With the season over and done with, it’s finally time to look back and evaluate how everyone performed. In 2021/22, Bayern Munich underachieved by their standards. Winning the 10th consecutive Bundesliga title was nice, but getting knocked out in the second round of the Pokal and losing to Villarreal in the Champions League were both big setbacks.
In the first of our three-part series analyzing the performances of each individual player and assigning them a letter grade for the season, let’s look at the defenders and see how they fared.
Manuel Neuer: A
Minutes Played: 3,501
Goals Conceded: 38
Clean Sheets: 14
Manuel Neuer continued to be at his imperious best this season, proving that he still has plenty left in the tank. Unfortunately, he’s not a miracle worker — even he couldn’t prevent Bayern’s leaky defense from conceding an embarrassing number of goals. Let’s hope he gets that contract extension signed ASAP.
Sven Ulreich: C+
Minutes Played: 720
Goals Conceded: 12
Clean Sheets: 2
Sven Ulreich is an adequate backup, but being compared to Manuel Neuer does him no favors. Being an understudy to one of the best keepers in the world can’t be easy, but Sven does his job without complaints. That’s really all you can ask for from a backup keeper who almost never plays.
Alphonso Davies: B
Minutes Played: 2,366
Alphonso Davies played less than 600 minutes in the second half of the season, which is a tragedy considering that he was one of Bayern’s most important players in the first half. In his absence, the entire team suffered as Nagelsmann scrambled to replace the Canadian's incredible offensive output on the left flank.
Unfortunately, the coach couldn’t actually find an alternative, so Davies made an immediate comeback to the lineup as soon as he was declared fit — a mistake, perhaps, given that he was still quite rusty after spending several months out. The decision might’ve cost Bayern the first leg against Villarreal, though blaming it all on Davies would be too simplistic.
Of course, this has no bearing on the player’s actual quality. Phonzie eventually got back into his groove near the end of the campaign, once he had a few matches under his belt. Since this is an individual performance rating, and the slow second half hurt’s Davies’ overall score. However, he remains one of Bayern’s most important players.
Omar Richards: N/R
Minutes Played: 575
It’s disappointing how little Omar Richards got to play this season given his lack of minutes. The Englishman should’ve been given a run when Davies was ruled out with myocarditis, but Julian Nagelsmann dropped the ball by not giving him more playing time.
Benjamin Pavard: B-
Minutes Played: 2,935
After an aggressively mediocre Hinrunde, Benjamin Pavard made a roaring comeback to establish himself as ... adequate, for the right-back spot. Despite cleaning up his act, the glaring weaknesses in the offensive side of his game is the reason why Bayern Munich went all out to acquire Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax this summer.
Bouna Sarr: N/R
Minutes Played: 274
Nagelsmann barely used Bouna Sarr, which was probably the correct decision. He’s not Bayern quality, and while he may have some promising qualities as an attacking wingback, he needs to leave.
Josip Stanisic: B+
Minutes Played: 773
Despite Covid and injuries causing numerous setbacks, Josip Stanisic had solid performances whenever he was called upon to represent Bayern Munich this season. The youngster doesn’t actually excel at any one thing in particular, but he’s just an all-round solid player. If only Julian Nagelsmann had given him more minutes.
Niklas Sule: B+
Minutes Played: 2,515
Niklas Sule was arguably Bayern’s second-best defender this season, which makes it all the more damning that the board couldn’t hold onto his services for the coming campaign. Borussia Dortmund will be happy to have him.
Dayot Upamecano: B-
Minutes Played: 3,014
Like Pavard, Upamecano actually cleaned up his act in the second half of the season, finally getting the boneheaded mistakes under control. Sort of. He’s not exactly a rock solid defender yet, but the Frenchman did well to navigate a tough season at a new club with a fragile defensive setup. Hopefully, he continues his improvement into next season.
Tanguy Nianzou: C+
Minutes Played: 874
Tanguy Nianzou had some mostly solid performances that were marred by really dumb mistakes. But the thing is ... he’s 19. He has amazing aerial ability and passing range. But he needs to learn. Like with Stanisic and Richards, Nianzou could have benefitted from more game time from the coach. Opportunity missed.
Lucas Hernandez: A
Minutes Played: 2,700
The best Bayern Munich defender by a country mile. On the defensive front, Lucas Hernandez pretty much has it all — positioning, pace, anticipation, tackling, and last-ditch blocks. All he lacks is the long passing ability of his peers. Lucas’ importance is proved by his absence — in the second leg against Villarreal, his substitution was the direct cause of Bayern conceding the goal that sent them out of the Champions League. Before that, the Spaniards barely even looked close to scoring.
Overall defensive rating: E
Last season, Bayern Munich conceded 59 goals in 50 games, an average of 1.18 goals per game. That was considered an absolute disaster. Therefore, in last season’s evaluation, I gave that defense an F, and made the following prediction:
Nagelsmann’s first task in charge of Bayern Munich will be to fix the defense. As things stand, this team won’t make it far in Europe with such a leaky back line.
Well, that didn’t happen. This season, the team conceded 50 goals in 47 games, which comes out to an average of 1.06 goals per 90. That’s only a 10% difference, which is negligible. It is an improvement, so it deserves a better grade than F, but not by much.
It might be confusing to see the overall defense get such a low score when none of the individual players did, but that’s intentional. Bayern Munich’s defense, as a unit, is less than the sum of its parts. Despite plenty of quality being present, the team is unable to function properly and make use of the available talent.
If we don’t start seeing Bayern’s defense get better, then this club had better give up on chasing European success. You can’t concede over 1 goal a game for an entire season and expect to win trophies internationally.