MIASANROT-AWARDS 2021/2022: FC BAYERN UNFULFILLED PROMISE OF THE SEASON
Let’s be honest: even though Bayern won the championship for the tenth time in a row, it was a disappointing, unfulfilling season. The list of candidates for unfulfilled promises is correspondingly long. Is it a single player? If so, Marcel Sabitzer leaps to mind, as weak as all his games were almost without exception. The young Frenchmen Tanguy Nianzou and Dayot Upamecano are also candidates. Both defenders could not make up for the departures of David Alaba and Jérôme Boateng. In general, this shows that the past transfer window was also a huge disappointment for FC Bayern. And who are the people orchestrating Bayern’s transfers? Hasan Salihamidžić and Oliver Kahn. Both disappointments as well. Ultimately, you could just as well nominate the entire team. After all, they were the ones who seemed to throw in the towel below par in the DFB-Pokal and Champions League.
Yes, the there were certainly many options to choose from, but in the end we didn’t like to be quite so diffuse in our ruling and decided on just one player. Dayot Upamecano made the running.
In order to be able to disappoint, there must first be expectations. For Upamecano in particular, these had to be high on the part of the club, because unlike Marcel Sabitzer for example, the young Frenchman got his minutes of play all season, accumulating over 3,000 in total. That is the fifth most in the squad and more than any other defender. But Upamecano was signed for more than just making the minutes.
He came to replace David Alaba. He came to make his sporadic world class displays at Leipzig the rule and establish himself among the world’s best defenders. He came to become indispensable in the French national team. He came as a top shelf solution for a lot of money (even though his partner Hernández cost more than twice as much).
He failed to live up to any of these expectations. Cast your mind back to the summer before Upamecano’s move to Bayern. At that time, he was already considered world class. He was the hottest young centre-back on the market, shut down Atletico’s offensive with graceful athleticism, and led his team to the Champions League semi-finals. International praise duly ensued.
In the shirt of FC Bayern, however, slapstick was all too often the order of the day. He seemed constantly out of his depth, unable to take any kind of lead. He moved out when he had better maintained position and went for the tackle when covering would have been better. Upamecano made mistakes that were last seen in Munich from the very young Boateng. But even then they were not present in such numbers.
Lowlights were the games against Mönchengladbach and VfL Bochum in the DFB-Pokal and the league. In both games he directly caused goals against with the most horrible mistakes and finally had to be rescued by his coach subbing him off quickly. He did not at all look like the newcomer he actually was: a seasoned regular of a long-time competitor.
Rather than improving, Upamecano experienced a clear decline during the season. In the round of 16 against his former club Salzburg, he only played half an hour, and by now he and the French national team are located in different universes. Instead, his former Leipzig partner Konaté was nominated for the Nations League games this summer. The fact that his predecessor David Alaba is having the time of his life with Real Madrid, to the media’s delight, puts the cherry on top of the cake.
But there is still hope for Upamecano. He started in both quarter-finals of the Champions League. Admittedly, in Spain he confirmed his poor form, but in the newly formed three-man backline he showed a very much improved performance in the second leg. In the Bundesliga, he managed to stabilize at a solid level towards the end of the season. Most pleasing for him, however, are the current transfer speculations. The club has already signed a new number eight and a right-back, and the signing of Mané is imminent and there is speculation about other offensive players, but there is no talking about the centre-back position. After a season like this, FC Bayern could well have been expected to bring in a new defender for big money, but the club’s faith in the young Frenchman does not seem to be lost yet.
Dayot Upamecano, but also Tanguy Nianzou will be given a new chance come next season. There is no need to be under any illusion however, the next will be a make-or-break season especially for Upamecano. Will the weight of the Bayern shirt continue to weigh heavily on the defender’s shoulders, then by next summer at the latest, expensive new defenders will be waiting in the wings. His own aspirations and ambitions still seem to be alive, he still seems intent on turning things around. For now, however, he remains an unfulfilled promise.