The curious case of Holger Badstuber

Christopher Separator February 15, 2016

It was already late on Saturday evening when the club confirmed the injury of Holger Badstuber on their social media channels. Diagnosis: fracture of the ankle. Another long injury break, probably three months.

Holger Badstuber seems to attract injuries by some kind of bad voodoo. Since his cruciate ligament tear in the season 12/13, when he accidentally collided with Mario Götze in the top game against the BVB, the 26-year-old has had repeated troubles to get back onto his feet. Two torn cruciate ligaments, a torn tendon, a muscle tear and now the fractured ankle which the defender of the German record champions has suffered in Saturday’s final training session without any external influence. The game against Augsburg was the 188th game which Holger Badstuber will miss since that game against Dortmudn in December 2012. Since his Bundesliga debut on August 8th 2009, he has played only 174 games for Bayern. A painful statistic.

On the personal level the injury is a tragedy. To see an athlete who has repeatedly fought his way back and is then again stopped abruptly by his body, broke the hearts of many observers and fans. Even more so because Holger Badstuber is not the typical case of a modern professional footballer and has gained many sympathies with his down-to-earth nature. Particularly bitter is the current timing of the injury, because the 26-year-old had fought his way back into the team in recent weeks. With Tasci, the club has even taken precautions and borrowed a player who was supposed to give Badstuber much needed rests in the coming weeks loaded with many important games. Badstuber improved his game since the start of the second half of the season. Against Leverkusen and Bochum, he convinced with good performances. Although he still lacked some speed, he was able to hide that deficit as much as possible with his good positional play. Badstuber also increasingly dared to take on more responsibility in the build-up play with his long diagonal balls that he used more frequently and with increasing precision from game to game.

The consequences for the team

Apart from the human component, Badstuber’s injury hits the club where it hurts the most. Of the six central defenders who were in the squad at the start of the season , not one was capable of playing against Augsburg. Boateng and Badstuber are sidelined for a longer time. Martinez, who got injured two weeks ago, is also expected to not be an option for the Champions League game next week. On Saturday, Benatia was only taking part in his first team training again. Add to that the deliberate reduction of the squad by selling Dante and Kirchhoff. Thus, the hopes rest on the loanee Serdar Tasci.

The games against Augsburg and Darmstadt act as an important test of character for the Champions League knockout round against Juventus. Pep Guardiola has to find a solution for the defense:

A “save version” with Tasci as a one-to-one replacement for Badstuber

Things may look similar to the last games if Serdar Tasci takes on the role of Holger Badstuber. Then it would look like the back-three / back-four with Alaba – Tasci – Kimmich – Lahm. This is probably the most obvious option. Of course, the uncertainty here is Serdar Tasci. So far, he hasn’t played a single a minute for Bayern and yet the situation has made him the new hope for the battered Munich defense. If Guardiola is set on this formation, the Darmstadt game will be a big test run under competitive conditions to prevent a big surprise in the game against Turin.

Another option could be that Bernat gets more minutes after his own long injury break:

A “risky version” with Alaba as a central defender alongside Kimmich

This is what Guardiola chose in Augsburg. Tactically, it results in a back four with Bernat – Alaba – Kimmich (Alonso) – Lahm. With heights of 170cm, 180cm, 176cm and 170cm this certainly carries some risk against opponents that are robust and focus on headers. However, the extremely fast Alaba is likely to be an advantage in controlling opponent’s counter attacks. Against opponents that are parking the bus, this formation is certainly an option.

Regardless of which idea prevails, at least some changes in the gameplay will follow. The long diagonal balls that open up the field, played by Boateng or in recent weeks by Badstuber, will be reduced. Of course, Alonso and Kimmich can take over this function with their good passing game. This would, however, probably only work with a central midfielder that will drop back into the backline or that shifts between midfield and backline, which comes at the significant cost of missing a surprise element. Perhaps it is therefore generally useful to find a new way of building up the game, especially since more and more opponents have adjusted to the opening diagonal balls and Bayern’s wingers have faced stronger man markings in the last games. A new center focus with Thiago and Götze would be the most appropriate alternative.

The entire Miasanrot team wishes Holger Badstuber a good and especially sustainable recovery.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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