The path of a player in Amsterdam seems often to follow the road to Munich. Ajax and Bayern Munich have very similar footballing philosophies and so it is no surprise players choose to move from one to—wait, I’ve written this before, haven’t I?
Anyway, today we talk about a brand new player nobody expected or even registered in their minds prior to a few hours ago when the news came in that Bayern had signed him. Ajax-bred, he is known for his ability on the ball and ability to play a variety of positions including centre-back, left back and defensive midfield despite being unimpressive vertically—wait are we sure we’re talking about the same player?
Daley ‘Not Lisandro Martínez’ Blind arrives in Munich on a free transfer after the termination of his contract in Amsterdam. Let’s look at the systems that manager Julian Nagelsmann could employ him in, since he brings a set of skills that the team did not previously have.
4-2-3-1: Base-system, adapted
This one is quite simple.
The attacking structure amongst the front four is the same. Leroy Sané is the lone man on the right roaming inwards, Sadio Mané isolates the 1v1 out wide on the left, Jamal Musiala looks for space through the centre and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting strings it all together with his hold-up play and pivoting. The wing backs overlap.
However, Daley Blind is a new kind of player. He is a defensively astute No. 6. Bayern have not had a pure No. 6 since... Philipp Lahm? Even he really wasn’t one.
Joshua Kimmich pushes forward as an No. 8, however unlike Leon Goretzka’s more predatory in-the-box role, Kimmich is instead the base of the attack, playing penetrative passes into the final third. Of course, he can make late runs too. With Davies and Mazraoui pushing forward, Blind can sit between the centre-backs, allowing Matthijs de Ligt and Dayot Upamecano to spread wider in build-up. Off the ball, one of De Ligt and Upamecano can also use their pace to intercept a ball while breaking the defensive line, and Blind can seamlessly slot into their spot to cover with his great intelligence in defense and experience playing at centre-back. Furthermore, Blind would be much more useful as a 6 since he is left footed, a quality severely lacking in Bayern’s defensive-minded players ever since Lucas Hernández was shelved with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. This less risky way of pressing the space between Bayern’s defensive and midfield lines also reduces the need for the not-Manuel-Neuer goalkeeper (here, assumed to be Yann Sommer) to be adventurous with runs out of the box as has become custom for Bayern’s high lines.
3-4-2-1: The full Nagelsmann, again
Right, right, right. Okay. This is only in the situation that Alphonso Davies is unfit, which is what Blind was brought in for anyway.
We start at the bottom. Upamecano, De Ligt and Blind form a standard back three, all three are capable progressive passers, but Kimmich should drop back if there isn’t an option as usual. Noussair Mazraoui and Kingsley Coman play as wing backs, attacking wide spaces but also inverting in response to the movements of the players around them. Once again, one of Upamecano or De Ligt can break the line and push to pressure loose balls while Blind tucks in with the remaining centre-back to form a back two. Blind’s ability to play balls forward makes him an able player on the left too, allowing Coman to play further up without always needing to come short to collect as a left wing back.
Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Müller have a million different attacking automatisms programmed between themselves thanks to Nagelsmann that frankly even I don’t fully understand even after at least one full watches of every game Bayern have played. Their interactions will be boosted by the freer roles Mazraoui and Coman occupy in the back three system, with their inversions giving Gnabry and Musiala freedom to take 1v1s in wider spaces. Sané has the work rate and engine to drop back and collect the ball from Kimmich but he also has the positional awareness to run into pockets where Kimmich can find him with a penetrative pass. Sané in the middle just works in my opinion because he has no right to be as consistent defensively as he is, he can play some insane knife-edged passes, his close control and dribbling are unbelievable, and if all else fails, he can shoot from distance when given the slightest amount of space.
What do you think of these systems? Are any of them not-hair-brained enough for Nagelsmann to actually consider? Let us know in the discussion below.