Despite his enormously successful coaching career, Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick has been under fire of late.
Whether you feel the criticism is premature or not, there are some questions that should be asked by reporters to Flick as the team scuffles defensively — and some others that Flick must be asking himself.
Bild took the liberty of compiling “Four key questions that Hansi Flick has to ask himself” and we’re going to take our best run at what Flick’s rationale might be:
Why is David Alaba playing so much despite his average season when Lucas Hernandez on the bench despite good performances?
BFW: The primary reasons Flick prefers Alaba over Hernandez is because the manager still thinks Alaba is the best man for the job. Hernández has been good, but he has been injured and has been battling minor knocks for weeks now. Little ailments have added up on Hernandez, so he is not always necessarily listed on the injury report with any type of major issue, but also not fully available to play.
Let’s be honest, Hernandez has a pretty unstable injury history and limiting his action now could help the likelihood that he will be healthy when the squad really needs him. This might actually be a smart plan even if there are some growing pains that are experienced along the way.
Back to Alaba, though, Flick knows Alaba is a world-class player who is clearly going through some distress caused by the uncertain nature of his future. The feeling of rejection (Bayern is not even willing to discuss a new deal given the wage demands) is also undoubtedly weighing on him. From Alaba’s perspective, there are likely a lot of mixed emotions every day. Whether the Austrian likes it or not, though, he will be with Bayern Munich through the rest of this season and Flick will try to extract his quality for as long as Alaba shows glimpses of what earned him such a stellar reputation.
All that said, if Alaba continues to scuffle, Flick will have to eventually bite-the-bullet and go with whatever player is in the best form at the moment — even if that means exposing Hernandez to some extra risk.
Why did Benjamin Pavard start again?
BFW: Bouna Sarr is banged up and hasn’t been impressive. The other option was dropping Joshua Kimmich back to his old role, but then you are putting the midfield at risk with using Corentin Tolisso (extremely inconsistent), Javi Martinez (seemingly out of favor), Marc Roca (definitely out of favor), or Jamal Musiala (much more of an attacker) as part of the team’s keystone unit.
Bayern Munich’s personal investment in Pavard — and the player’s track record of success — affords him a longer leash than just being pulled after a few tough games. Flick is correct in giving the Frenchman a chance to work out of his slump. This is the time to do it...not in the Champions League knockout stages.
The wild card here, though, is Pavard’s health. If the 24-year-old is not operating at full capacity, Flick will need to rest him in hopes getting back the caliber of player needed later in the season when the games mean much more.
As for Sarr, Bayern Munich has him for another three-and-a-half seasons, so it can be assumed he will get more opportunities to prove himself.
Chris Richards, meanwhile, has played right-back and does have potential, but did not travel with the team for Friday’s game. Richards needs playing time to grow and evolve. It can be assumed that the Alabama-native projects more as a center-back than a right-back (Richards played center-back against TSV 1860 Munich yesterday for Bayern Munich II). Sitting on the bench for the senior-team is not affording the youngster the valuable game time he needs and deserves. It was good to see him play for Bayern Munich II yesterday and hopefully he can get more appearances in 3.Liga under his belt.
Why is it so easy to score against Bayern?
BFW: Uh, well, because the defense has not been good and the midfield and wings have not always been the best at dropping back to support the defenders. As evidence of the lack of focus defensively up-and-down the pitch, Thomas Muller leads the team in challenges with 408 (per InStat) — and it’s not even close.
Just about every single defender has been average or worse overall this season (even Alphonso Davies). It’s a collective failure without any real hope for a solution coming from the outside. Bayern Munich will not be making any acquisitions in this window, so what you see is what you get. It will be up to Flick and his staff to get the players back up to speed within the team’s difficult defensive system — and to also keep them healthy.
Why only one sub vs Gladbach?
BFW: Bayern’s schedule this month is ridiculous and Borussia Mönchengladbach was the most important game. This was Flick’s chance to give those struggling players on the back-line a chance to work out of their respective slumps and collective funk against a high-caliber opponent.
If fully healthy, Kingsley Coman would have started, but the Frenchman was limited to just 30 minutes (which was decided upon pregame). Flick just needed to survive 60 minutes of Douglas Costa. Costa, of course, brought nothing to the table and despite Flick’s vote of confidence, the player should only be used in case of an emergency. Muller and Jamal Musiala are both more productive and better options on the wing.
As for the lack of defensive subs, Hernandez could still be banged up in addition to Flick being overly cautious with the prized defender. Jerome Boateng will also likely get called to put in a full shift on Wednesday against Holstein Kiel, so resting him was a no-brainer.
It is safe to assume that Flick is not overly comfortable with some of his young players as of yet as well, so substitution options were pretty limited.