Benjamin Pavard stood in the starting lineup for Bayern Munich against Mainz 05 on Sunday for the first time in three weeks. It was a chance to put his season back on track, after he sat out the past two games on the benched while Niklas Süle played in his place at right-back. It was a day to forget for Pavard.
Pavard has not been right since he suffered a metatarsal injury that cost him the final rounds of the UEFA Champions League. Like the second half of Bayern’s game Sunday against Mainz, it was Joshua Kimmich who played right-back and led his team to victory against Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyon and, of course, Paris Saint-Germain.
Coach Hansi Flick restored Pavard to his starting position for the new 2020/21 season, but Pavard’s form has made it difficult to justify keeping him there.
After forty-five minutes of feeble play, Flick had seen enough. Niklas Süle, who had played right-back in the previous two matches, was needed at center-back after Jerome Boateng had earned a yellow card and was also struggling. Pavard had to come out, and Kimmich would take his place. The result: Kimmich scores the 1-2 and assists the equalizer 2-2.
“The changes did us good; in the end they were exactly right,” Flick said after the game (kicker).
The problem was Pavard: “On the outside, particularly on the right side, we did not have all too many situations we were satisfied with,” Flick said. “Especially for outside-backs, it’s important that we make fewer mistakes and give impetus forwards,” he continued.
And Flick’s stinging indictment of Pavard: “Joshua Kimmich showed how it’s done in the second half.”
Pavard’s terrible form is becoming a major problem for Bayern Munich: his backup, 28-year-old journeyman Bouna Sarr, who was signed on the last day of the transfer window, has not impressed, spending most of his time with Bayern on the bench or in the stands. Hence Sarr was not even in the squad against Mainz when Flick yanked Pavard. American Chris Ricahrds was, but he has seen little of the pitch, too, this season.
While his starter performs like a backup and his backup fails to make the squad, Flick is in a real bind: Süle has played well at right-back, but he is needed in central defense. It also is a dilemma for Joshua Kimmich, who still cannot escape right-back in spite of himself.
Pavard will be a key player to watch for the latter half of the season. If he cannot recover his form, Bayern may be forced to reconsider their right-back options come summertime to keep Süle in central defense and Kimmich in the midfield where they and the club want them to be.