Player of the Month November
It has been little under a year since the Ghanain born Candian joined Bayern Munich at the tender age of 18. His physical gifts were there for anyone to see from the moment he joined the club. The old saying “You can’t teach speed.” was clearly on the minds of Bayern’s scouting department when they purchased him from Vancouver for $11.4 million.
While with the White Caps, Davies rose to fame with his various YouTube clips that highlighted his potential. There was an obvious instinctualness to his movement and skill. At times, he looked like an unstoppable force of nature. Goalimpact thought highly enough of him to rank him as the best 17 year old in April of 2018, well before his move to Bayern.
However, there was reason to be concerned. First off, MLS is still a 3rd-4th rate league. There is quite a bit of raw talent and athleticism, but the overall skillset is still greatly lacking. Secondly, his performances were not consistent. While he had those flashes of brilliance, too often he would fade into the background. While that is not wholly unexpected with a 17 or 18 year old, if that is happening at an inferior level, there’s no telling how things may turn out when he is facing much better players.
Finally, that lack of skill in other players which helped him to exploit defenses, also had an impact on his development. The biggest problems with footballers from North America is the lack of tactical understanding and proper development in terms of skill. The physical talent is there for so many players but the lack of proper coaching at an early age, severely hampers their development.
With all of that taken into consideration, it was hardly surprising when Davies struggled to make an impact upon his arrival last winter. The level of competition both within the squad and in the league were beyond his capabilities and while he managed to score a goal to cap off a romp of Mainz, it was an underwhelming season overall playing just 74 total minutes for the first team.
Then the summer tour came, and while it’s never good to read too much into those matches, Davies stood out. Not only was he moved from the attack to left back, his performances were noticeably good. This was quite a transformation and while his defensive work was far from perfect, you could see the potential and he was able to recover because of his incredible pace.
More importantly perhaps was the evident work that he had put in both on and off the playing field. The improvement in his positioning, movement and ball handling were blatantly obvious. The speed in which he was learning was and is incredible and really speaks to his character.
Again though, it was only the preseason. The players you’re up against and meaninglessness of those matches leave more questions than answers. The obvious question then became, could he keep that up against better competition and in more important matches?
For the start of the season, we didn’t really see that much of him. With David Alaba and Lucas Hernandez, who are both international left-backs in their own right, a fully healthy central defense and plenty of competition on the wing, it looked like the Candian may be hard pressed to see much game time again this season. Then the injuries started piling up.
First Süle, then Hernandez and suddenly that stacked backline was looking pretty thin. With Boateng’s suspension following the Frankfurt debacle, there were even fewer options. By necessity, “Phonsie” would be called into action as Alaba was forced to the center of defense.
His first start came in the subsequent Bundesliga match against FC Union Berlin and he has not missed a minute since. While he has only one assist in that time, his performances have been excellent and improving every start.
His partnership with both Kingsley Coman in attack and Alaba in the back have also been quick work. The Candian appears to have both a tremendous work ethic and desire to improve. In a memorable pre-match viewing of the players in the tunnel, I didn’t know there was such a thing prior to this, Davies could be seen taking instruction from and asking tactical questions of David Alaba. This small insight spoke volumes and the results are apparent from his increasingly solid performances.
In a season that has already had so much change and turmoil, Alphonso Davies has been one of the best surprises we could have hoped for. Within a month he has gone from a bench player to looking indispensable in the back. That is no mean feat for any player, let alone a 19 year old at a club the size of Bayern Munich. For that reason and so many more, he is deservedly our player of the month for November in what will surely be the first of many accolades.