Miasanrot Roundtable: Mailbag March 2019
Our first question comes from @michaelhaverkamp on twitter: “What do you make of “the biggest investments ever made” Hoeneß announced? What is big spending for Bayern is just another transfer window for CL competitors. Do you think Bayern can outsmart the other clubs in terms of recruitment with the current management in place?”
Juan Pablo: In the past, Bayern have shown that large sums of money don’t necessarily mean getting the best players. While we as Bayern fans usually take pride in the club’s largest transfer fee being a fraction of the world record, I do think there has to be a change in that respect. The market has become inflated beyond recognition of its state in 2013, when a €100m signing was unheard of. Still, Bayern are unlikely to go for the really massive numbers. When they say they’ll make “the biggest investments ever made”, they’re still talking in terms of their own history.
In that respect, I think it is a good thing that Bayern have finally realised that being frugal means a wholly different thing than they’re used to. I don’t want to see them break the bank – that is by no means a guarantee of success – but they will have to up the ante significantly if they want to compete for some of the best realised talents available. The reported signing of Lucas Hernández is a decidedly big step in that direction.
As far as recruitment strategies go, the integral approach is the best. There has to be a balance between three things: getting raw talent and developing it (what they are aiming for with Alphonso Davies), being decisive in spotting made players who can give the team a jump in quality immediately (Benjamin Pavard) and nurturing the youth ranks to produce players who will be decisive in the senior squad. Bayern are sorely lacking in that last aspect, with players like Lars Lukas Mai and Christian Früchtl not being afforded a big enough opportunity to break clean into the first team. Striking that balance is hard and there is no one way to do it, but it is clear that it needs to be improved. And with the biggest names in Europe having significantly improved their transfer policies, Bayern have some catching up to do.
Tobias: Bayern will invest a lot of money in new players to continue rebuilding their team. With Pavard and maybe Lucas Hernandez they already spent a lot of money on two defenders. But the team needs at least one winger and maybe a fullback or striker as a backup. In the last few transfer periods, Bayern made some smart signings with Goretzka or Gnabry and they will certainly need more of those. I´m not sure if they can outsmart the other big clubs simply because Barcelona, City, Liverpool or Real recruiting a lot of young players which they can develop. Bayern really has to be smart and able to identify talents which others do not see. The recruiting strategies of their competitors are really good, so it is going to be a challenge.
Rick: As Bayern fans, we have become accustomed to picking up bargains. It says something that in this crazy world of nine-figure transfer fees, Bayern’s record payment is the relatively modest €41.5m paid for Corentin Tolisso. This also means that Uli’s “biggest investments ever made” may still pale into comparison with the silly sums splashed out by the likes of moneybags Manchester City and PSG. Nevertheless, are already seeing this promise being seen through with the arrival of Pavard and the (hopefully) soon-to-be announced signing of Hernández.
As much as I want to see Bayern back to competing with the best, I have never believed in breaking the bank in the blind pursuit of short-term success. Big-money signings need to be well thought out and necessary, while there should always be a drive to recruit younger players and develop the academy. While the youth ranks may have not produced the quality spotted and honed by Louis van Gaal a decade ago, recent coaches have been guilty of not throwing their full support behind the youngsters. I am really hoping that Alphonso Davies becomes the benchmark for the club’s recruitment policy, and that the likes of Christian Früchtl, Jeong Woo-yeong and Lukas Mai are given more game time in the Bayern Trikot.
Marc: As everyone else has alluded to, this is all relative. If reports are true and there are agreements for both Pavard and Hernandez in place, they’re already dangerously close to Bayern’s largest ever investment. Let’s not forget that the option to buy James’s contract is also coming in the summer. If they were to pick up the James contract, that puts them around 160 million euros which, if the reports are true, only leave 40 million of that 200 million euros authorized.
I for one am struggling with all of the rumors surrounding Bayern at the moment. I think there are serious questions as to who will be the coach next season and what system we will play. Those questions seem important to answer before committing money to players. The defenders matter slightly less because the two mentioned are very versatile but what coach we proceed with and their vision of how we want to play will directly affect who they should be in the market for.
In terms of outsmarting the rest of Europe, that is a risky proposition. Sometimes these things work out, sometimes they don’t. That being said, in any economy there are bargains to be had. Player’s become more or less expensive very quickly and finding someone, that may have had a down year due to extraneous factors is something that Bayern, as a more modest club, has to be in the market for. Bayern are not likely to top the list of spenders in Europe, but they do have to start adjusting what their threshold is to a more manageable level in order to compete.
Our next question comes from @fcblogin on twitter. “What do you make of the following statement? “Alphonso Davies has the pace to join the attack, the technical ability to tie opposition players in knots and the instinct to create overloads in the final third; while his speed, married with willingness to recover position and make tackles, is of equal importance defensively.” What are your overall impressions of Davies so far?”
Juan Pablo: The statement seems more an idealised description of Davies’ virtues than something anchored in reality. I like Davies, and I also think he needs time. His performance against Wolfsburg offered glimpses of those virtues, and he seems to have the will and the mindset to do the legwork and build a reputation for himself. Heaping indiscriminate praise upon a player with such a long way to go only builds pressure and cuts down the necessary time for development. Davies is looking to be a very good player for the future day by day, but it is still early to be talking about him like he’s Lionel Messi.
Tobias: Alphonso Davies has a lot of talent. He is intelligent, fast and technically gifted. But, the step from the US to Germany is a big one. Therefore, he needs time to adjust and a coach who trusts him and gives him playing time regularly. I think we shouldn´t expect too much from him next season. He is a young player and putting too much pressure won´t help his development. The example of Renato Sanches should be a warning that we can´t expect too much from young players.
Rick: Until his half hour or so against Mainz, Davies had only managed 25 minutes in four short bursts off the bench. We only have highlights of his achievements in the MLS to feed off, but he has provided some tasty little morsels so far. The talent is definitely there, and the mission should be to give him the experience he needs while not expecting too much too soon. It is easy to underestimate the leap in quality between the MLS and the Bundesliga, even humdrum outings against the likes of Hannover and Nürnberg.
That said, his Mainz cameo was more than encouraging. It was not just the matter of his scoring his first senior goal for Bayern, but the way how he did it. No hesitation, just stepping up and smashing it home. I do still wonder why he wasn’t given a shot late on against Liverpool, when the team had nothing to lose.
Marc: I think that statement is mostly true. He’s obviously very fast and seems to have pretty good instincts. The part I struggle with is the “technical ability to tie opposition players in knots” bit. He has at times shown skill in takeons going back to his MLS days but they are inconsistent and most of the time he is relying on his speed to dominate players. I think it’s in this area that he needs to improve the most. He’s athletically at a Bundesliga level but technically I think he’s closer to an MLS level. With hard work, proper coaching and playing time, he has the potential to develop into a very good player. Right now, I don’t think he is capable of being a regular contributor at a club like Bayern. A loan to a smaller Bundesliga club could be beneficial for him in the long term depending on who Munich brings in this summer.
The third question comes from @me_unplugged20 on twitter. “The fanbase seems split about Werner, who most likely will be heading to Bayern. Do you think he would be a good signing. Why/why not? Do any of the other names being mentioned make more sense?”
Juan Pablo: Werner has proven in the national team that he is a one-trick pony. He had one very good season with Leipzig and has waned off since. Right now, he doesn’t remotely hold a candle to any of the players he would compete against for a spot at Bayern, namely Lewandowski and maybe Gnabry. I would halt any efforts to sign him and bring in someone like Luka Jović instead.
Tobias: I liked Werner one or two years ago because he occasionally showed the potential to become a striker who is not only fast but can also participate and connect with the midfielders. However, this season and also at the World Cup, Werner was simply a striker whose biggest strength is his pace. Against deep defensive blocks, he is more or less ineffective. For me, Werner is the wrong type of player in a Bayern system. Luka Jovic, for instance, could be a better choice or Julian Brandt if you want another winger who can also play in the centre.
Rick: I’ll be honest here. I have never really been a Werner fan. He has provided plenty of Kodak moments, but has never really managed this on a consistent level against high-quality opposition. He is not a striker, but a lightweight winger who can create and score goals. But even this is not enough for me: as a winger he has the speed, but lacks the strength of a Robben or Ribéry. When targeted by opposition defenders, he often disappears into the ether.
If we are looking for a striker, I would look for a stronger physical specimen with a tougher mental character, a Lewandowski Mk. II. If we are looking for a winger who can score goals, Tobias’s mention of Luka Jović gets me thinking. The Serb may not be as quick as Werner, but has strength and passion in spades.
If Bayern do sign Werner, I could see him heading off to Bremen or Schalke after one season.
Marc: I will play devil’s advocate here a bit given how everyone else has responded. I actually think Werner has enough skill to succeed in Munich. Let’s not forget that he will only be 24 years old next season. He can and should still be improving as a player. I also like the versatility that he offers as a winger and striker. In Munich, I would expect him to be more of a winger while providing back up for Lewandowski.
There is however a problem that nobody has mentioned and should be a consideration for player and club alike. Playing time. I don’t think that he would be a starter when everyone in Munich is healthy. Given his age, I can’t imagine he would be happy with that arrangement. Of course with the injury history at that position, he would likely still get plenty of playing time but how would he handle not being a starter in big games towards the end of the season?
The next question comes from @Sam54707607 on twitter.”In last month’s mailbag you (Dennis and Marc) said that Marco Rose would be an ideal replacement if Kovac was to leave. What makes you think that, how does his system fit better with the way Bayern plays? Who else might be considered?”
Tobias: Marco Rose is probably the most interesting option available in the summer. He evolved the RB-style and his Salzburg side can not only press well but has also a good structure in possession. Their positional play is well-executed and every player knows when and where they have to move. The combination of aggressive pressing and good positional play makes Salzburg one of the most complete teams in European football. At Bayern, Rose could improve the counter-pressing and the structure in possession. This would certainly improve Bayern and the players as well.
Rick: I will be honest again here. This is not really a question we should be entertaining right now, as it just feeds this idea that Niko Kovač is a dead man walking.
But yes, we can talk theory. Marco Rose has done some great work at Red Bull’s feeder outfit, but his experience at the highest level falls short even when compared to Kovač. A season in the amateur ranks at Lok, four years in charge of the Salzburg youth team, and a couple of senior years with the first team. If Bayern were to appoint such a coach, one can only imagine the hysteria from some sections of the fan base if things were not to go to plan.
A coach with Rose’s ideas and tactical nous could improve Bayern. But probably as an assistant, rather than being appointed to the senior post.
Juan Pablo: I agree with Rick on all points here. As far as I am concerned, Niko Kovač is keeping his job, barring any really dramatic and unforeseen circumstances. And while Rose is certainly doing a hell of job in Salzburg, he still lacks the credentials for a team like Bayern – even more so in the current situation.
Marc: Let me be clear, I don’t necessarily think that Kovač is a dead man walking. So much depends on the remainder of the season. We have three big Bundesliga matches, not to mention the Pokal, in the next few weeks that could very likely seal his fate one way or another. Good performances that keep us in both competitions could very well be enough to earn Kovač another chance. Poor performances where we drop out of one or both competitions will raise even more questions and could lead to his departure this summer.
With regards to Rose, the reasons for my endorsement of him were twofold. Firstly I think his system and tactics are more inline with how Bayern typically like to play. As Tobias alluded to, his sides tend to be much better at positional play and press the opposition well. Second, I like the idea of a young coach coming in with a revamped squad. Especially with some of the younger players in the side now, having a coach who can help them to grow as professionals could be very advantageous. Erik ten Hag is another coach who has been mentioned and makes some sense to me.
Our final question comes from @andiminga on twitter. “With the title race still close, how much time do you think the younger players will get? Compared to the previous seasons where we had nearly already won it in March or the beginning of April?”
Juan Pablo: Alas, I reckon Bayern’s elimination from the Champions League, coupled with Kovač ditching his rotation scheme, will afford the young players little to no chances from here until May. Only injuries or an incredibly favourable panorama in the league for the final matchdays could maybe turn this around. But in a squad where not even Renato Sanches is getting enough playing time, lads like Mai, Jeong or Früchtl haven’t got a prayer.
Tobias: I don´t think that the younger players will get any playing time. Since the streak of bad performances in autumn, Kovac completely stopped rotating. Even players like Sanches do not get any playing time. Due to the fact that they got eliminated in the Champions League, Bayern does not have that many games anymore. Furthermore, the players can rest during the week, so there is no reason for Kovac to rotate that often and in the end, even risk the title.
Rick: If the team continue to fire has they have done this past month, there will be opportunities. But this will be tend to be an “on the day, off the bench” thing, rather than any long-term plan. The coach appears to have settled with a core group, and is unlikely to deviate if the title race remains close. Of course, late season injuries could play a part in this.
Marc: If I could answer less than zero I would. Barring a plague outbreak or a total collapse by either Bayern or BVB, the youth players will not see the pitch for the senior team. Even players like Sanches and Davies are extremely unlikely to play any significant minutes down the stretch unless injuries force Kovač’s hand.