Bayern Munich may have endured some teething problems under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, but it seems there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Here are our squad rankings for the 16 half of the 16-17 season.
None. Bayern were unable to put in a truly top performance until the last game of the Hinrunde and this was reflected in the squad’s individual performances.
Thiago. Undoubtedly the team’s best performer over the course of the season thus far, Thiago has proven over and over that he is a world-class talent. Finally able to sustain a significant run of games without injury, he averaged a league high 95.3 passes per game and an impressive 4.4 interceptions per game, the highest average of any player in Europe’s top leagues. Having just picked up a slight muscle injury over the winter break, Bayern can only hope to have their best midfielder back as soon as possible.
Arturo Vidal. Whether you like his playing style or not, there is no denying that Arturo Vidal brings a passion and intensity to each and every game that is hard to find in many players. The energy he brings to Bayern’s midfield often proves to be vital, and had it not been for the masterclass of Thiago, he would perhaps be the squad’s most important player.
Joshua Kimmich. After an impressive debut season in the Bundesliga and a fantastic Euro 2016, Germany’s favorite Wunderkind has not shown any signs of slowing down his meteoric rise. With a Mülleresque ability to be in the right place at the right time, he managed to score 4 goals in the Bundesliga and 3 in the Champions League. Kimmich continues to improve in each match and fine-tune every aspect of his already well-rounded game. The future is certainly bright for this young man.
Manuel Neuer. Recently awarded a place in the FIFA FIFpro World11 for the fourth year in a row, Bayern and Germany’s number one has done nothing to show that he has any interest in letting slip his position as the world’s best goalkeeper. The one game he missed through injury (a 3-2 loss to Russian minnows FC Rostov in the Champions League) perhaps shows his importance to the squad more so than any performance he made himself throughout the half-season.
Robert Lewandowski. It says something of Bayern Munich’s number 9 that he suffered a fairly hefty goal drought and was still able to end the Hinrunde with 12 league goals to his name. In early December he announced via goal celebration that he and his wife, Anna, are expecting an addition to the Lewandowski family. Oddly enough, it was with this goal that Lewandowski announced himself as a first-class free kick taker as well. His already impressive goal-scoring arsenal is still growing and we can only expect more from the striker as the season continues.
Douglas Costa. That goal versus Darmstadt very well sums up Douglas Costa’s play so far this season. He has the ability to make something brilliant out of absolutely nothing. Last season he dazzled the league with his stunning close control and trickery on the ball, but is proving this season that he is more than just a skillful dribbler. Costa is improving rapidly and may have established himself as Carlo’s first choice winger.
Arjen Robben. Receive the ball on the right flank. Cut inside. Tiptoe past a defender. Curl in a left-footed shot. Repeat. Everyone knows this is coming, yet nobody can seem to stop Arjen Robben when he initiates his classic move. When fit, Robben is one of the most effective goal-scorers in the world and has once again shown that ability this season.
Mats Hummels. Coming back to Bavaria after a long spell at rivals Borussia Dortmund, Mats Hummels has proven to be a great addition to Bayern’s backline. After a shaky start to the season, he quickly grew out of his nervous performances and established himself as the team’s best defender. The biggest negative of his season thus far? That horrible blonde hair.
Juan Bernat. What a turnaround Bernat has made since last season, where his performances were inconsistent at best and dreadful at worst. However, Juan has made a drastic turnaround this season and is putting in some fantastic performances, particularly in the Champions League. To perform on a level that competes with David Alaba is no small feat, and that is exactly what Bernat has done this season.
Rafinha. Summing up his performances for the first half of the season requires only one word: solid. Like Bernat, he has performed better than many expected this season; perhaps even better than captain Philipp Lahm. He’s criminally underrated across Europe and would be a guaranteed starter for most teams, but Bayern Munich should be thankful to have such a great player and character standing by to put in a solid shift on the right side of defense.
Javi Martínez. Perhaps the most difficult player to judge so far, Javi has at times looked brilliant and at others looked disastrous. He’s a fantastic ball-winner and, like his regular partner, Mats Hummels, can always be expected to win an aerial duel. However, his positioning could certainly use some work, as he often finds himself getting caught too far up the pitch. The main thing the squad needs from him this season is some consistency. With Boateng set to be out for a while, Javi Martinez will need to step up his defensive game and prove that he is a solid partner for Mats Hummels.
Franck Ribéry. At 33 years of age, Franck can still beat any defender on his day. He began the season in wonderful form, demonstrating the skillset that made him a Ballon d’Or finalist not too long ago. Despite his performances slowing down as the season went on, Ribéry still managed to enter the winter break with 2 goals and 5 assists in his 662 minutes of Bundesliga playing time, contributing to a goal every 94 minutes. Not bad for the Frenchman, not bad at all.
David Alaba. By the standards of most full-backs, David has had an above average season. The standards of most full-backs, however, are drastically lower than the lofty standards he has set for himself. Perhaps the dreadful Euro 2016 he endured with Austria still lingers in his mind, or maybe he has simply been too tired. No matter the heart of the issue, we have yet to see the best of David Alaba in the 16-17 season.
Xabi Alonso. Xabi scored the opening goal of the 16-17 Bundesliga season (and what a goal it was), but has unfortunately not done much worth note since then. He still has the ability to make a precision pass half-way across the field, but his age is getting the better of him. Often giving the ball away in the midfield too easily and significantly outpaced by younger players, it would not be a surprise to see Xabi Alonso’s playing time dwindle, with the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches eager to prove themselves in midfield alongside Thiago and Vidal.
Philipp Lahm. As painful as it may be to admit, we may have begun to witness the decline of Der Kapitän. Unless he can somehow make a massive turnaround, it seems the days of Lahm singlehandedly owning the right side of the pitch are a thing of the past. Like Alaba, Lahm is not underperforming by normal standards, but he looks like a shadow of himself this season. With Rafinha playing at his current level, perhaps it is time to see less of Lahm until the bigger matches.
Jérôme Boateng. The man who proved himself last season to be the best center back in the world has yet to arrive this season. Boateng’s form has dropped significantly following a dominant performance at Euro 2016, and no game demonstrates this as well as Bayern’s embarrassing loss against FC Rostov, in which Boateng looked horrendous. Now sidelined until March with injury, Jérôme will be eager to return and put his first half-season form behind him.
Renato Sanches. The 2016 Golden Boy winner has not adjusted to the squad nearly as well as many had predicted. He often appeared lost on the field and possibly a bit overwhelmed (understandable for a player who only turned 19 in August). However, that all changed in the final Champions League match against Atletico Madrid. Sanches grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and showed exactly why Bayern Munich made sure to get his signature during the summer. Also worth noting: Arturo Vidal experienced a similar struggle settling into the squad during his first half-season and has since grown into one of the most important players. Perhaps we’ll see something similar with Sanches.
Kingsley Coman. Another player who has missed much of the season due to injury, Kingsley would do well to forget the few matches he did feature in and focus on the second half of the season. Coman registered neither a goal nor an assist in any of his 6 league appearances. There is still time for him to turn his form around, however, and he has the ability to do so. Do not be surprised to see him return from his injury revamped and ready to prove his value to the club.
Thomas Müller. This one hurts. A lot. Everyone loves Thomas Müller and I would be the first to rush to the defense of Bayern’s raumdeuter, but there is no denying that he has suffered the worst start to a season in his career. Sure, part of the issue is that Coach Ancelotti keeps positioning him on the wing. Sure, he’s also been a bit unlucky. But one goal in 13 Bundesliga appearances after a poor Euro 2016 and a 999 minute long goal drought is enough evidence to show that Thomas has lost a bit of his confidence and is nowhere near playing to his potential. However, I remain faithful that Carlo will find a way to get the best out of the German international, and that Thomas Müller will soon once again find his goal-scoring touch.
Holger Badstuber and Sven Ulreich. Perhaps a bit unfair because of the lack of playing time given to both, but everyone who has featured in a Bundesliga or Champions League match this season is being ranked. So take these two with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately for both, they were part of the “B-team” that lost to Russian minnows FC Rostov 3-2, with Ulreich giving a particularly bad performance. With Badstuber now being sent on loan to Schalke, hopefully he can sustain a run of games without injury and improve his play at the same time.
Tom Starke, Niklas Dorsch, and Fabian Benko.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are taken from WhoScored.com.