Thomas Tuchel has spent an excessive amount of microphone time complaining about the lack of a true No. 6 on Bayern Munich’s squad. Bayern’s jersey number six, Joshua Kimmich, has manned the position for years but Tuchel firmly believes that Kimmich is better suited to a more offensive role.
Enter Aleksandar Pavlović.
Pavlović spent 10 years in Bayern’s youth academy, eventually breaking into the senior squad in October 2023. In three months of action, he has logged 433 minutes and bagged his first goal against Augsburg.
But what exactly makes Pavlović an effective No. 6?
Pavlović has won 11 out of 14 tackles this season. He is constantly hounding attackers all over the pitch, refusing to yield any free space. This relentless mentality wears on opponents who will start expecting Pavlović to always be on their heels.
Pavlović has also picked up yellow cards in three of the last four matches on an average of two fouls per 90 minutes. Some pundits might view this as a negative but if you want to earn a reputation as a fearless enforcer, you have to make your presence felt. Not every player can be like Bayern legend Phillipp Lahm, who once went 13 months without committing a foul.
World class midfielders are tasked with completing at least 90% of their passes. Pavlović is currently at 91% overall on the season, including 95% on short passes (5-15 yards) and 93% on medium passes (15-30 yards). He’s also winning 53% of his defensive challenges, blocking a couple shots per game, and recovering a loose ball every ten minutes.
Pavlović has only had nine appearances, but his stats are nearly identical to (if not better than) Rodri during the 2022/23 campaign that resulted in the treble for Manchester City. It’s incredible that he’s able to mirror one of the world’s best players, even for a short amount of time.
Poise. Moxie. Leadership.
The analysts can run the numbers all day long, but at some point the qualitative attributes will overshadow the quantitative attributes. Positioning can be mapped, but the decision-making and mental fortitude in those positions can transform a player into the X-factor on the pitch.
Does Pavlović ever look overwhelmed by any particular moment or situation? His calm control and finish against Augsburg suggests that he’s up to the task.
Bayern has conceded five goals this season with Pavlović on the pitch. Pavlović was part of the play on only two of those goals, and neither of them were even close to his fault. Does that seem like a coincidence?
Pavlović is 19-years-old and has only played in nine professional matches. Should he be anointed and handed the keys to the castle? Absolutely not. But Tuchel is going to have a tough time figuring out who is going to lose playing time to make room for Bayern’s newest teenage sensation.