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BFW Roundtable: Who is Leroy Sané’s partner on the wings?

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With the arrival of the German winger, which player is most suitable to team up with Sané?

Germany v Estonia - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

After a year-long quest of looking for a player to fill the void left by Robbery, Leroy Sané is finally suiting up in red. Given his talent and the hard work needed to get his signature, Leroy Sané will almost certainly be a starter. The question that now arises is: Who will team up with the German talent on the wings? I asked writers at BFW to answer who they prefer between Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry and why.

Fergus: Gnabry...

Overall, I expect Gnabry and Sane to be the pairing for big games. Gnabry is a much better goal-scorer than Coman, is better at interchanging with other attackers and attacking interplay. I will say this, though, Gnabry has been wildly inconsistent this season. He has had a couple outstanding games and many more average ones. Coman is very underrated and consistently causing trouble for defenders every time he’s on. So, it could easily be Coman lining up for those big games, too.

As for where Sane will play, it’s impossible to say. I would lean towards the right side — this because Alphonso Davies already provides width on the left, and either he or Sane would need to tuck inside if both played on the same side. This is why Pep Guardiola rarely used Sane and Benjamin Mendy together. However, I feel Sane is better on the left side, and it is better to have a right footer paired with Pavard, who doesn’t provide as much width. So it can easily go either way and change throughout the season.

Schnitzel: Coman (presuming Sané himself starts!)

I believe that nobody at Bayern is a “surefire starter” until they actually earn the spot and make it theirs to lose. With Sané having just returned from a lengthy injury spell, I would be very cautious before pinning him down as a definite starter. I feel that we have to see what he does on the pitch when he starts featuring for Bayern before we conclude that he should start. Judging by his form before the injury, however, he has all it takes to start for Bayern: he’s really productive, has registered double figures in goals and assists in all the seasons he’s been fit in the Premier League, is consistent in attack, and is well-suited to Bayern’s style of play.

Coman’s an absolute menace for opposition defences owing to his bursts of pace, his trickery and his superb 1v1 success rate. However, his finishing has always been inconsistent, with some great finishes and spectacular misses from close range. We all get the feeling that if he refined his end product more, he would be lethal. As of now, he is arguably ahead of Gnabry in the pecking order. Gnabry is a beast when on form, but lately he seems a shadow of himself, missing sitters, taking too long to make a pass, or simply fluffing up good chances.

I would play Sane on the left, to team up with Davies and unleash carnage with their link-up play and pace. The fact that Davies can track-back so fast will certainly help. On the right, I would have Coman create a French connection with Pavard, using his pace and speed bursts forward with the assurance that a superb defender in Pavard is behind him. Pavard’s crossing is also underrated; he can chip in a great ball or two ever so often.

Chuck Smith: Coman...

This is a fascinating question because both players hold so much potential, but also have some glaring faults to their respective games. Both players can be categorized as “oft injured” with Coman looking to be more susceptible to major injuries, while Gnabry seems to battle more with nagging, lingering ailments. When it comes to performance and production, Gnabry had a hot start to his season but has fizzled badly of late, while Coman looks dangerous every time he takes the pitch these days despite an iffy start to the season.

Both players really struggled with bouts of horrid decision-making in the final third over the course of the season, and Coman especially has had trouble finishing. Since the re-start, however, Gnabry looks far worse than he ever has since coming to Bayern Munich. I have always sided with Gnabry when comparing him against Coman, but on current form, I am more comfortable with Coman starting opposite Sane next season. In the long term, Gnabry may be the safer bet, but in his current form, you could argue he’s hurting Bayern Munich on the pitch more than helping it.

The trump card in all of this is that Coman might actually be more dangerous as a player who subs in for Gnabry in the 60th minute because he just creates issues (and some fear) in defenders.

John Dillon: Why not both?!

The ultimate cop-out, I know. But hey, I’m the editor!

In all seriousness, though, I think that is precisely Bayern’s plan. Given the treatment he is receiving — Robben’s number 10 jersey, and so on — Sané already seems predestined for the starting lineup. Barring injury, that is precisely where he will be. As a winger, he is more complete than Coman and more consistent than Gnabry. He beats defenders, assists, and scores, and does so without the extreme peaks and valleys in form that Gnabry exhibits.

That leaves coach Hansi Flick with the luxury of choosing Sané’s partner as needed, whether the choice is dictated by injury, form, or tactics. Bayern has been pining for a dynamic, “world-class” winger ever since Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben rode off into the sunset. Replacing both of them like-for-like is impossible, but replacing at least one of them can be done — and presumably now has been.