Round-Up: Player of the Month – February

Maurice Separator March 1, 2019

With a total of 570 minutes in February, the Stuttgart-born player had a total of 464 minutes on the pitch. It was only in the one defeat in the new calendar year against Leverkusen that he was not in the starting eleven. Otherwise the wing/forward seems to have found his place as a starter in Kovačs’ side.

Substitute cup hero in Berlin

Bayern played their first Pokal match of the season on a chilly Wednesday evening in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. In the past this may have been one of the games that Bayern would expect to win with ease. But in the current season under coach Kovač, fans are increasingly missing this relaxed view. The favourite from southern Germany seemed to be conquerable

Image: Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Image

This concern appeared to be validated when Mittelstädt took the lead early on. A sensational goal blew life into the venerable arena in Berlin. Was FC Bayern actually going to be beaten today?

However, Serge Gnabry entered this game with budding hope. The young German internationl did what he has done best since wearing Munich’s red jersey. After a ricochet, he took his chance and hammered it into the near corner. The Berlin goalkeeper Jarstein had no chance.

Bayern were back in the game and after the break Gnabry yet again added to the score. A beautiful combination with Lewandowski and James was completed by the 23-year-old confidently and deliberately.

The reason why Kovač of all people decided to take him, his best and most dangerous player, off the field shortly before extra time, remains a secret known only to the Croat.

Vertical goalscoring danger

Gnabry represents a special type of player that Bayern haven’t seen for a while. He is known for always being ready to finish and for actively seeking it in every situation. His first look is at the goal, only then does he look at potentially better placed players.

Over the last month, he has managed a very good tally of 3.1 shots per 90 minutes. With 0.34 expected goals per 90 minutes, he is ahead of such players as Brandt and Sancho, for example.

In addition, Gnabry has added a new verticality to the Munich game. Again and again he stretches the opponent’s defensive line with vertical runs and offers a starting point for the long balls on the outside lanes of Thiago, Hummels and Boateng. At the same time he does not take to many unnecessary risks.

He also has enough muscle mass to assert himself against larger defenders and to win running duels not only through his speed. His start is nevertheless a weapon not to be underestimated.

Room to Grow

Nevertheless, Gnabry’s limitations have been well observed in two games this month. While his defensive play against Liverpool was so strong that Klopp explicitly mentioned him in the interview, he failed to impact the game on the offensive side of the ball. On two occasions, he failed to get the ball to Lewandowski in the middle. Time and again he made questionable decisions on the ball.

However, perhaps his weakest performance in a red jersey came in the Friday evening match in Augsburg. Against the low standing Fuggerstädter he had few noticeable actions over an hour of play. It seemed as if he lacked the creativity to exploit the close-meshed defensive lines with partly double man coverage. His interactions with Kimmich in particular left much to be desired.

It would also be good for Gnabry to raise his head from time to time and look for players who are better positioned. Since the start of the second half of the season, he only created one key pass in the Bundesliga. This is too little for a player of his class. As important as his drive to score is for Bayern, they would benefit from better decision-making in certain situations.

In the coming weeks, during which Coman will be out of action, it will be all the more important for Gnabry to make his mark on the Bayern game. Neither Ribéry nor the soon-to-be-recovered Robben will be able to maintain the same vitality and speed of action as the son of an Ivorian.

The grit and the big-game goals of Mario Mandzukic, one of football’s most underrated forwards | Kaustubh Pandey | These Football Times

Young Player Challenge – February 2019 Update | Jörg Seidel | Goalimpact

Best dribblers in the big-5: Messi ahead of Saint-Maximin | CIES Football Observatory

Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben looks back on his brilliant career | Rob Draper | The Daily Mail

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