Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has an incredible set of center-backs at his disposal this year, and took some time out in Friday’s pre-game presser (as captured by @iMiaSanMia) to rave about Lucas Hernández — a stalwart on the back line, and Bayern’s own master of the dark arts of the defensive game.
“I like him very much,” Nagelsmann said of his starting left center-back. “He’s a tackling monster on the pitch and also played very good passes in the opening game. He did that very well alongside Upa [center-back Dayot Upamecano].”
Lucas is perhaps not as revered for his distribution work as other ball-playing center-backs, but by stats, he’s actually perhaps not so bad. Over the last 365 days, via StatsBomb/fbref, Hernández rates 99th percentile among center-backs for progressive passes made, 99th for passes attempted, 98th for progressive carries, and 90th for shot-creating actions.
Some of those figures, especially carries, might drop if he’s held in reserve more this season, but still show the ability he has to contribute to a system that involves him in build-up. And from what we’ve seen so far, center-backs finding lines-breaking vertical passes are still a big part of Bayern’s game this year.
Of course, we know Lucas best as a scrappy defender with the best of them — someone who’ll make no bones about cynically taking down his man if he’s beat and saving his team from a goal. It’s how he conceded a free kick and earned a yellow card early in the Wolfsburg game. It’s the kind of grit and determination you need in the back line, particularly if you want to play aggressively up front — as Nagelsmann assuredly does.
But, Nagelsmann reminded, on-field demeanor isn’t quite the same as off. “He’s also a very nice guy in private. It’s not like he walks around with a knife between his teeth.”
Those who only know him from his challenges on the pitch on matchdays might beg to differ.