Newcomer of the year 2016: Joshua Kimmich

22nd of January 2016, the second half of the season kicks off in Hamburg: FC Bayern is heading into the last run under the Guardiola era. In the 56th minute Jérôme Boateng is limping to the locker room, which puts big question marks in the faces of fans and club officials. Who should replace the seasoned leader of the defence? Author: Justin • Translator: Michael

Medhi Benatia was out until the middle of February at that point and wasn’t known for being overly injury resistant. At first, the solution consisted of Badstuber, Martínez, and the newly acquired Serdar Tasci, who arrived as an emergency purchase by the record champion. This didn’t work very long. While Martínez got badly injured at the end of January, Badstuber followed his path in the middle of February. Both were side-lined for quite some time.

Guardiola fielded Alaba at centre-back several times before and a lot of things suggested, that the Austrian and Tasci would form the new central defence. However, Pep Guardiola pulled the “Newcomer of the Year 2016“ out of his sleeve.

Our Newcomer of the Year 2016: Joshua Kimmich.
(Images (left to right): Alex Grimm / Bongarts / Getty Images; Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images; Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images)

Kimmich surprises everyone

The Catalan raised several question marks with this decision. In our blog we concluded, that the skill set of the 21-year old could fit quite well into Guardiola’s system. Exactly that happened.

On the 31st of January he debuted at centre-back in the 2-0 win against Hoffenheim. Followed by ten more unbeaten appearances in the Bundesliga in this position, where he got the perfect support from his teammates in positional play. He repeatedly and humbly emphasised, that only in that system he’s a got fit as a central defender. Kimmich was still the right man at the right time. He convinced.

In those 11 Bundesliga matches Bayern only conceded four goals. Only two games ended as a draw, the rest was won. The record champion also suffered the only loss in the second half of the Bundesliga season against Mainz – when Kimmich didn’t play.

In the Champions League, Bayern’s Boateng replacement played convincingly, too. Four appearances as a centre-back, no loss and advancing to the next round twice. Juventus and Benfica exposed, that Kimmich and Alaba have their weaknesses, but both still dealt with the new challenge very well.

Kimmich jumps higher and wins his aerial duel against header specialist Mandzukic.
(Image: Matthias Hangst / Bongarts / Getty Images)

A highlight in the cup final

When Bayern and BVB play each other, there’s often high-quality football on display. The DFB Pokal final was one of the weaker duels in the recent past, however.

If you had to pick one player from the Bayern team who stood out, you could mention Joshua Kimmich. He pushed Reus into despair, won 73% of his tackles, completed 87 of his 100 passes and was always a refreshing element in the build-up play. We cast a veil of silence over his penalty here.

With that game, Kimmich capped off a season that deserves huge respect. He was responsible for rescuing a season that was on the brink of collapsing due to a lot of injuries.

European Championship full of highs and lows

One rarely noticed that he’s not an experienced world-class player, who’s been playing on an international level for several years. Possibly just in Turin, towards the end of the game when he realised, that he’s not Jérôme Boateng. Other than that? Barely any mistakes.

As a reward he became a German international this year. In the summer he made his way to the European Championship. Kimmich delivered there as well and demonstrated all of his talents in a position he had rarely played before.

As a right-back he played well against Slovakia and did so for the majority of the game against Italy, too. Not only, because he dispatched his penalty under immense pressure.

In the duel against the Squadra Azzurra, but especially in the semi-final against France, it became obvious – the 21-year old still has some way to go.

Against the ball he was caught on the wrong foot a few times. Minor individual mistakes, like the ones against France, revealed his development potential.

Despite, or probably because of those mistakes, the European Championship was a great experience for him.

Restart under Ancelotti

On his return to Munich a new manager was waiting for him. A lot of people asked themselves, what’ll happen with Kimmich now. The relationship between him and the former manager Guardiola was special.

When Alexander Zorniger mentioned in a press conference, that Kimmich would get more minutes in Stuttgart, Guardiola replied: “No, he’s staying here. Joshua Kimmich is nearly my son.“

Admittedly: The Catalan has praised many players before, but you could really believe this one. This was shown in the expectations the manager had for his player. They were probably a little bit higher than for the rest of the team.

Symbolic for that is the emotional scene after the 0-0 in Dortmund, which was misinterpreted by many people.

In summer Ancelotti took over FC Bayern and to the question about Kimmich’s future, the 21-year old responded with seven goals in just two months. He scored them in 11 fixtures – between the start of September and the end of October.

Mostly he convinced as a central midfielder, who showed good understanding for the poorly occupied playmaker space (zone 14). Joshua Kimmich was another saviour for the coach of some kind, because it took Ancelotti a long time to find the right system. One could rely on the 21-year old once more.

Difficult ending and open future

Towards the end of the year there were hardly any injuries. Thus massively decreasing Kimmich’s game time. Although Alonso and Vidal didn’t always perform well, the German international found himself on the bench again.

In the current half of the season he played 1,147 minutes (11th most in the squad). Added together with the 1,640 from the past second half of the season, this is a superb figure for a 21-year old. In the whole year he played in five different positions.

Kimmich’s playing minutes for FC Bayern were distributed over five positions in 2016.
(Visual: Michael Böck)

Joshua Kimmich is a big promise for the future. In which position is yet to be decided, however. He played well as a partner for a creative teammate (Thiago) in the centre, as well as right-back.

He can always do a job as stand-in centre-back. In the long run, his future is most promising in midfield. He was most consistent and had his best games there.

On the right flank he’d be a legitimate successor for Philipp Lahm and thus making him a solution for both FC Bayern’s and the national team’s problem.

Kimmich combines attributes of great players

In whatever position Kimmich will become established, it already looms, that Kimmich will be one of the faces of the record champion from 2018 on.

He’s not only one of the fan favourites and displays some good performances; he also combines attributes of great players. How calm and collected the 21-year old was in his first big games, is extremely impressive.

In midfield he’s similar to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was everywhere on the pitch in his best days. Even the mentality and will Kimmich is showing at his age are reminiscent of the former Bayern player.

On the right side he resembles Philipp Lahm in possession to a certain extent. Clever passing, thoughtful going forward and consistently trying to help out a teammate with a smart run off the ball. He could’ve taken some of the diagonal runs from the captain, too.

Nevertheless, Kimmich is confident and talented enough to make his own path and could cause that in the far future players might be compared to him.

Until then there are still several games and a lot of titles to be won. He’s got one of the most important ones this year, because he’s our Newcomer of the Year and is securing his first Miasanrot award. Congratulations, Joshua Kimmich. Hopefully a lot more will follow.

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