If there was one player who fans criticized heavily early in the season, it was Bayern Munich right-back Benjamin Pavard.
The 25-year-old defender was coming off of an injury and probably was too hasty in his return. For the majority of the first half of the season, Pavard did not look like himself — mostly thanks to the physical and mental after-effects of a ligament injury sustained last July.
The Frenchman was hesitant and conservative offensively and his awareness defensively was clearly not where it should be at this stage of his career. Pavard just did not look like he trusted his body at that point — which caused every decision he made to be delayed.
Of late, however, Pavard has been really, really good and has shown the form that made him such a desirable target for Bayern Munich just two years ago.
It is easy to speculate on why Pavard got off to such a rocky start, but surely the pressure to stay at the top of Hansi Flick’s depth chart was the driving reason behind Pavard’s presumably premature return from his injury.
What’s next for Pavard?
While his status as starting right-back was mostly unquestioned under Flick, the hiring of Julian Nagelsmann could leave to an interesting scenario for Pavard. Will the 34-year-old manager even deploy a back-four based formation that includes a right-back? Nagelsmann has favored a back-three set-up over the past few years, which could mean trouble for Pavard...or could it?
Surely, from a personal standpoint, Pavard is hoping that Nagelsmann keeps Bayern Munich’s standard 4-2-3-1 in place, but should the new boss move to a back-three, Pavard could still be in a spot to excel.
While he is, perhaps, not a prototypical wing-back, Pavard is more than capable of filling that role. More, Pavard’s versatility will allow him to slide into the center-back rotation, which is the position that he ultimately wants to play anyway.
There will be a lot of discussion surrounding Pavard’s future with the club this summer, but the former VfB Stuttgart man should be just fine. Pavard is now healthy and confident — and when he is both of those things, the Frenchman has proven to be a tremendous player.