Round-Up: Player of the Month – March
The Colombian had a hard time under coach Niko Kovač at the beginning of the season. His appearances in the first half of the season were also severely limited due to some minor discipilary issues, which the media repeatedly reported. In March, however, James was allowed to play every game from the start and only missed 45 minutes.
This spring James finally found his place in the starting eleven for Kovač. A decision that the coach was forced to make because of the injuries in the offensive line and Thomas Müller’s suspension in the last 16 of the Champions League. The relationship between the two was considered tense, but the Colombian did not disappoint his coach.
Four of his six assists this season have come since February. He also scored four of his seven goals in the same period.
As the second central creative player in Kovač’s system, James plays an important role alongside Thiago. While the sophisticated Spaniard has had to take on more and more defensive tasks and is responsible for building up the game in the deeper zones, the Real Madrid loanee is responsible for guiding the ball into the attack.
A responsibility he has been excelling at so far this spring. He leads the Bundesliga with 3.92 key passes per 90 minutes. Since the game against Schalke on February 6th, he has played at least three key passes in each game and even managed seven against Freiburg.
Rodríguez benefits from his flexibility. While his strengths show clearly on the ten, he can also move over to the wing. Due to his lack of speed, however, he interprets this role differently than a Coman or Gnabry. His half-field crosses from the left or his shots from the right still prove to be dangerous weapons.
James had his most impressive game in the 6:0 gala against a passive Mainz. With the victory, the record champions leapfrogged Borussia Dortmund and for the first time since last autumn last year were at the top of the table.
Having already scored the 4:0 against Wolfsburg in the previous week, Rodríguez scored three times and set up further chances, such as Coman’s finish in the first half with a chip over the defensive line.
His first goal to make it 2:0 after about a half hour showed James in his role as a dangerous striker in the half-space. After Kimmich’s pass to Goretzka, he crossed paths with the German international who provided him the ball with his chest. The Colombian converted with his left foot.
His other two goals followed in the second half. He scored the first in the classic Arjen Robben manner. From the right corner of the penalty area, he pulled inwards and finished with a left footed shot into the far corner. His long-range shots are a special quality that he has rarely been able to put on display.
When Mainz finally fell apart, James the pressing player, also appeared. Together with Müller, he put the Mainz central defenders under so much pressure that he was able to seize the ball. This was followed by a cold and flippant finish in a direct duel with the keeper.
In the game against the English leaders, however, the Colombian was a victim of the defensive game plan of Kovač. Instead of being able to use his strengths with the ball in the offensive third, James had to help out in his own half time and time again.
It was to be the second game of the season in which the midfielder neither had a shot on goal nor a key pass for a teammate. In the other match against Hoffenheim, he was only allowed to play for twelve minutes.
After a total of two years in Munich, the 27-year-old’s loan expires this summer. FC Bayern has a one-sided buying option for a total of 42 million euros. While the chairman of the board Rummenigge has spoken out in favor of James several times in the past, the feedback from coach Kovač, sporting director Salihamdžić and president Hoeneß have not been so forthright.
In his current form and in view of the development of transfer sums in the last two years, it is however beyond question that Bayern should exercise the option. In the Munich squad, the Colombian’s qualities on the ball are only to be found in Thiago, who has been forced to take a more defensive role under Kovač. James can be an important building block in Bayern’s shaky construct for the current transition phase.
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