Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann has made no secret of the fact that he would like the club to work out a contract extension with defense Niklas Süle.
Nagelsmann, who has deployed a back-three that is disguised as a back-four, clearly recognizes why a versatile and talented defender like Süle is key to making this hybrid set up work.
Not only has Süle (arguably) been the team’s best center-back, but he has the flexibility, speed, and skill to bump out to right-back should the team use a back-four and can also act as a contributor on offense with ability to work his way into the play.
Süle also has the versatility to aptly play center-back on both the right and left side. In a back-three, that is invaluable to Nagelsmann as Lucas Hernandez is the only viable option at the left center-back role on the roster at this point. Hernandez has a history of injuries and while he has been relatively healthy during his Bayern Munich tenure, there is no proven depth behind him for that role.
In playing this hybrid set-up, Nagelsmann is now often deploying right wing-backs, who are not necessarily experts at the position. Whether it is Kingsley Coman or Serge Gnabry, the players are far more offensively-minded than a typical wing-back. Süle’s ability to track back and use his body to help break up quick counter attacks could prove to be invaluable.
Similarly on the left-side, Alphonso Davies is playing much more of an offensive role, which is often leaving the center-backs undermanned as the opposition charges forward. Whether Süle is on the right side or left side, he has the physical tools to help balance the team’s heavily offensive mindset.
We have seen Benjamin Pavard talk about eventually wanting to move to center-back and while the Frenchman might not fit the profile at right wing-back, he could prove to be a valuable commodity at the center-back spot.
With the formation essentially acting as a back-three, Nagelsmann needs four starting caliber center-backs for his rotation. The bosses would not even have to hit the transfer market to make that happen.
Tanguy Nianzou, Chris Richards, and Lars Lukas Mai are all youngsters who could also potentially fill that fourth center-back void, but Pavard is the most game-ready at this point.
Nianzou, while full of talent, needs a lot of growth to occur within his game to help eliminate a consistent stream of on-field mistakes. Richards and Mai, meanwhile, have proven to be ready for first-team football, but could be sold because of the squad’s current depth and pipeline at the position. Both youngsters are at the point where Bayern Munich will need to commit to them or let them flourish elsewhere.
The not-so-secret hybrid formation could prove to be successful for the Bavarians under Nagelsmann, but the manager will need to ensure he has the right mix defensively to make it work. Süle could be just the versatile, dependable, and flexible type of player to give Nagelsmann the chance to make that happen.