FC Bayern’s broken wings

“When I saw him lying there, I almost had tears in my eyes.” Not just Joshua Kimmich but all Bayern fans were shocked when Kingsley Coman had to be carried off the field with an injury during the Bundesliga kick-off against Hoffenheim. Today we take a look at the injury histories of Bayern’s wingers. Author: Maurice • Translator: Sam

Coman had waited six long months for this moment, if you take out the brief appearance in the DFB Pokal final. Finally the young Frenchman could get out onto the pitch in an important game for Bayern. Finally he could worry opposing defences with his feared dribbles at pace. Finally the ease was there again when he playfully offers the opponent the ball before speeding past him.

Coman’s comeback was only to last forty-five minutes – and then the shock. In a duel with Hoffenheim’s full-back Nico Schulz he pushes the ball past the opponent, as he’s done so often. Schulz hasn’t a chance against the Frenchman and can only lunge in. Coman, who is already on the way in the opposite direction, is hit and sinks to the floor. He signals immediately that there’s no chance he can play on. He has to limp off propped up by two physios.

That same night, FC Bayern announce that the number 29 has suffered another ligament tear in his ankle – just like earlier in the year. On Sunday, it is then revealed that the 22-year-old was operated on successfully.

Already injured a lot at a young age

With this injury, the Parisian joins the long injury history of Bayern’s wingers. At the ripe age of just 22, Coman has already been injured for a total of 198 days in his three years so far with the Rekordmeister, missing 35 games – basically a full season. This is also shown by Michael Karbach’s post on Twitter.

Most bitter of all were the knee and ankle injuries that Coman picked up on duty with the French national team. Just as bad, however, is the second ligament tear in his left foot, which had forced the youngster to miss the World Cup.

Bayern’s second young wing wizard even missed the start of the season. Serge Gnabry, the explosive player born in Stuttgart, has been working on thigh problems since pre-season which have forced him out of the entirety of August. The new signing had already missed a total of 172 days in the previous two seasons with Bremen and Hoffenheim. Over that period he missed 23 competitive games.

Speaking to SportBild last season, his ex-coach Julian Nagelsmann said: “Serge is a very springy kind of player. He has a lot of fast twitch fibres that are more vulnerable than the slow fibres. It’s important to take care that nothing goes wrong there.”

And in fact most of Gnabry’s injuries are of a muscular nature. That thigh that is keeping him out yet again had already caused several problems. It will be a big challenge for FC Bayern’s medical team to reduce the sprinter’s susceptibility here in the future.

Glass bones and long injury pauses

In comparison to the two young tykes, the long-established duo Ribéry and Robben are currently fit, even though both were known for their injuries in the past. During his spells at Chelsea and Real Madrid, the Dutchman was even known as “glass knees” in the media.

If we consider the same periods of time as with Gnabry and Coman, then since the beginning of the 2016/17 season Robben comes to a substantial 214 “days off” and 24 games missed. The 34-year-old had to constantly battle with problems with his adductor area which have flared up particularly since 2015. Before that, the quick wide-man like Gnabry had a lot of muscle problems. In comparison to his team in Madrid and London, however, Robben emphasises that the medical staff have a better handle on his situation. In spite of that, in the last three years Robben twice missed the important phase of the season with the knock-out games in the Champions League.

The two oldies on Bayern’s wings slap some skin: Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry
(Photo: Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

His congenial partner Franck Ribéry, since his difficult ankle injury in 2015 that put him out of action for almost a year, has been spared worse. Now 35 years old, since the 2016/17 season he has “only” missed 139 days of training and as a result 24 games. Indeed the Frenchman was thus able to take part in all important games, though his age showed in last season’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid after barely an hour.

Why Bayern should have reacted

Directly after the announcement of the diagnosis all fan forums ran hot: Should FC Bayern become active again on the transfer market and engage a player for the wings? I said yes and will explain why.

Usually the four wingers would be sufficient. Usually, however, also means that all four players are fit and have no particular injury history. Usually also means that all four players have it in them to convince on the biggest stage, the Champions League.

The last two points apply only to a limited extent to the selection of players available to Bayern. As described above, the injury record of Ribéry, Robben, Coman and Gnabry is very long. I would even go so far as to say that you can count the games in which all four are actually fit on one hand.

In addition, Robben and Ribéry are already at the end of their career and should not have to play all three games in every English week anymore, otherwise further fatigue injuries would threaten. Moreover, after several such games there is a lack of a certain sharpness, which is so essential for the Bayern game.

In addition, one has to ask oneself who one can trust to influence a Champions League semi-final against Madrid or Turin. Coman certainly has the potential, but he hasn’t been able to show it yet. Robben should be trusted out of respect alone, but the Dutchman’s age was clearly noticeable in the last second half of the season. Ribéry has problems running over 90 minutes with full intensity and Gnabry has never been on the biggest stage before. The same applies to Alphonso Davies, who has already been confirmed as a newcomer for winter.

If FC Bayern had had the opportunity to hire a winger, such as Martial, the Munich team should have struck. By May at the latest, everyone would have thanked them.

Why Bayern shouldn’t have reacted

On the other side, our author Chris argues why the record champion should not panic and not buy another wing forward.

An injury, especially as it doesn’t lead to a player being out for the whole season, shouldn’t lead to leaving his line. Yes, Coman’s injury is annoying. But if Coman had injured himself on 10 September, then the discussion would be superfluous anyway. This summer FC Bayern has subjected itself to a savings dictate because they want to turn the big wheel next summer. You can criticize that, but it’s probably the plan for the next 12 – 24 months. This line should now be pursued consistently. For lack of alternatives it is almost the only way, because in Italy and England the transfer market is already closed. Clubs from those leagues can no longer sign a replacement. They are probably not willing to sell players or only at astronomical prices and that on the already overheated transfer market.

Apart from the financial aspect, FC Bayern is also overstaffed on the wings. Ribery, Robben, Coman and Gnarby are there. Davies comes in winter. With Evina and Shabani further options from their own youth are in the starting blocks. Müller, James and perhaps even Tolisso could slip into the role of an outside striker if necessary. In short – Kovac has enough alternatives. Personal, but also tactical, of course. All he has to do is exploit them.

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