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Opinion: Filling the hole in defensive midfield could make or break Bayern Munich’s season

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Leon Goretzka’s absence due to COVID-19 means that Hansi Flick must find an effective midfield partner for Joshua Kimmich.

FC Augsburg v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
Leon Goretzka’s absence leaves a hole in Bayern’s midfield
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

The effects of COVID-19 differ from player-to-player. Chelsea midfielder Kai Havertz was particularly hit hard by the virus and is yet to find his form after recovering from it, while Borussia Mönchengladbach defender, Remy Bensebaini missed out on nearly three months of action because of it.

Now that Leon Goretzka is out, anyone would be a fool to predict how long it will take for him to recover from the virus. Javi Martinez, a possible stand-in for Goretzka in defensive midfield, is also out with COVID-19 and once again, nobody really knows how long he will be out for.

FC Schalke 04 v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
If Leon Goretzka has an extended absence, Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick might need to find a solution in the defensive midfield.
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

From previous years, we know that all the last four Bayern teams who progressed to the final or went one better, had two relatively strong defensive midfielders. In 2010, Bayern had the incredibly sturdy and simultaneously creative pairing of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark Van Bommel. In 2012, Bayern paired up Basti with Toni Kroos, another world class midfielder, in defensive midfield. In 2013, the pairing of Martinez and Schweinsteiger did the job of lifting Bayern to a first win since 2001; I personally believe Martinez was the reason why Bayern could make that extra step. And last season, the pairing of Goretzka himself and Thiago Alcantara guided Bayern to the win.

Thiago has gone to Liverpool; he is no longer an option. Corentin Tolisso, who seemed to be the choice to pair with Kimmich has been underwhelming this season. The other option remaining is Marc Roca unless Thomas Müller or Jamal Musiala can slot in. Roca’s pass completion rate and his ability to be at the right places on the pitch cannot be underestimated. Yet, based on his limited appearances, Hansi Flick is not his biggest fan. Perhaps, Flick is not convinced by the Spaniard in training, although, aside from a missed penalty in the DFB-Pokal (which is hardly his fault), he has not set a foot wrong.

Of course, Flick is not married to a system. Bayern has changed formations from time-to-time this season and opted to go with one pure holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 system. The coach, who is an admirer of David Alaba, can slot the Austrian next to Kimmich as well if he wants to stick to a 4-5-1 formation.

However, based on the best Bayern teams from the past decade judging by Champions League performances (the 2011/2012 side had plenty of domestic troubles due to Borussia Dortmund for example), leaving two defensive midfielders to help out the back-line might be the wiser choice, especially if the high-line, which has dropped a bit deeper recently, is here to stay in Champions League games.

Now, Flick has to decide if he wants to go with Roca or another player next to Kimmich or if he wants to change systems. Consistency is important in a season such as this; the big games will be coming up thick and fast. Goretzka needs to be given the proper time to rest and recover; COVID-19, as almost everyone knows by now, can wreak havoc in a human body.

I believe the best option is to stick with a 4-5-1 system and to go with Roca; I have been a fan of the Spaniard since his first game; his calmness on the ball and his distribution reminds me of Thiago. I also am completely comfortable with the fact that Roca seems content with protecting the backline and does not move forward as often as Goretzka. Kimmich can deliver fantastic balls into the box and can be an additional attacker as we have witnessed time and again. He scores important goals in big matches for Bayern and hence, his services as an auxiliary attacker in the absence of Goretzka might be needed.

What do you think? Do you think Bayern should change systems? Or do you think Roca or Alaba should be integrated into the midfield next to Kimmich ahead of the bigger games? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and, as always, thank you very much for reading!