Bayern Munich suffered yet another disappointing setback this weekend after their return from international break. Courtesy of some defensive slips in the opening and closing minutes of the match, the Bavarians dropped points in a 2-2 draw against FC Augsburg. If things weren’t bad enough for Niko Kovac‘s side, a devastating Niklas Sule injury ensures this weekend is one Bayern will be eager to forget.
Niklas Sule Injury Caps Off Dreadful Day for Bayern Munich
Rotation? What is That?
Bayern coach Niko Kovac found himself in turbulent waters before Saturday’s game against Augsburg even kicked off. The Croatian decided against starting Thomas Muller, who recently went public with his displeasure at his current situation. Not even Ivan Perisic, who has enjoyed a great start to life at his new club, could make his way into the first XI.
A year ago Kovac found himself under fire for consistently rotating his squad too heavily. Perhaps out of fear of finding himself in a similar situation, Kovac has struggled this season to appropriately change his starting lineups periodically. In doing so, he has ironically put himself in the very situation he hoped to avoid.
Not all of Bayern’s troubles fall entirely on Niko Kovac’s shoulders. He cannot be blamed for his players’ failure to put away the many chances that came their way. Nor is he entirely responsible for his defense’s inability to start or finish a match with complete focus.
However, a great part of succeeding as a manager is proper rotation. It keeps the players sharp. Bayern Munich will continue to struggle against sides they should dominate until Niko Kovac finds a balance between variety and consistency in his starting lineups.
Some Players Need a Break
What is most shocking about Niko Kovac’s failure to rotate his squad is that it is evident many players need some time off. Two players, in particular, stand out as candidates for an extended vacation to the subs bench: Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara.
Consistency has never been Coman’s forte; however, the Frenchman has stagnated significantly in his development over the last year. He has the pace and ability on the ball to beat any defender he faces. That isn’t an issue. It’s what he does next that often becomes problematic.
Coman’s final ball, whether it be an errant shot or a wayward pass, is much more often disappointing than it is impressive. This means that he all too regularly ends up being a hindrance rather than a help to his side’s attacking endeavors.
Thiago, meanwhile, is suffering through some issues of his own. The Spaniard is still undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the world. Technically, he is nearly perfect. But like Coman, Thiago has recently found himself a detriment to his team as much as an aid.
He has given the ball away far too frequently and in far too dangerous positions without offering anything significant going forward to warrant being a mainstay in Niko Kovac’s starting lineup.
It is time the Croatian takes action. Kovac should give both Coman and Thiago an extended run, not just 45 minutes or so, on the Bayern sidelines. These are two players with big potential, who could each play key roles in anything good the Bavarians accomplish this season. Right now, however, there are other players in the squad who should be given the opportunity to do what Coman and Thiago thus far have not done: prove they deserve a starting spot under Kovac.
Niklas Sule Injury is a Massive Blow but Brings Many Opportunities
As if letting in a goal in both the 1st and 92nd minutes of Saturday’s match was not a big enough blow to Bayern’s defensive confidence, Niklas Sule left the pitch in the 12th minute with a damaged anterior cruciate ligament to ensure there was no recompense for the club’s woes.
Although Sule has been far from his best so far this season, his absence will still have a significant impact on the squad. After all, Sule has to be considered as the club’s best central defender until Lucas Hernandez proves otherwise. And that is exactly what has to be expected from the Frenchman.
Bayern Munich spent €80 million to sign Lucas from Atletico Madrid earlier this year. That figure is almost double what the club spent on previous record signing Corentin Tolisso in 2017.
With such a high figure come certain expectations, the very least of which is that the player justifies his pricetag. Lucas still has plenty of time to do that, and he should see this Niklas Sule injury as the perfect opportunity to establish himself as Bayern’s main man in central defense.
Veteran Jerome Boateng and youngster Lars Lukas Mai should both also see Sule’s injury as their opportunity to prove their worth. Javi Martinez will be needed in defensive midfield at least as often as in defense, while Benjamin Pavard might continue splitting his time between the right side and center of the defensive line.
19-year-old Lars Lukas Mai, in particular, should have his sights set on becoming the first Bayern academy graduate to establish himself as part of the first team since David Alaba. It all falls on Niko Kovac’s shoulders to allow the teenager ample opportunity to show he can make it in the big leagues.