It was not a banner season for Bayern Munich’s defensive group.
Plagued by injuries, miscommunication, and bouts with poor form, just about everyone in the defensive group struggled at times. Incredibly, though, each member of the unit also shined brightly for stretches.
With Hansi Flick’s high-line tactics tough to manage at times, the defensive group ultimately turned in more good performances than bad and probably caught more heat as a unit than they deserved.
When it comes to selecting who was the best from that lot during the season, it was no easy call. See our staffers selected and then tell us your pick!
- Manuel Neuer: This was incredibly tough because I truly felt each member of the defensive group had incredible periods of ups and downs. Benjamin Pavard got off to an awful start while dealing with the after-effects of an injury, but recovered to have an excellent second half of the season. Niklas Süle dazzled with his versatility and had a knack for making big plays, but also had some regrettable lapses. Jerome Boateng was probably the most consistent of the batch, but often found himself in precarious positions. Once he got past dealing with his future, David Alaba was markedly better, but did some of his best work for the season in the midfield. As for Alphonso Davies, the talented Canadian was struggled to find his 2019/2020 form. So...for me, Manuel Neuer was the obvious choice. It was not his best season, but he kept the squad together at times when it could have fallen apart and came up big several times when the team needed him.
- Lucas Hernandez: I wouldn’t say any defender was outstanding this season, but Lucas was probably the most consistent. He was at least decent in all of his performances, which is more than you can say for most of our defenders. If Hansi had played him more often at CB, we might have more performances to judge, but for now he remains our best defender.
- Lucas Hernandez: The price tag says it and we all know it — he is Bayern’s best defender by a mile; he came up with big performances whenever called upon and was quite solid whenever he was on the pitch. His attitude was exceptional too — he gave everything in each and every challenge. I loved everything about Hansi Flick’s tenure at Bayern but I have one tiny criticism of him — I wish he had started Lucas more often.
- Lucas Hernandez: Another one of those no-brainers. It is no secret that I’m a HUGE Lucas fan. He’s such a brilliant player... if he were Italian, he’d have been christened a Nesta/Cannavaro incarnation already. His play-style resembles those of the battle hardened Italian legends, but with some additional features that make him such a potent player, some of them being good passing, vision and dribbling ability. The man’s an absolute nightmare to face as an attacker, and he’s pocketed some top players, including Ronaldo (France v Portugal, international break) and Neymar + Mbappe (that glorious second leg display against PSG).
He shies away from no one. He’s here to fight for his spot and make the LCB position his. I honestly am still baffled at why he didn’t get more opportunities under Flick, but am happy that he’ll have a lot more opportunities to impress next season. We are in need of a new defensive leader to take the defense to great heights moving forward, and I hope Lucas turns out to be exactly that.
- Lucas Hernandez: Another obvious choice. Even in a regular season, Lucas would have been a contender for the most outstanding defender with the kind of absolutely solid performances he has dished out in the past season. However, considering it was one of the worst seasons defensively for Bayern, Lucas is the obvious choice. The Frenchman turned out to be the only reliable defender who could be trusted to hold his own against opposition that effectively exploited the Bayern highline.
Lucas stood out for his resilience, tackling ability, aerial challenges and no nonsense style of play. His sheer ability and class was on display in his performances against PSG. The 25 year-old was extraordinary going toe to toe against world class players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mbappe and Neymar. He is definitely one to watch for under Nagelsmann.
- Lucas Hernandez: This is an easy choice. Lucas was worth the big price tag, after all. It took him a while to get settled in at the club, but he has brilliant this past season. In a year with major defensive issues, he was our diamond in the rough. Reliable and consistent.
I just wish we had seen more of him this season, but I expect him to be Bayern’s leader of the backline in years to come. Can’t wait to see what Nagelsmann gets out of the French defender.
- Manuel Neuer: If goalkeepers count as defenders, he is the obvious choice. He was the only defensive player who didn’t have a mediocre to above-average season. Even when the defense was conceding chance after chance, Neuer often came up big with some outstanding saves that rescued Bayern a ton of points. Considering how much time he spends outside the penalty area, I’d say he definitely qualifies as an auxiliary center-back.
If not, my choice would be Lucas Hernandez. His form has been coming back and he hasn’t had that many bad games this season. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs as our starting LCB next season.
- Jerome Boateng: Hansi Flick called Boateng his most consistent centre-back of the season in 2020/2021, and he was right. The German was phenomenal and comfortably Bayern’s best defender of the campaign. Carrying on his new found stability from 2019/2020, Boateng oozed class and decorum whenever on the pitch, showcasing his unmatched passing ability and fantastic reading of the game. It’s amazing how people underrated Boateng so much given his importance to the Bayern team in the past seasons. Simply put, the team was rarely as good when he hasn’t been on the pitch. The refusal to offer Boateng was disrespectful after such a strong campaign and it’s clear to see why such a decision would be so upsetting for Flick.
BFW Postseason Breakdown: Bayern Munich’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player
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