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Tempering Expectations at Bayern Munich ahead of the 2022/23 season: Part 2

In the second part of the series, we look at two issues which has plagued the team recently, one of which has to do with Joshua Kimmich.

FC Bayern Team Presentation
Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka at the heart of the team, exactly where they are supposed to be.
Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has a tough season ahead of him. In part one, we discussed what happens if the former RB Leipzig manager cannot figure out a formation and what if a striker-less system doesn’t work. You can find Part 1 here if you missed it. These are today’s what-ifs:

What-if #1: Nagelsmann cannot find an identity at the back

There was a healthy debate in Part 1 in the comments regarding why the defense is always blamed although the midfield deserves some of the blame for the leaky defense. That will be an important part of the second what-if for today. For now, let’s focus on the back four.

Under Hansi Flick, Bayern played a standard back four with two central defenders, a left-back and a right-back. Alphonso Davies would go up and down the pitch while Benjamin Pavard (by his own choice seemingly) would rarely venture up. Davies had the pace to come back and cover his tracks. A high-line (an epically high-line I should say) was used to catch the opposition offside and, when the team was fresh, it worked well.

Nagelsmann adjusted the high-line just a tad. He changed the setting a bit more so that Davies was almost an auxiliary winger for the formation to resemble a back three system. That seemed to work as well. And then, the new coach tried a traditional back three; most recently, he tried Kingsley Coman as a wing-back. The problem with this is Bayern’s players aside from Davies are not really meant to be wing-backs. We have traditional wingers who I don’t think are quite set up to be wing-backs.

Either way, this leads to the question of an identity at the back. A team not all that great at defending seemed even worse at it after the chop and change at the back. If Nagelsmann cannot find a fixed set-up at the back, however he decides to play, a defense which appears leaky in appearance but not in the stats might appear leaky in the stats too.

What-if #2: Joshua Kimmich does not recover his pre-Covid form

This is a big one and there is only so much Nagelsmann can do about it. With Leon Goretzka’s recent spotty injury track record, this problem takes on a life of its own. As intense as Kimmich is, his form never quite recovered after Covid. Some players have serious injuries such as Sebastian Deisler or Holger Badstuber and never quite recover. Kimmich’s problem is a new one but it appears more serious than it did at the beginning.

Nagelsmann has a few options here; he can try new players such as Ryan Gravenberch in a pairing with Marcel Sabitzer. He can try a different formation — a 4-1-4-1 and eliminate the need for two defensive midfielders. Either way, if Kimmich seems off the pace by the time Qatar 2022 comes around, Nagelsmann will have a headache to deal with. This could also have quite catastrophic consequences for Bayern’s future; the team is supposed to be built around Kimmich but Kimmich doesn’t quite seem like the player he was supposed to be.

The trouble is, Goretzka’s career doesn’t seem to be a reliable one either. This is not a Nagelsmann-created problem. It is a problem that Bayern needs to get ahead of and have plans in place because if turnovers increase more and more because of Kimmich, the back two/three/four/Neuer will have an even harder time than they already were having in the past three seasons.

That’s it for doom and gloom for now. There is more to come yet! As always, thank you for reading!

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