A lot has been said about the defense, but the midfield was probably Bayern Munich’s biggest weakness this season. Julian Nagelsmann often found his team unable to stamp their authority on games and control them from the outset, which is the hallmark of a troubled midfield. Was this down to the quality of the players available, or the quality of their performances?
Let’s take a look at how Bayern’s midfield fared in 2021/22.
Marc Roca: N/R
Minutes Played: 455
Marc Roca suffered another wasted season at Bayern Munich, waiting for an opportunity that never came. He doesn’t meet the minutes threshold to get a rating. That being said, it’s not like he did anything exceptional to recommend himself in the minutes that he DID get. It’s probably best for the Spaniard if he looks for playing time elsewhere.
Joshua Kimmich: C+
Minutes Played: 3,405
Joshua Kimmich had a bad year, probably the worst of his career. His numbers still look decent, but the player himself will admit that he wasn’t up to his usual Grade A standards. The vaccination fiasco in the first half of the season was also a self-inflicted injury that he could’ve easily avoided, which just pushes his grade down further. Otherwise, he could’ve snuck in with a B-.
Kimmich’s overall lack of form is the one of the main culprits behind Bayern’s underperforming midfield this season.
Leon Goretzka: B+
Minutes Played: 2,027
Like Alphonso Davies, Leon Goretzka spent a significant chunk of the season out injured. However, unlike Davies, his performances before the injury were erratic while those after the comeback were much more solid. On average, he deserves a B+, which could have risen to an A- if he’d been able to play more minutes in the Ruckrunde. Goretzka finished the season in great form, which bodes well for 2022/23.
Corentin Tolisso: D+
Minutes Played: 1,069
Once again plagued by injuries and inconsistency, Corentin Tolisso failed to show why he deserves a contract extension at Bayern Munich. He may still get one, if his demands are kept in check, but the Frenchman is turning out to be little more than a sub-par backup. A shame, given how talented he looked when he first came here from Lyon.
Marcel Sabitzer: D
Minutes Played: 1,076
The flop of the season, there’s no other way to put it. Marcel Sabitzer’s performances this season left people wondering why Bayern spent any money on him — a huge downfall for the former RB Leipzig captain.
The simple fact is, Sabizter has not been able to fit in. The Bayern Munich system has an established rhythm, and whenever Sabitzer played, he always looked out-of-sync with that rhythm. He seemed out of place compared to his teammates — never quite in the right spot, never exactly able to find the right pass. He made regular mistakes and couldn’t put together a single coherent passage of play. Even Nagelsmann, who should've been his biggest supporter, was at a complete loss to explain Sabitzer’s staggering decline.
He probably had the worst season of anyone at the club, maybe excluding the coach.
Jamal Musiala: A-
Minutes Played: 1,980
Last season I put Musiala in the attacker ratings and admitted that he was probably ranked a little low, given how much he offered after making the tremendous leap from youth football to the senior team.
This season proved that Musiala is not a one-season wonder, and he has more depth to his game than anyone ever realized. Julian Nagelsmann charged the youngster with some challenging roles this campaign, often putting him in central midfield as part of the pivot. This is reflected in the fact that Musiala is included with the midfielders this time, and not the attackers.
Musiala mostly excelled in his new role, only being hampered by his relative lack of experience and the dysfunction around him. The youngster’s key attributes — his vision, his passing ability, and his control in tight spaces — were all essential to making this transition successful. However, it seems like a waste to have someone of his talent stuck fighting for the ball in midfield, when he could be looking to open opposition defenses with his dribbling skills and vision.
Overall midfield rating: C
Frankly speaking, Bayern Munich’s midfield did not do their jobs this season, which is probably the main reason why the team played such miserable football at times. For any top club, the midfield is the heart of the team, and Bayern’s heart is looking rather sickly at the moment.
What exactly is going wrong? It’s hard to pin down a cause. We can see the symptoms — pressing being a huge issue, for example. There’s no lack of effort from the players, but opposition teams seem to be able to scythe through Bayern’s midfield with ease. Passing the ball has also been a source of headaches this season — the players seem unable to play the quick vertical passes that Nagelsmann wants them to execute. All we see are turnovers, usually in dangerous positions. The link between the defense and midfield is also missing, with most of the work being handed off to Alphonso Davies instead. Effective ball progression has relied almost entirely on the wingers or the fullbacks.
You can’t blame any single aspect of the team for this. The coach, the players, the board — they all have to take some responsibility. The coach could’ve implemented better tactics, while the players have the capacity to do better. And the board — well it’s clear that they see some fault in the squad planning, given Bayern’s pursuit of Ryan Gravenberch and Konrad Laimer this summer.
Will those transfers make a difference? We’ll have to wait and see. Next season might get very tricky if Bayern’s midfield situation doesn’t improve.