Ten predictions for FC Bayern’s 22/23 season: these players will take off
Maurice: After the last few years with an occasionally absurd seeming number of goals by record scorer Robert Lewandowski, no Bayern player will reach the mark of 20 goals scored in the Bundesliga this season. It would be the first time since Lewandowski’s first season in 2014/15. Without the Pole, the Bayern side will lack around 30 goals, but these will be spread across many shoulders. Sadio Mané won’t change that either, the Senegalese also had only one season with 20+ goals at Liverpool in 2018/19. In the last three seasons, no Bayern player apart from Lewandowski scored more than 15 times in a season. Gnabry is yet the most likely to reach that mark.
Justin: That sounds like a prediction that comes true in least seven out of ten cases. In that respect, it’s hard for me to disagree. Nevertheless I simply have to disagree as a matter of principle: one player will break the magic 20. In principle, I would trust Serge Gnabry, Sadio Mané or even Leroy Sané to do so. The latter is currently under a bit of scrutiny, but when he gets going, he’s a very good finishing player.
Twitter voting: 66% think a player will break the 20-goal barrier.
Justin: There is one thing that is sure to happen in the coming season: Leroy Sané seeing his breakthrough. He scored 14 goals and made 15 assists in 45 competitive appearances last season. I say that in the new season, with a similar number of appearances, he will have at least 40 direct goal involvements – and after the season, no one will discuss his body language.
Maurice: As much as I would like to see this prediction become reality, I think it is unlikely. The last Bayern player scoring more than 40 goals in a season who was not Robert Lewandowski was Thomas Müller in the 2015/16 season. Without the interpreter of space, who collected 39 or 40 goals on several occasions, the last winger to do so was Franck Ribéry in 2011/12 (44). So it took the Frenchman’s career-best performance in a system where he was an untouchable cornerstone of the team to reach that figure. I don’t see either of those things, especially since I believe that another player is more likely to get there. But we’ll get to that later.
Twitter voting: 77% do not believe that Leroy Sané will break the 40 scorer points.
Maurice: The Austrian had a difficult first season in Munich. Without any real preparation with the team, he never warmed to the new system. Although Sabitzer made 30 appearances during the season, only one of them lasted the full 90 minutes. At the end of the season, he played just over 1,000 minutes. But this season starts under different circumstances. During the US tour, the former Leipzig player was one of the most outstanding improvements and after Goretzka’s injury, he seems to be in pole position for a central midfield spot. Sabitzer is a good replacement for the German international and brings similar qualities, with a better long distance shot shot but a weaker heading game. Especially compared to his teammates, he will have to work on improving his hold up play, the deficiencies of which stand out statistically. But under the new conditions, Sabitzer will at least double his playing time.
Justin: It will be a close race and a lot will also depend on how strong Ryan Gravenberch is going into his debut season. I’m therefore on the other side of this as well. Sabitzer will play significantly more often (and better) than last season, but barring injuries or long bouts of illness from other players, he won’t crack the 2,000 minute mark.
Twitter voting: 72% think Sabitzer will double his playing time.
Prediction 4: In the Bundesliga, FC Bayern will score more than 80 goals – and concede less than 30 – even without Lewandowski
Justin: Even if the one outstanding goal scorer is no longer there, I think Bayern will score a lot of goals. We saw a definite hint of that potential on Friday already. Maybe they won’t score a near record number of 100 goals, but the 80-goal mark must certainly be within reach, especially with this squad. I also believe that Bayern will regain their defensive composure. The fact that Bayern conceded around 40 goals in the Bundesliga alone last season is a big problem. This circumstance has made it almost necessary to break offensive records. This season, that will change. Bayern will get back to conceding fewer than 30 goals in the league.
Maurice: This prediction of yours is as daring as mine about the 20-goal mark. The last time we scored fewer than 80 goals was in 2009/10. I agree with you here. I’m ambivalent about the defence. I do believe that Nagelsmann and De Ligt can stabilize the defence, but too often in the past the Bayern players have moved up and then all hell broke loose. The preparation was anything but ideal to be able to focus on the defensive issues, not least because the departure of Lewandowski meant that the focus was on retooling the offensive. So I’m taking the other side of that bet: The 35 goals against mark will fall and for the fifth time running Manuel Neuer will have to reach behind him more than 30 times. It would be the longest streak since the end of the 90s.
Twitter voting: 77% believe in over 80 goals scored and under 30 conceded.
Prediction 5: Jamal Musiala will be the great beneficiary of the squad changes and climb into the top-3 of Bayern’s scorers
Maurice: A little-noticed fact: Last season, Jamal Musiala scored as many scorer points as Kingsley Coman in the same number of minutes. Julian Nagelsmann’s new system could now play into the youngster’s hands. With less focus on Lewandowski, Nagelsmann will try to promote a more fluid attack that can create spaces, especially in the half spaces, which can then be exploited by different players. It is precisely in these half spaces that young Musiala shines with his close ball control, anticipation and strong finishing. Bayern’s attacking line-up is prominently staffed and there can’t only be winners, but I trust Musiala to take another decisive step forward in his development next season.
Justin: As much as I’d like to agree with you here – and I trust Musiala to do all that without a doubt if he gets the chance: I don’t think Nagelsmann will give him the playing time he needs. I can’t even support this, it’s simply a gut feeling. Thomas Müller will dominate the playmaker zone in the centre, and there are a few players on the outside who are high up the food chain. Young players, especially if they weren’t bought for expensive money, are often at a disadvantage for reasons that are difficult to understand from the outside. That’s why I don’t think it’s going to happen with Musiala breaking into the top 3. But: The fact that he will have to play significantly more this season, and probably will, is hopefully a “prediction” that will come true. Because that is long overdue.
Twitter voting: 59% think Jamal Musiala will be among the top 3 scorers.
Prediction 6: Matthijs de Ligt will collect more minutes than Joshua Kimmich and thus break into the top 3 of minutes played straight away
Justin: The Dutchman will immediately become the boss in defence. Once he is fit enough and has got used to the team, he will play one game after the other from the start. From my point of view, there is no reason to believe that he will be on the bench a lot. I think he has the potential to be in the top 3 of the squad by playing time. He won’t reach Manuel Neuer, but he could overtake Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich.
Maurice: A good prediction, which I can only disagree with to an extent. The opinion of the Bayern board was clear and made publicly enough that the club was looking for a new boss in the back, who was ultimately found in the Dutchman. In addition, with the departure of Lewandowski, a player left who was in the race for the top 3 most playing time every year. From that point of view: I agree!
Twitter voting: 77% think de Ligt will collect fewer minutes than Kimmich and not ascend to the top-3.
Prediction 7: Benjamin Pavard will become the centre-back with the second most playing time, being a versatile all-rounder
Maurice: The swansong for Benjamin Pavard was already written and yet I believe in a turnaround for the Frenchman. Signed as a defensive boss, Matthijs de Ligt will certainly get the most playing time, but right behind him I see Pavard. Due to his flexibility, he can be used as a right-back or right centre-back in a three- or four-man defence. In addition, Pavard, unlike Hernández, is rarely injured and usually does a solid job without any major outliers for the bad, unlike Upamecano. The newly signed Mazraoui has yet to prove that he can deliver at the required level over a whole season. Few see him in the starting eleven, but his abilities as an all-rounder will give him plenty of playing time.
Justin: It will be a close race. I follow your reasoning and I think it makes sense. The only thing is that I don’t think Lucas Hernández will get a serious injury and then be in the starting eleven on a regular basis. Pavard won’t be able to get past him. Another prediction of mine also plays a role in this thought …
Twitter voting: 74% think Benjamin Pavard will not be the CB with the second most minutes.
Justin: Even though Nagelsmann has repeatedly flirted with playing a three-man backline in recent months, I think we will see a four-man backline more often – or at least formations in which there are only two nominal centre-backs (three-man backline structures are still possible). We will also see the back three occasionally, but I can imagine that Nagelsmann does not consider it necessary in most cases.
Maurice: Three-man or four-man defence hairsplitting from the man who has a phobia of phone numbers? Exciting. The three-man structure in build-up play will certainly predominate. But I assume that Nagelsmann will often actually try to set this up with only three actual defenders. Counter-attack protection will be extremely important for Bayern, especially at the start of the season when Goretzka, a strong player in gegenpressing, is missing. Against big opponents, such as Manchester City recently, it offers a reliable basic structure that can nevertheless be interpreted variably.
Twitter voting: 77% think the back four remains dominant.
Maurice: The decisive factor for me in this prediction is whether the start will be bumpy. The team will have to get used to the new system without an outright top player. Especially against opponents with a solid defence, forcing the issue with high crosses or long balls to a target player will be an unavailable avenue. The fixture list could also be their undoing. The opener at European Cup winners Frankfurt was surprisingly easily done away with, but difficult games against bogey team Gladbach and Berlin will follow before the international break. Another factor is the World Cup during the winter break, which will certainly rob Bayern of rhythm and fitness.
Justin: Here, too, I’m holding against. Bayern will score at least 80 points and once again distance themselves from the competition. I think that things could get a bit bumpy at the beginning but the team will settle relatively quickly and then start a good series. If they do end up with fewer than 80 points, it will only be because they became champions too early. But even then I don’t see them failing. The drive in this team is already different from last season. That can light a new fire.
Twitter voting: 66% think Julian Nagelsmann’s team will collect over 80 points.
Justin: And precisely because there is this new firey spirit, I also believe that Bayern will do very well in both cup competitions. In the DFB-Pokal, they may stumble over one of the top German teams, but I am confident that this time they stand a good chance of winning the title again. In the Champions League, we’ll have to wait and see how the round of 16 and quarter-finals turn out. But regardless of the draw, I suspect that Bayern will play a strong season – and can also beat one or two big opponents. My money is on a cup win and at least a Champions League semi-final.
Maurice: The Pokal has its own laws and is certainly the most difficult competition to predict. I agree with the basic assumption that the Bayern team can beat anyone here, but I also think that any team can beat Bayern in a freak game. The team is not currently as dominant as it was in the Pep years when even a freak event, which were a rarity anyway, couldn’t unsettle the team. In the Champions League, I see the Bayern team in the wider circle of favourites. After the big investment, the board will want to see a better performance there. Making the semi-finals certainly seems doable, although the luck of the draw is of course a decisive factor. So my final prediction is: DFB-Pokal victory no, Champions League semi-final yes.
Twitter voting: 75% think FC Bayern will win the cup and reach at least the CL semi-finals.