Just a few weeks ago, Josip Stanišić was a forgotten man at Bayern Munich.
A young talent, Stanišić was arguably the fourth-choice right-back behind Benjamin Pavard, Noussair Mazraoui, and Manchester City loanee Joao Cancelo.
Most figured that Cancelo would eventually win the job at the right-back/right wing-back position, but it has not worked out that way. Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann has floated between using a back three and a back four, but with Pavard suspended for the team’s return leg in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain, Nagelsmann has tough choice to make.
If he uses a back three, Nagelsmann needs a third center-back to compliment Matthijs de Ligt and Dayot Upamecano. Some speculated that Cancelo should get the nod given his high profile, but he is not a natural central defender. Choices from there are a bit dicey.
Daley Blind was acquired for this exact scenario, but the thought of Kylian Mbappe or Lionel Messi bearing down on Blind, who has lost a step or two, is not exactly optimal.
In the eyes of Nagelsmann, Stanišić is the right man for the job — albeit, even the right man is working at a disadvantage against PSG. The Croatian is known for his versatility and does have a strong performance against Mbappe in his back pocket already. While not a natural center-back, Stanišić has enough speed and positional awareness to at least partially impede Mbappe or Messi (it is difficult or near impossible for anyone to fully shut them down). What Stanišić will also bring to the table is discipline. In a match like this, Bayern Munich does not needs its center-backs flying up into the play or crashing into the box.
Bayern Munich will need stability — and Stanišić should bring that to the table.
But what of Cancelo? He will surely get the start at right wing-back if Nagelsmann uses a back three, correct?
If the manager rolls out a back three, it can be expected that Kingsley Coman — and his blazing foot speed — will get the nod at the spot. Not only does Coman bring a threatening offensive presence from the position, but he also shown to be a capable defender. having Coman supporting Stanišić could be invaluable for the team’s defensive shape. With Alphonso Davies not always the most disciplined player at left wing-back, it is easy to see how the Bayern Munich backline could be called on to shift over for coverage quite frequently.
The combination of Stanišić and Coman seem to be the most likely duo to prevent breakdowns and scrambling from happening. Even if it is a back four, Stanišić appears to be the front runner for the right-back gig for all of the same reasons, while Coman will surely end up at one of the starting wing positions.
Back three or back four, it does not matter: Stanišić appears to be the man for this particular job.
As for Cancelo, the 28-year-old has doled out a few nice crosses since arriving in Munich, but his defending has been lackluster and, overall, he has just been...okay. Not bad...not great...but okay.
The moment might seem awfully big for Stanišić, but Nagelsmann seems willing to bet his reputation on him. For that, the coach must be pretty sure that the Croatian will get the job done.