The fixture list has been easy since the winter break, but now Bayern Munich gets into the real grind of the second half of the season. They will do so without several key players, and Pep Guardiola is on the verge of moving to England. With the German Cup and the Champions League recommencing, Bavarian Football Works took a look at the new squad roles.
Same concept, same drill: Each ranker slots Bayern's players into a list of 20 based on the subjective criteria of their choosing. Factors could include current form, squad role, selection patterns, and impact the rest of the season. The subjectivity is washed out in the aggregate to create a pecking order in Bayern's squad.
As one can guess, the main theme of this month's ranking is the defense. Here is the February squad ranking for Bayern Munich:
= rank increase
= rank decrease
"–" = not ranked
In a case where only three of four players at a certain position are injured, the one that is not becomes extremely valuable, right? That case is what allowed Badstuber, who has his own fitness issues, jumping up the charts, but Bayern's injury woes is not the only reason he cracks the top 10. This is a player who is a German international when healthy, and one who has helped Bayern get to a Champions League final before. Playing as a middle center back suits his skill set very well, and it is one Guardiola will use a lot until more defenders get healthy.
How does Bayern's most important defender drop out of the picture? Simple: a three-month layoff. Boateng's injury cause Bayern to take drastic actions, a sign the club are prepared to plan the rest of the season without him. They may have to, even though, when healthy, he is one of the best defenders in Europe.
Philipp Lahm (Cowper's Rank: 2 | Aggregate: 7) – He is Bayern's most versatile defensive player. He plays rightback and midfield at an astounding level and in a pinch can fill in at centerback. In a side with an almost entirely depleted centerback corps, that positional versatility is at the forefront of his importance to Bayern. From allowing Xabi Alonso to move deeper if needed in match, to swapping roles to fill the tactical niche Guardiola needs, Lahm is a key lynchpin for Bayern. Add in he's the captain and leader of Guardiola's vision and you have the most important player on this team after Manuel Neuer.
Javi Martínez (Dillon's rank: 10 | Aggregate: 16) – He is out with an injury now, but he will be a crucial member of the team, particularly later in the Bundesliga – unless Bayern dramatically builds its lead on Dortmund – and in the latter stages of the Champions League. With Boateng out – he may not even come back – Martinez can fill the void alongside a hopefully healthy Badstuber. I have no confidence in Benatia, and Tasci is an unknown quantity. Plus, if a center back crisis eases, Martinez can also play a valuable part in the midfield.
Jerome Boateng (Quinn's Rank: 7 | Aggregate: 19) – Despite an injury that will keep him out for several months, Boateng is the best centerback in world football. When push comes to shove, there's not another centerback in the team that consistently plays at a high level like Boateng. Losing Boateng has the potential to be catastrophic for Bayern in the latter stages of the season, and it will be interesting to see if anyone can step up and replace him.
Holger Badstuber (Rudnik's Rank: 1 | Aggregate: 6) – Bayern's central defense looks like a M.A.S.H. unit. Badstuber is the only healthy remaining true center back outside of Serdar Tasci, who still needs to get acclimated. Losing Badstuber now would be absolutely devastating, especially with the midweek games about to start up again, including the crucial Champions League showdown with Juventus.
Douglas Costa (VanOpdorp's Rank: 5 | Aggregate: 2) – He is an energetic player that is really fun to watch, and the fact the Bundesliga players voted him the best player of the first half speaks volumes of his impact. The problem with that impact? It came mostly when Arjen Robben was not healthy. Since the two are very similar, Guardiola has to play Kingsley Coman to keep the team balanced. His service, take-on ability, and shear will are very valuable to Bayern, but he may not be able to have the same impact he did if he cannot coexist with the wingers playing opposite from him.
What do you need in a center back crisis? More center backs. Injuries now open the door for Medhi Benatia to really make an impact on the team, if he can stay healthy. When he was fit at the beginning of the season, he was the perfect complement to Jerome Boateng, and he had the best aerial ability in the squad. Fitness has not been his friend in his Bayern career, but if he finds a way to stay on the field, he could be the defender that helps Bayern win multiple titles this season.