February MSR Roundtable
This article written by Lok San Wong
With that said, what better way to address these topics than reestablishing the roundtable? Therefore I asked my colleagues Pepe Salazar and Marc Almstedt their opinion on this transfer window and their perspectives for the next one.
Lok San: I would give it a 6/10. The players we brought in will bring some much needed depth to the squad and given time, some of them (i.e. Boey and Zaragoza) could also compete for a starting position. I’m reluctant to give a higher grade simply because, from the outside, it looked like the approach from the club was very messy and unorganized once again.
Even before we lost 3 players in one game against Union, the squad was already incredibly thin and the club didn’t look keen on making any more signings. So, in my opinion, while the signings themselves are good, the planning remains as frustrating as it has been in the recent past.
Pepe: 8/10, the club stated their priority would be to get a CB and a RB, and they got both, which is good news. Dier is not likely to become a regular starter (unless injuries happen), so as a 4th option in the CB pecking order, he seems like a good signing.
Boey, for me, is an excellent signing because his stats show he is an exceptional defender, so it seems he could also play as a RCB in a back 3, which would be very useful for Bayern’s current tactics.
I think the team still needs a DM, but I understand that it will be a very expensive signing and most likely to happen during the summer, in the meantime it’s a good opportunity for Pavlović to prove his worth with the first team.
The Zaragoza move was one made due to necessity, as he originally was meant to arrive in the summer, and I still have to see him play with Bayern to assess whether he is a good signing or not. He seems like a reliable winger just looking at his recent performances in LaLiga, but the Bundesliga is more physical and demanding for wingers, so I’ll wait and see how he does whenever he plays, which I hope is soon.
Marc: I’ll split the difference on this one and say 7/10. To be honest, I am mainly giving it that high of a score because it’s the January window and that is never the easiest time to fill needs on the market. They managed to bring in and address the primary needs and concerns created by injury and lack of depth.
I also increased the rating because of the fact that they did not overpay for a DM. While I would have preferred to see them bring someone in, I actually think they dodged a bullet when the Palhinha move fell through last summer. They were in my opinion overpaying for a player because they waited too long and I was glad that they didn’t return to that well given how much Fulham were insistent on getting for him. While I know Palhinha is a solid defensive player, for the type of money they are requesting I would want a player who is stronger on the ball and at building up play. Hopefully they can address that in the Summer if Pavlović does not win the job before then.
Lok San: Dier has already shown some good things in his first two and a half appearances in a Bayern shirt. While he obviously needs time to adapt to a new environment, he has been quite solid in his defending (including a crucial clearance against Gladbach) and has shown he’s also capable of pinging some good long balls as well. While he probably won’t be starting when Kim and Upamecano return, given he’s only here on loan, it could end up being a smart bit of business.
As for Boey, he played only about 30 minutes against Gladbach for his debut and showed the sort of things we saw him do against us in the Champions League: play with physicality, eager to move forward and good composure in defense. I’m very intrigued to see how he will stack up against Mazraoui who played brilliantly on Saturday but who hasn’t always been the most consistent so far.
Finally, with the injury to Coman, and Gnabry only slowly making his way back, bringing Zaragoza early was a no-brainer. That being said, I’m not sure how much he’ll play right away given the importance of the upcoming games and the players who are ahead of him in the pecking order but I’m excited to see how he’ll fare.
Pepe: Dier: Seems like a solid, reliable CB. It’s evident he is very slow (unlike Upamecano and Kim), so he will require more assistance from the fullbacks and DM, but I think, again, as a 4th CB he is good enough. He also seems very confident on the ball and his positioning is good, he will be useful for the current injury situation, and for rotations.
Boey: I liked him in the Galatasaray games in the UCL, and based on his stats I think he will be better than Mazraoui on defense, but not as good as an attacking fullback. If Bayern wanted a more defensive RB, he is the man for it, more similar to what Pavard brought to the team. Against Gladbach he mostly stayed back to help in the defensive phase, so I still have to see how he performs when asked to assist more in possession and attack.
Zaragoza: I can’t really tell if it’s a good signing or not. Granada is fighting for relegation and Bayern for the title, the expectations for wingers are different in both clubs, so I still have to see how he does in a Bayern shirt, as replacing Coman is no easy task. Many fans think Coman was not performing well recently, but throughout this season he’s played as a LW, RW, and even RWB in a situational back 5. I don’t know if Zaragoza can do all of that, but he will surely get the chance with the recent string of injuries. I can’t remember such a short winger (he is 1.64m tall) playing for Bayern (maybe Shaqiri?), and with the physicality the Bundesliga demands from attackers, I have doubts whether he will be able to secure a starting place.
Marc: I I like the Dier pick up as a fourth choice center back. For me, he’s already provided enough value to warrant his signing and realistically once Kim and Upamecano are back, he has very little chance of playing so bringing in an older player who is willing to accept that situation was important.
Boey fills a need and should push Mazraoui for a starting position in the squad. While I have not seen enough of him to fully judge at this point, by all accounts he is strong defensively and should bring a physicality that will be beneficial.
I’m mostly with Pepe on Zaragoza. The timing of this signing was clearly a necessity due to the Coman and Gnabry injuries. I am very interested to see him play to be honest. His size is an obvious red flag but Zaragoza also has experience playing at a high level and presumably has had to deal with physicality in the past. For the time being, I will trust Freund’s assessment but I don’t expect he’s likely to see a ton of time, especially once Coman and Gnabry return.
Lok San: It’s a difficult one as it’s going to depend on which players are extended and which ones are expected to leave. As it stands, in defense, with the return of Stanisic, and barring any departure, there are no obvious gaps to fill.
Moving into midfield, the question of the double pivot has to be addressed. To me, there’s no question as to the individual quality of either Kimmich or Goretzka, but we have seen far too many times now that, as a unit, they do not perform to the level expected of them. The emergence of Pavlovic could potentially reshuffle the cards in that regard. While we shouldn’t rush his development, including him in our vision moving forward does make a lot of sense. The Palhinha option seems pretty much off the table but recurring rumors suggest a strong interest in Martin Zubimendi, whose qualities could very well improve the team. That would probably mean at least one departure in the current midfield personnel.
In attack, Choupo-Moting will be out of contract; there are also doubts about Gnabry, given his mostly underwhelming performances. Coman is still under contract until 2027 but should he be sold, he would have to be replaced. With the arrival of Zaragoza and other promising youngsters, it is perhaps not the most pressing concern. That being said, if Tel is planned as a more of a winger then a backup for Kane could (should) be on the cards. There’s also the obvious target that is Florian Wirtz. Whether we want to bring him to Munich this summer already to prepare for Müller’s succession remains to be seen.
Pepe: I still think Bayern should sign a defensive midfielder, if anything, to compete with Kimmich and Goretzka. That should be the priority. For me that double pivot pair is no longer as reliable as it was. There are no elite clubs that don’t have at least two decent defensive midfielders. When Kimmich has missed matches the team has performed very well, to the point his absences have been almost unnoticeable, which is very revealing considering he earns nearly 400K a week, and is being replaced by a player just brought up from the youth squad.
Goretzka, in my opinion, doesn’t contribute much to the team, as a box to box midfielder he is not very good at carrying the ball or passing, which I think should be the main attributes for a midfielder on the elite level, and with Kane’s presence along with Musiala, Müller and Sané occupying the halfspaces in the attack, he doesn’t really make much of a difference. He is not really necessary, and his wages are very high, so he could be replaced by more efficient players. If the double pivot is completely restructured I wouldn’t mind as a fan, but also, I think it would send a message to the rest of the squad that no one is irreplaceable and they should earn their spots on the starting XI.
Another signing I think should be prioritized is a LB, since it seems Davies’ demands are too high, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave for Real Madrid. Davies is very good but I don’t think a fullback should be the highest earner in the squad, and while he has lots of pace, I think his level has stagnated, it’s been 4 years now since the 2020 sextuple, I don’t think his game has evolved, and while he offers sheer pace, he hasn’t improved much in terms of decision making, passing, or defending, which are important attributes for a fullback.
So, in conclusion, Bayern needs a defensive midfielder and a left back, other than that, the squad has great players almost in every position, so to strengthen the squad, besides those two signings, players that contribute to squad depth and can be trusted to play as substitutes for injuries and rotations would be enough, at least for the next season.
Marc: Obviously much will depend on who departs. As Pepe alluded to, there have been tons of rumors about Davies leaving, which would require a new left back. The midfield situation will for sure need to be addressed.
Barring a massive resurgence from Goretzka, I think it might be time to bid him farewell. He’s a good player but does not fit in with this team. The people advocating for replacing Kimmich have let their emotions get the best of them in my opinion, so if they can bring a good on ball defensive midfielder, Kimmich, Pavlović and Laimer with that player should be enough.
I suspect that they may end up selling one of the current wingers. I tend to think that it might be Gnabry and that will require a replacement as well, unless Tuchel wants to switch things up.
Bonus: As Thomas Müller said, all of German football can look forward to the Topspiel against Leverkusen at the BayArena on Saturday. This is arguably the most important game in the title race, with only two points separating the teams. Leverkusen are still unbeaten across all competitions this season. On matchday 4, when Leverkusen came to Munich, the game ended in a 2-2 draw. What are your predictions and how do you feel about this game?
Lok San: I’m cautiously optimistic. The overall performance against Gladbach was much better than what I’ve seen recently. The nature of Leverkusen’s style should also make the game much more open and hopefully we can take advantage of that. I expect that they’ll create some good chances. We have to go all out for it. I would say a narrow 1-2 win for us.
Pepe: Leverkusen got lucky in the first match against Bayern, with a very fortunate penalty in the last minutes. Bayern was better that game. Now, Bayern is much more solid tactically, better in defense, and Leverkusen is missing their main striker (Boniface).
I think for this match both Alonso and Tuchel will do lots of risk management in terms of squad selection and tactics, and since Leverkusen’s most dangerous players are Grimaldo and Wirtz, leading in the assists department, Bayern should really look to be solid defensively on the right flank, with the fullbacks and wingers doing lots of tracking back.
Even if this becomes a defensive match by Bayern, I think that will be the correct approach, to let Leverkusen leave gaps in the backline and try to exploit those chances with Sané and Musiala’s pace and dribbling. In my opinion, even with all the injuries, Bayern has a better team and should be able to win this one, I doubt it will end in a 1-0 (either way) so a 2-1 for Bayern, or a 3-2 if the game really opens up, seems like a reasonable result to expect.
Marc: I’m not as optimistic as my colleagues here. Historically, I would be on their side since usually when Bayern need a performance against their title rivals, they have come out and made a statement. I’m not sure this team has it in them. I haven’t seen it so far if they do.
However, I also think that Leverkusen could be at the start of a rough patch as well. It would be miraculous for them to play out this entire season at the level they have so far. Moreover, I don’t think either side is in particularly great or bad form at the moment. For all those reasons coupled with neither side wanting to lose ground in this match, my prediction is another 2-2 draw.