Stats & Links: Who could replace Xabi Alonso?
Lived it. Loved it.
Farewell beautiful game. pic.twitter.com/1aSN7GGNzZ
— Xabi Alonso (@XabiAlonso) 9. März 2017
In the first part of my mini-series on my German blog I already discussed potential successors for Philipp Lahm. Today’s article will focus on another potential – but not as obvious – weak link in Bayern’s squad: The central midfield.
Before players are discussed, a quick word about the used graphics. Data from whoscored.com was used to filter central midfielders (6s & 8s) from the top five leagues (Bundesliga, Primera Division, Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1) 25 years or younger. The z-tranformation was used to calculate the deviation from the average per stat category and the results are displayed in spider charts.
Bayern has already announced one transfer for the centre. Sebastian Rudy moves on a free transfer from Hoffenheim to Bayern in the summer. The 26-year-old German international shares Kimmich’s versatility and can also be deployed as a right full-back. When the transfer was announced, Rudy was categorized as a Bayern transfer in the line of Kirchhoff or Rode – Bayern signing a player to steal him away from the league rivals.
But Rudy and Rode only share their first name. Under Julian Nagelsmann Rudy developed into one of the best number six players in the Bundesliga.
Especially his defensive numbers catch the eye. His positioning is good and he wins a high percentage of his duels. The high number of interceptions strongly correlate with Hoffenheim’s style of play. Julian Nagelsmann wants his players to win the ball by good positioning and not by taking the risk of tackling. Hoffenheim’s game model also explains some of Rudy’s low passing accuracy, as risky vertical passes are encouraged. Rudy’s numbers will most likely improve within Bayern’s less hasty style of play. All in all, he makes the impression of being a very useful addition for the squad positions 10 to 16. His versatility will have a positive effect on his chances to break into the star-studded Bayern team.
For now, we are ignoring Verratti’s recent statements in which he called FC Barcelona the only club he would leave Paris St. Germain for. We rather concentrate on the rumours about his very special relationship to Carlo Ancelotti. If Verratti would be available, he will be a very expensive option.
Marco Verratti had a very impressive game in the Champions League first leg against FC Barcelona. He is very pressing resistant, either by dribbling or passing his way out of tight situations. His defensive positioning is very good, but his at times to aggressive tackling has a negative effect on his duel rate. His aggressiveness can also have a negative impact on his offensive actions, when he is trying to force the most difficult solution, leading to high numbers of dispossessions.
Nevertheless, Verratti would be a very strong addition to the Bayern midfield.
The Pole Piotr Zielinski is another name that has already been rumoured. He is only 22 years old, but already a regular at the Champions League side SSC Napoli.
Zielinski’s is very dominant offensively, with his high passing accuracy and his final passes. He usually plays a bit higher up the pitch, but is also used deeper as a save option in Napoli’s quick passing game. In Munich, he could be a back-up to Thiago. With 22 years, he still has enough room for further improvements, especially his defensive numbers – foremost his interceptions – are still subpar.
A couple of weeks ago, the wild rumour was spreading, that Bayern is interested in the 19-year-old Lucas Tousart. Tousart plays a very good season for his age. But there is another player in Lyon who is already a couple steps ahead of him and one of the greatest talents in Europe: The 22-year-old Corentin Tolisso.
His passing game is Tolisso’s biggest asset. He is the pivotal player for Olympique Lyon’s combinational play and also brings a lot of creativity to the pitch, delivering the final passes and setting up his teammates. His defensive performances need to improve, to also make him a decisive player on the defensive end of the pitch.
The three mentioned players are potential candidates to improve Bayern’s midfield next season. When Xabi Alonso hangs up his boots, Verratti would be his ideal successor, albeit a very expensive and currently very unlikely one. The signing of Rudy was a very smart deal, but Thiago’s injury troubles and Vidal’s age make another midfield transfer worth a thought. A lot also depends on how Carlo Ancelotti plans to develop his system, where he sees Joshua Kimmich’s position in it and how Renato Sanches’ development is judged.
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