It was around this time last season that Bayern's Niklas Süle went down injured. After then-coach Niko Kovac couldn't draft a consistent solution for his depleted defensive corps, Hans Dieter Flick devised a most unexpected solution: Move David Alaba to center-back and insert the speedy Alfonso Davies into the left fullback position.
Having lost out on their chance to augment the defensive corps on the transfer market, it looks as if Bayern will build from within again. What can one expect?
|Chris Richards (left).||Photo: Pedro Semitiel, CC BY-SA 2.0|
When the substitutes began coming on in last night's 3-2 win over Dortmund in the 2020 DFL Super Cup, a picture of which players from a title-winning third tier side Hansi Flick felt comfortable using became somewhat clearer.
Seventeen-year-old Jamal Musiala came on for Javi Martinez and assumed a defensive midfield position. US international Chris Richards replaced Benjamin Pavard to earn a trial at right fullback.
Musiala, who has already scored a league goal in the 8-0 thrashing of Schalke, made his fourth appearance across all competitions in this young season. For Richards it was his second showing, but the fact that he served as a right-back is highly relevant.
The German giants have received, and will continue to garner, much flak for dragging their feet in the transfer market. Pundits and fans will howl that the squad doesn't carry the necessary depth to successfully meet the challenge of the grinding road ahead.
Such logic, of course, ignores the large pool of up-and-coming talent that Flick has at his disposal. Presiding over a largely self-coached team in which morale is sky-high, Flick needs only to decide which young phenoms are ready to make the leap from FC Bayern II to Germany's own "theater of dreams".
Musiala and Richards may be considered young bets that Flick has already laid on the table. The 20-year-old American reportedly even enjoys a laudatory nickname among his colleagues. "Air Richards" as the Bundesliga's next developing Texas talent is christened, is so known because of his prowess on headers both offensive and defensive. Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich and others bestowed the moniker on him in a clever play on the "Air Jordan" sobriquet once accorded America's top basketball player.
Flick's attacking reserves are so numerous that the likes of Michael Cuisance were easily allowed to leave. Slightly behind Richards, another young American made Flick's bench squad on Thursday night. Twenty-year-old attacker Malik Tillman may get a chance to move to the first team soon. Flick also has promising forwards in the form of 20-year-old Jan Fiete Arp, 19-year-old Leon Dajaku, and 20-year-old Nicolas Kühn.
On the other side of the ball, 21-year-old defensive midfield phenom Adrian Fein also made Thursday evening's squad. Flick has still another American prodigy he can call up for defending help in 19-year-old Taylor Booth.
It should be noted that this article only lists the natural position of potential breakthrough players. Few, if any, could have predicted that an attacker like Davies would find the left fullback position so comfortable before last year's early shuffles. Young talents remain more adept to adjust their game and play just about anywhere. Such flexibility will surely guide Flick's thinking in the coming weeks.