29.3 years on average. That’s how old Bayern’s starting formation was which Niko Kovac sent out on the second Bundesliga matchday in Stuttgart. In the previous season under coach Jupp Heynckes the team was even older than that in certain games. Thirteen out of last years fifteen oldest starting formations were sent out by Bayern. And that is supposed to indicate a change?
Core around Project Bayern-21
In order to link the Red’s current situation to some facts, we took a look at the percentage of minutes played by each single player in the last season sorted by age. For a better overview a trend curve has been added. Players that left the club during the summer are displayed in grey.
A similar graphic depicting the 2016/17 season was featured in our article on the structure of Bayern’s squad with coach Carlo Ancelotti back in July of 2017. A structure that back-then we called Project Bayern-21 because most of the key players were under contract until then.
The axis of that generation – namely: Boateng, Hummels, Thiago, Lewandowski – also played the largest share in the previous season. Even though a long-lasting injury kept Boateng and Thiago off the field for many games. These minutes had to be picked up by others.
With the exception of goalkeeper Ulreich, however, no player recorded more than a 75-percent share of minutes. Furthermore, Joshua Kimmich is the player with the most minutes in the whole squad.
Looking at the diagramm it becomes obvious, that next to the group of players linked to Project Bayern-21 there is a second generation of upcoming players with large shares of minutes: With slightly above 20 years of age Süle, Coman, Tolisso and Kimmich all grabbed way more than 25-percent of the minutes available. That number skyrocketed in comparison to last summer.
Still, the amount of minutes played by players over the age of 30 remains consistently high, especially for Robben and Ribery. Both wingers displayed fickle performances for most of the season, but had their starting spots secured for the last bit of the season because of the lack of depth at that position. Their playing time took little to no dip compared to the previous year.
Quo vadis, Niko?
Before the start of this season the Munich squad was tidied out and reduced in age. In Bernat, Rudy and Vidal three players left Säbener Straße, who were an important part of the team and added depth to the roster. However, all three of them were not entirely convincing during their tenure.
They were replaced by youngster Gnabry, returnee Sanches and German-international Goretzka. All three newcomers were born in 1995 or later. In the winter transfer window the Canadian wonderkid Alphonso Davies, another 18-year old, will join the squad.
Verteilung der Kadergröße und Altersstruktur. Kann das mit dem @FCBayern gut gehen? #FCB #BVB #S04 #B04 #SGE #M05 #FCA #H96 #VFB #WOB #SCF #SVW #TSG #BSC #BMG ￼ #RBL #F95 #FCN pic.twitter.com/btV21fFC5o
— BStat (@michael_karbach) September 1, 2018
While the roster seems to be old, Niko Kovac still has the chance to sent out a very young squad. It will be up to the Croatian which way he pursues.
The games so far this season have shown a rather conservative approach. Nonetheless the former Bayern player has been keen to emphasize in talks with the media, that for one he wants to strengthen the role of Süle in central defense. Another hope is that Hoeneß favorite Kovac will be forgiven more easily when Robbery are left out of the starting formation, than maybe if Tuchel had done so.
The Munich squad has many opportunities, even though it is the smallest roster in the league with just 19 outfield players. Nevertheless there are several multi-position players in the team which could earn minutes in various roles. Again it will prove crucial that Kovac is open to experiments.
Moving on from Ribery and Robben will be a tough challenge, but the first stones have been set. With the current squad a new generation around Kimmich, Süle and Coman has formed that one day could even bear the heritage of Project Bayern-21. All three have been signed to multi-year extensions in the past.
It remains to be seen whether Kovac will also give more time to home-grown Bayern talents. This spring the club had handed out numerous contracts and signed players with different ceilings. However, this summer several of the most intriguing talents including Friedl, Tillmann and Fein have been sent away on loan. A way that has worked in the past, but must not work now.
Links of the Week
Financial analysis of the transfer market in the big-5 leagues (2010-2018) | CIES Football Observatory
Bayern’s Tactical Trends under Kovac | Max Bergmann | Total Football Analysis
Teammates | By Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller | The Players’ Tribune
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry: the greatest wing partnership in modern history | Will Sharp | These Football Times
Interviews With Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Serge Gnabry | Grant Wahl | SI
Kovač: “Reacting to certain situations” | Justin | Dennis
FC Bayern’s broken wings | Maurice | Sam
FC Bayern’s combinations in Stuttgart take them top | Christopher | Sam
This is not a death group (for the first team) | Maurice | Dennis
Goodbye, Basti | Martin | Dennis
Servus, Basti! | Justin | Bettina
Uli Hoeneß: For and against 50+1 | Christian | Dennis