Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has a predilection for the half-spaces — there isn’t a player in the world that he can see and not think, but what if I made him a number ten? Kingsley Coman — check. Alphonso Davies — double check. Leroy Sané? The original masterclass. And the latest? New hero Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting — Bayern’s lone box striker profile on the roster, and the closest thing the team has still to a classic center-forward.
But maybe not in the manager’s eyes! Ahead of Saturday’s face-off with his old club Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann offered an alternative interpretation of Choupo-Moting’s skillset:
Nagelsmann on Choupo-Moting: "He's not really a classic #9, he plays a lot between the lines. He's a gifted footballer, more of a #10 who can also play up front. We are very happy that we have him. He has the quality to be a starter, but also the quality to come off the bench" pic.twitter.com/wdRbJseXTK— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) October 21, 2022
To be clear, the faux-complaint about Nagelsmann seeing everybody as a ten is fully in jest — though it’s true that he does favor attacking down the half-spaces, and he’s got Bayern playing extremely pleasing football doing just that. True enough, also, that Choupo-Moting has a varied skillset, having come up in football as a winger. And his interplay has been exquisite — as much as his finishing!
But of course, Choupo’s got plenty of box nine in him as well. And he showed it again versus Hoffenheim, with another neat finish from a tight angle after being fed in from the right.
These are interesting times at Bayern. Choupo’s importance may or may not have been in the original plans for the season, but they’re a big part of the script now — and may even determine Bayern’s plans for the summer transfer window of 2023.
And Nagelsmann’s comments — a #10 who can also play up front, as Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala have also been asked to do at times this season — may provide another intriguing insight into the thinking behind Bayern's next striker search.
After all, there is at least one big name who — as is plain — would seem to fit that particular bill — though it might require a great deal of the war chest to be flushed down the drain. Would it be too insane, were Bayern Munich to sign —