deploy Alaba as a center back alongside Jerome Boateng with Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard as the outside backs, but that was the 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt that was ultimately the proverbial final nail in the coffin for Kovac’s tenure at Bayern. Once Kovac left, Flick made the decision to keep the back line that way and it worked wonders, keeping four consecutive clean sheets against Olympiacos, Borussia Dortmund, Fortuna Dusseldorf, and then Red Star Belgrade. During those four matches, Bayern outscored their opponents 16-0, which was their best return rate of the season thus far.
Alaba’s affirmation should come as no surprise given how much better Bayern have been playing under Flick. Alaba, Alphonso Davies, and Thomas Muller in particular have experienced individual resurgences under the interim manager, which is a testament to Flick’s man-management capabilities. He will, however, have a tricky test this Friday when Paderborn travel to the Allianz Arena because both Boateng and Pavard will be unavailable due to suspension for cumulative yellow cards. He’ll have to decide whether or not he wants to use Joshua Kimmich as a right back even though he personally prefers him in midfield. Lucas Hernandez will likely slot in as a center back alongside Alaba, but if Flick does not want to use Kimmich as a right back, we could see the first competitive start for Alvaro Odriozola.