Manuel Veth –
After three wins in three games under new head coach Jupp Heynckes Bayern München seemed to be back on track. But as recently discussed on the Gegenpressing Bundesliga Podcast Bayern’s opposition was not the highest class and a thin squad means that the team is one injury away from trouble. Now with Thomas Müller potentially out for up to six weeks Bayern have now faced a selection headache up front.
The injury is unfortunate timing for both Thomas Müller and Bayern. Müller has recently seen his form improve and will be frustrated with missing time now. His club in the meantime will be hurting from his absence as they are a little thin up front.
Jupp Heynckes, in fact, recently identified the frontline as the sides biggest weakness. Speaking to kicker on Thursday Heynckes pointed out that the current squad has significant deficits. Although he has externally praised the squad internally he has criticized the lack of form and lack of fitness that he sees as a foundation on how the team plays—statements that have been in general interpreted as a criticism towards his successors Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti.
Back in 2013, Heynckes had the likes of Mario Mandžukić, Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro and Frank Ribéry available. Although Bayern have added Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and James Rodriguez, the fact, that of those seven mentioned players only Thomas Müller, Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben remain with the squad shows that Bayern no longer have a wealth of options up front.
Injuries to Frank Ribéry and Thomas Müller Have Weakened the Side
Furthermore, Frank Ribéry and Thomas Müller are now unavailable for an extended period. Kingsley Coman has shown significant improvement since Jupp Heynckes has taken over from Carlo Ancelotti, but at the same time, Coman has failed to impress in the big matches.
James in the meantime has struggled to make a mark on this Bayern side. The Colombian is a magnificent talent, and there is no doubt that when on form he can be a great addition to any side. But James has struggled to regain his form that made him the brightest prospect in world football following the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
James lacks the speed to roam on either wing and is best suited to play as a playmaker. Hence, while he would be perfect to fulfil Müller’s role behind striker Robert Lewandowski, he lacks the goal scoring drive that Müller can display when he is on form.
With both Ribéry and Müller out, for now, Bayern now go into the two matches against RB Leipzig with a weakened squad. Both the cup game on Wednesday and the Bundesliga matchday 10 game will be of enormous significance for Jupp Heynckes. Following the doubleheader against Leipzig Bayern will travel to Celtic and then to Dortmund to face BVB.
The schedule would be tough enough without the injuries to several key players. For Heynckes it will be the weeks of truth as he will have to show that he has genuinely steadied the Bayern ship. How the club will do in the next four games might very well determine the rest of the season, and while CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has recently told the media that the club wants to produce more youth players. It can be therefore expected that the Bavarians will be active in the transfer market during the winter break to strengthen the frontline and to target players that can potentially replace Ribéry and Robben—only one of the two will have their contracts extended at the end of the season.
Bayern’s Shopping List Include a Winger and a Mandžukić Copy
Up top on the shopping list will, therefore, be an explosive winger, who can supplement Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, who will be back at the club next summer. But the biggest hole for Bayern is the lack of a potential backup for Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish striker turns 30 next season and internally is pushing for a move away from the club. Hence, Bayern will need to start scouting potential strikers. It was the lack of backups that especially concerned Heynckes ahead of the Hamburg game.
The lack of depth up front for Bayern has been discussed before on the Futbolgrad Network. It was perhaps the biggest reason that Bayern did not manage to win another Champions League title under Pep Guardiola and later Carlo Ancelotti.
Looking at the other top clubs around Europe the lack of depth becomes even more apparent. Perhaps the kind of forward need is someone like Mario Mandžukić, who can play on either wing behind a striker and up top. Mandžukić also provides the sort of physical element that Bayern at times lack on the international level.
Alongside Toni Kroos Mario Mandžukić might be the biggest piece Bayern are missing from that unbelievable 2013 side. Buying someone like Mario Mandžukić should, therefore, become a priority for Bayern in the short-term.
As for replacing the injured Thomas Müller Rummenigge has recently pointed out that he would like to see more youth players in the first team. Bayern’s reserve side had an impressive display against 1860 München in the Münchner Derby on Sunday, and the likes of Taylor Twellman and Fabian Benko could now become an option for the first squad in the short-term.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.