It clearly didn’t negatively impact Bayern Munich’s performance in the 4-0 win at Werder Bremen, but there was a genuine element of surprise to see Leon Goretzka’s name in the starting lineup instead of Konrad Laimer.
The summer signing from RB Leipzig had seemingly been Thomas Tuchel’s preferred central midfielder to start alongside Joshua Kimmich, especially judging by the lineups Tuchel fielded in the preseason friendlies earlier this summer.
Goretzka clocked a total of 79 minutes before he was ultimately replaced by Laimer while, at which point Bayern was leading 2-0. It was a strong performance from Goretzka, perhaps giving Tuchel something to think about, but the manager did have his reasons for going with Bayern’s No. 8 from the get-go instead of Laimer.
Ahead of the win at the Weserstadion, but after the lineups for both teams had been submitted, Tuchel explained that he picked Goretzka on Friday night mostly for his size, knowing that Bremen is a very physical team in midfield and they possess a lot of height for set pieces. “We need Leon for the size today. Werder is a very big team and for crosses, set pieces and long balls we decided on bigger size today compared to Konrad Laimer,” he told DAZN (via Az).
Alongside Kimmich, Goretzka acted as a No. 6 vs. Bremen, which has been a huge point of contention this summer for Bayern. Tuchel always wanted to try to get Declan Rice from West Ham before the England international ultimately decided to join Arsenal, but even after that, Tuchel had still said he wanted to try to sign one before the summer transfer window closed. Both Steffan Effenberg and Lothar Matthäus had recently suggested that Bayern already possesses the personnel necessary to have a No. 6, with Effenberg referencing the successes Bayern has already seen with Goretzka and Kimmich as the dual pivot in the center of midfield.
Even Kimmich was pleasantly surprised by his compatriot’s strong outing in Bremen. “In general, I know what I have in Leon, he knows what he has in me. We have often played side by side,” Kimmich said of the understanding that they have with one another.
When Tuchel was asked about the possibility of still possibly signing a number 6, defensive midfielder before September 1st, he diplomatically responded by saying he didn’t want to comment on the matter, adding that the current squad already has what it takes to win matches. “I won’t comment on that. In any case, the squad is enough to win games,” he said.