MIASANROT Roundtable: Mailbag July 2019

Marc Separator July 29, 2019

Joining me this month is special guest author Mark Cilia Vincenti from the Bayern Forum and Miasanrot’s Georg, Katrin and Rick.

Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Question 1

The first question comes from @andiminga on twitter: How much of a gamble is it to go into the season with the current squad, especially given the history of long-term injuries in the past (ie Coman and Tolisso)?

Rick: Resources are thin in many areas, and it is fair to say that we are just a couple of bad injuries away from a potential crisis. But then, this has been the case for a good while now. Defensively, the exit of Mats Hummels has created an issue none of us had been expecting. True, we have the two new signings, but Lucas Hernandez has had recent fitness issues and old hand Jérôme Boateng is not a viable mid- to long-term option.

Further up the pitch, the retirement of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben have left a void, but one that can be filled. Serge Gnabry will have to have an injury-free season, and Kingsley Coman also needs to keep the doctor away – easier said than done for a player who has spent far too much time on the treatment table. Personally, I would see this as the perfect opportunity to invest in Alphonso Davies.

Do we also need a back-up for Robert Lewandowski? Probably, as I am not sure if Fiete Arp is the finished article yet. Of course, to fine-tune the youngster, the plan should be to rotate a little more. That may not go down too well with Lewy.

Mark: Very big. A number of prominent people, including players, have also expressed their concern at the current squad size. Some three weeks ago I made comparisons with other Bundesliga clubs and Champions League clubs. The discrepancy is worrying, to say the least, especially when one keeps in mind that we have some injury-prone players, not just the ones you mentioned, but Alaba, Javi and Boateng have missed their fair share of matches recently too, while Thiago had an uncharacteristically and relatively injury-free season. On the plus side, almost all the outfield players can play at least 2 positions.

The situation should theoretically open the door for youth players to come through but one can’t fail to question the logic of allowing the departures of Friedl, Meier, Evina and Jeong this Summer, amongst others. These are players who played for or were on the brink of playing for the senior team in the past.

Georg: Planning with the current slim squad would be risky, but I am sure the club is not done yet with its shopping spree. Regarding the targeted size of the squad one should bear in mind that in the first season under Kovač, it took only 17 outfield players to cover 99% of the available minutes. The season before that 17 outfield players accounted for 95% of the team’s minutes. In this context it is understandable that the Club Management is eager to avoid an inflated squad size. 

Katrin: I’ll make this short and sweet: I think it’s a very big gamble and I’d certainly sleep better at night if we had already announced a few more signings.

Marc: It is obviously a gamble. The points made above are all valid. Realistically we all have a pretty good idea who will start in big games already unless someone like Sane comes in. What you can offer those new players begins to be an issue when there is no clearly available roles/minutes.

That being said, there are still some positions that are questionable. I am personally of the opinion that we are relying on far too many players being multi-position players. Apart from Süle and Lewandowski, there are no other players in the squad that are not an alternative to another position. While that versatility is not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to problems if you start to use that as an excuse for not needing more players.

The wide attack is obviously the most glaring issue. With the injury history of Coman and complete inexperience of Davies, we are heading into the season far too thin out wide. Even Gnabry has some questions in regard to both durability and reliability as he has really only had one good season. The next wide options are Müller and Arp and I think we can all agree that this less than ideal.

Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Question 2

Our second question comes from both @Sam54707607 & @agoroaga on twitter: In recent days Bayern have been linked to both Roca and Lo Celso. Given how reliant they were on Thiago last season, how vital is it for Bayern to sign a new midfielder?

Rick: I actually think we have plenty of decent options in the defensive midfield. I want to see Leon Goretzka get more playing time than he did last season, and Thiago was and remains one of our brightest sparks. A fit-again Tolisso and the dependable (and massively underrated) Javi Martinez complete a world-class quartet.

There is, however, a need to bolster the attacking unit, particularly following the departure of James. I will be honest in saying that I do not know much about Roca or Lo Celso, if just because I have no interest whatsoever in La Liga.

Mark: Bayern already have a number of players who feel most comfortable in the central midfield position, but not many who are primarily attacking midfielders or defensive midfielders. Roca is of the latter mold. Lo Celso, unfortunately, is more of the former, having played most of his matches in the central midfield position despite sometimes being fielded further upfield. I don’t think Lo Celso is a plan C behind the failed transfer of Rodri and the plan B (Roca) because they are not very similar players. Given that Javi is earmarked as a potential backup for central defense, it would be good to have another number six in the squad, but on the other hand we are lacking in terms of players who are primarily attacking midfielders after the departure of James.

Georg: I agree with Mark. Lo Celso is a very talented player, but he would compete with Goretzka and Tolisso for the central, partly box-to-box role. Given the slim squad that would be a waste of talent. A player like Roca – I have not seen him very often, but I read he plays Busquets-type football – would be a very good addition to the midfield. Currently the Bavarians are too dependent on Thiago.

Katrin: No Thiago, no party – Bayern is very dependent on Thiago and therefore signing a new midfielder would definitely be a good addition to the team. Having said that, I am still a big fan of Javi, and he has proven over the last season that we can always count on him when he’s needed. He has shown some of his best performances recently in “big games”, and even though he’s not the youngest anymore, I do believe that he’s still capable of performing at the top level.

Marc: For me this question depends on what the perceived role of Kimmich is this season. There is always grumbling about moving Kimmich to a six, even more so with the signing of Pavard. If that happens, there is not a huge need to sign another defensively suited midfielder to complement Thiago. If however Kimmich were to remain a RB, as I think many of us would prefer, things start to look more dicey.

The other midfielders in the squad apart from Javi (i.e. Goretzka, Tolisso, Sanches…etc), are without question box-to-box midfielders that lean more towards attack than defense and ball control. If Kovac is planning a double pivot again this season, this is not a stable enough core to operate against high quality opposition. If he changes his tactics and formations, then perhaps we can thrive with a squad of classic eights. Without more information, it is hard to ascertain the exact needs of the squad at this time.

Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Question 3

The third question comes via @me_unplugged20 and @agoroaga: How do you see Arp fitting into this team? Are he and Lewandowski enough up top?

Rick: I alluded to this in my answer to the first question; I see Arp as a work in progress, and while the youngster clearly has the talent and potential to take some serious career steps in Munich, the leap from playing for a weak HSV in the 2. Bundesliga to FC Bayern is a big one. No, scratch that – a massive one.

The youngster needs to be given proper opportunities to develop at the highest level. This means his not being reduced to a bit-part role. To put it bluntly, starting in early-stage cup matches, dead Champions League games or against FC Paderborn 07 is not going to cut it. The issue with this is that Lewandowski may need to be benched more often than he would like, which opens up a familiar can of worms. Can we play both? Is the coach willing to shake things up and try something different?

Mark: I think the pressure on Arp is big. He’s been handed a big contract at the biggest club in Germany so there’s a level of expectation. He’s done well in the pre-season friendlies so far, but one needs to take everything into perspective: last season he was sometimes watching from the stands for 2nd division club Hamburger SV. Whether he can step up to be a reliable backup to one of the world’s best strikers remains to be seen but it certainly won’t be an easy task for him.

Lewandowski’s fitness, on the other hand, is well known to Bayern fans. He’s not injury prone and he can handle playing a big number of matches in a season. If he keeps this up, the pair (plus Mueller) should be enough up top, but obviously there’s an element of risk. Personally, there are other areas of the pitch which I find more concerning.

Georg: When I analysed Bayern’s ICC match against Milan, I concluded that “it is still a long way for Arp”. He is very young and lacking professional experience. And yet I like him being Robert’s back-up, a position in the squad that is very difficult to fill. Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world, and his stamina, fitness and ambition allow him to play almost every game. To back him up, you either go for the experienced second tier striker (Wagner, Pizarro) or you go for talent. With Arp (and Zirkzee), Bayern has chosen talent. I endorse the decision. 

Katrin: I don’t think we should expect too much from Arp this season. He’s surely a big talent but he’s still young and needs to learn a lot. I like what I have seen so far, especially where his attitude and work ethic is concerned, but it’s crucial to give him enough time to adjust and grow. Lewandowski, on the other hand, is still one of the best strikers out there, so I can definitely see Arp becoming an important part of the team, given his potential, but he’ll need time.

Marc: I am in agreement with Georg here. When you have a striker like Lewandowski who is clearly one of the top five strikers in the world, it is nearly impossible to bring in another pure striker who is not either beginning or ending their careers. Established players want and need playing time and Bayern don’t have that to offer.

Realistically, Arp will not be Lewandowski’s true backup this season. If Lewy has an injury issue, Müller and Gnabry are the most likely candidates to fill in for big games. In a pinch Coman can even play up top. However, I do think it would be good to get Arp as much real time as possible this season. Lewandowski at some point is going to have to learn to take a few games off in the season. Maybe this is that time.

Image: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images)

Question 4

Our fourth question comes from @agoroaga on twitter: If Bayern fail to sign Odoi, should they try to sign another young winger and Sané or is Sané enough on his own?

Rick: The Hudson-Odoi thing is dead in the water, if reports of his signing an extension at Chelsea are to be believed. As for the Sané saga, it is a story that has frankly made me want to switch off. There appears to be little enthusiasm from the player himself – unless he is keeping a very tight lid on things – and the constant media shenanigans have been wearing to say the least. I pity those Bayern fans who have been obsessing about this all summer.

I have said it before, but I am not a fan of Sané. I just do not believe that he would be the right sort of fit at Bayern.

With Robbéry finally saying farewell, the time has come to look at the two players lined up as their natural successors. Gnabry was one of the players of last season, and Coman looks – hopefully – to have turned the corner. Then we have young Davies, who I want to see a lot more of this season.

There will always be a gamble. If one or more of these players break down, every critic will bring this topic up again. But if we do end up signing someone like Sané, there will be at least one player – probably Davies – who will be left rotting on the bench. It will probably end with his being loaned off to Schalke, or something.

Mark: Hudson-Odoi, as per multiple reports, is on the verge of a contract extension while nursing one of the worst injuries a sportsman can suffer. The chances that he ever becomes a Bayern player seem to grow smaller and smaller. Bayern already have a young winger in Davies and have just offloaded Jeong. I don’t think it’s very likely that Bayern sign two wingers in this window, despite having lost two legendary wingers.

Georg: Latest news is that Hudson-Odoi is set to sign a contract extension at Chelsea. While his talent would have made him a reasonable target, the economics of a potential deal could have been challenging anyway. The current incumbents Gnabry and Coman both are very young, as would be Sané if signed. Davies, despite Kovač’s idea to test him as left back, would be another young player for a potential wing role. So I don’t think age is a concern on the wings, it is depth that matters. Do the Bavarians need more wingers? Yes. Do they need young players? No. 

Katrin: If Bayern manages to sign Sané (and I truly hope that they do!), this would be a major success. Would it be enough? Probably not, as I agree with Georg, that the wingers we currently have in the squad – including Sané, if he should transfer to Bayern – are still quite young and don’t have the maturity and depth of a Robben or Ribery. At the same time, it would give them a chance to step up and take their game to the next level.

Marc: I think we all agree that Odoi is not happening. I also have serious questions on whether I think Sané will happen but I’ll play along and say we get him. I think it is still questionable whether he alone is truly sufficient but they can probably make it work with just him.

I think the thing people are overlooking, probably willfully, is that it’s very likely that Müller sees significant time out wide this season. Based on what has happened so far, the most logical conclusion is that the club is planning the season with that in mind. Davies, in my opinion, has a long way to go before he is a viable option against higher quality teams. No matter what though, Bayern have to sign at least one more quality winger this transfer period in order to be competitive at the highest level.

Image: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Question 5

What will be the biggest impact of Uli Hoeness’s impending retirement? In what ways will this be good and bad for the club?

Rick: As far as the heart and soul of the club is concerned, the impact will be huge. Uli Hoeneß is FC Bayern München, and has been influential in managing not just a successful football club but also a successful and well-run business. He may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I have always been a massive supporter. He will be missed, even by those who may have been among his biggest critics.

Given that I am a self-confessed “Kartoffel”, I am slightly biased; I am finding it hard to see how Uli’s departure could be “good” for the club. Pushing the boat out a bit, one could argue that a less conservative approach to player purchases could turn into a good thing. But it could also be a massive risk. Uli’s tight-ship management has allowed Bayern to stand apart from the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and the Premier League moneybags; tweaking that approach could be a good thing, but it could also precipitate a meltdown if too many strategic changes are made too soon.

The biggest impact of Uli’s departure will be the commensurate drop in Mia san Mia. The idea of his being replaced by a bland – if potentially more competent – business operative is not exactly inspiring. Uli has always brought heart and passion to the club, even if he may have rubbed some people up the wrong way at times.

Mark: The biggest impact, in my opinion, will be in terms of risk-taking. Uli, for all his great work, has always held back with taking risks. Sometimes that works in your way, but these methods are looking outdated year after year. It is great to have him replaced by someone renowned for dealing with business rather than a former footballer. We might start seeing some risks being taken in the future, that some fans might not necessarily agree with, but which seem evermore like a necessary evil in the modern game, such as taking loans to fund players and split the cost of a player over a number of years. It is no longer realistic to sign top players without breaking the bank.

The bad part of losing Uli is that he is the heart of this club. The man breathes and lives FC Bayern and his replacement is unlikely to embody this club and fill Uli’s shoes in this respect.

Georg: On the one hand the announcement was very surprising. On the other hand it was clear that Hoeneß (and Rummenigge) would have to pass on the reign of power sooner or later. It is very difficult to anticipate the consequences for the club. Hoeneß’ passion for the club, the players and all employees will be missed.

Katrin: I was very surprised when I heard the news because honestly I didn’t think that Uli would actually make this decision at this point. Over the past couple of years I have often thought that it’s time for a change of the guards because at some point, every club needs new and fresh ideas and (younger) people to carry on. At the same time, Uli is the glue that holds the club together, and he has worked very hard to turn Bayern into the successful club it is now and has been for decades. It will be almost impossible to find someone as dedicated and passionate about Bayern as he is. 

Marc: I think everyone has made the point that Hoeneß’s passion and familial attitude will be the most missed aspects of his reign. These qualities have long defined not only Uli but also Bayern and the Mia San Mia approach that has been so successful in the past. As Rick mentioned, even the most hardened Uli dissenters over the last few years recognize that Uli has had a long standing positive impact on the club.

To me the biggest area that could benefit from the transition also comes as a result of Uli’s strengths. While I think we can all appreciate that the club has become a big family, perhaps it has become too focused on that in recent years. Nearly every appointment throughout every level of the club has been “inside the Bayern family.” This hiring policy, in my opinion, has resulted in a lack of fresh ideas, missing out on potentially better qualified candidates and losing promising talents. Bringing in new voices with fresh ideas could help bring new life to the club.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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