Double Header: Is Bayern’s squad strong enough?
The Miasanrot Double Header is a format where two authors discuss opposing viewpoints to illustrate the complexity of a situation. The final conclusion is left to the reader.
I think Bayern’s team is almost perfectly staffed. In Sebastian Rode and Mario Götze, two players have made the move to Dortmund, but both would have found it difficult to play more regularly at Bayern anyway. Renato Sanches is not only an obvious upgrade in comparison to Rode, but also extremely young and adaptable.
In defense, the situation is similar. Mats Hummels, both with his quality on the field and his personality, could be a major building block that the record champion was lacking in recent years – plus he is less injury-prone than Benatia. There are at least two sets of back four lines which can operate at a very high level in front of Manuel Neuer. In midfield, Ancelotti will likely field three players, with plenty of options available in this part of the team, as well. Alonso, Vidal, Thiago, Sanches, Kimmich, but also the nominal defenders Lahm, Alaba, and Martínez are players that can deliver solutions for the manager for almost every opponent and playing style.
Admittedly, the further up the field we get, the thinner the squad depth gets. Robben and Ribéry are both likely to pick up injuries, while Costa’s quality is still debatable. Coman is a very young player who can’t be expected to decide games on his own constantly. Ribéry in particular, however, seems to have become more stable recently. It’s a tricky situation for FC Bayern: the transitional period to a post Robbery era has already begun, and both are still well capable of helping the team. Buying one or even two additional players would send a signal to them that the club doesn’t trust them anymore. Both are ambitious enough that a last hurrah at the end of their careers might well be possible. With 5 or even 6 players for two positions in the starting XI, the competition within the team would be so strong that it would very probably lead to problems. The only viable option would have been to sign a young talent, but it seems that the executive team didn’t find a player that made sense for them.
All in all, the team is staffed excellently even here. So far, there hasn’t been a situation where all four wingers were out all at the same, and even if that did ever happen, it would be overkill to prepare for a scenario this absurd. The squad would grow to an impossibly large size if this principle were followed.
The centre forward position is the one where Bayern has the least backup, and the club obviously relies on Lewandowski and Müller’s resistance to injuries. The Pole in particular has shown himself to be very confident in the past and explained that Bayern didn’t need another striker. I agree with him on that. Besides – where to find a striker whose quality of play is good enough for Bayern, yet would be happy to sit on the bench for 80 or even 90% of all games? It’s like a needle in a haystack.
I see a very strong, well-structured, and balanced squad which will be able to contend for titles in all three competitions. Unlike in video games, in reality it’s difficult to find players for a position where they will only get to play if the starter is injured. Overall, I think we have an even higher quality than last season. Whether one player could make a notable difference is doubtful, especially keeping in mind that panicked last-minute transfers would not have been a sensible solution.
First things first. Bayern’s squad is normally good enough to compete in all three competitions all the way until the end, challenging for the title. In principle it’s also good that Bayern don’t break out in panic in spite of a few injured players and overpay for players shortly before the deadline. That, too, speaks for the quality of the team. But does the squad account for the experience of the last two years and the increased age structure of the key players? Not 100%. Even more so after surprisingly giving up a lot of quality in Rode, Hojbjerg, Götze, and Benatia.
Of course, a squad can’t be completely set up for a worst case scenario, like the one that struck at the end of the 2014/15 season. At the time, seven players missed long stretches of that part of the season at the same time in Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, David Alaba, Thiago, Javi Martínez, Medhi Benatia, and Holger Badstuber. The fact that Mitchell Weiser was a serious candidate for a starting position in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona really speaks to how complicated the situation was at the time – with the greatest respect for his development.
Indeed Bayern reacted in the previous year by re-stocking the wide-forward positions with Costa and Coman, but at the start of this year again several injuries led to a shortage, which could only be solved by good performances from Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba in unfamiliar positions in central defence.
The fact of the matter is that FC Bayern has a number of injury-prone players in their ranks. In the past years, Ribéry, Robben, Badstuber, Martínez, and Thiago missed half-seasons or more through injury. Some of them even more than once. That Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman, Renato Sanches, and Jérôme Boateng also came out of the summer with long-term injuries makes it clear how quickly things can deteriorate. What’s more, Coman and Costa still have to prove that they can play at Robben and Ribéry’s level long-term, because this kind of player is going to be a decisive factor for Bayern’s game under Ancelotti as well.
Another highly-rated player, for example an attacking all-rounder who could replace the barely-covered Robert Lewandowski, or an alternative to the creative Thiago, would also suit the squad nicely. Mostly because FC Bayern should make the absolute most of the slowly closing career window of the exceptional generation of Ribéry, Robben and Lahm. Doing that would be worth a couple of unhappy players on the bench. The squad is good like this; more so with a chance for the youngsters Green, Benko and Dorsch. But not without a few question marks and a small stomach ache.