Bayern Munich: Joshua Kimmich can’t afford complaceny at the World Cup

EPPAN, ITALY - MAY 25: Joshua Kimmich of Germany gestures during the Southern Tyrol Training Camp day three on May 25, 2018 in Eppan, Italy. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
EPPAN, ITALY - MAY 25: Joshua Kimmich of Germany gestures during the Southern Tyrol Training Camp day three on May 25, 2018 in Eppan, Italy. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich has proven that he is the undisputed starter at right-back for club and country, but he can’t afford to become complacent at this summer’s World Cup.

Since joining Bayern Munich before Pep Guardiola’s final season at the club, Joshua Kimmich has been a sort of revelation. The German youngster has proven that, despite coming into a world-class team filled with world-class talent, he was ready to distinguish himself as the next big thing, and proved to the revered Spanish boss that he was a bright and versatile prospect.

Kimmich first made his name known to Bayern Munich with the U19 German national team. He really proved some of his worth and put himself on the Bavarian radar in 2014, the same summer the senior squad had their successful conquest in Brazil. The U19 German internationals made a successful run in Hungary in 2014, with Kimmich a pivotal player in that squad.

There he started frequently as a defensive-midfielder, anchoring the German midfield. Following his move to Munich, no one could have predicted the turn of events that would take place. The young German was stretched to his limits under the direction of Guardiola.

And in doing so, a coveted skill among German players shown through: versatility. While established as a defensive-midfielder, when Kimmich was needed most, he played out of position. Notably, Guardiola used him as a makeshift center-back.

This injury crisis forced Kimmich to focus mostly on defensive capabilities rather than play-making. Understandably, there were missteps. But against Borussia Dortmund, he performed heroically. His display in that 0-0 draw showed how determined he can be in defense.

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Kimmich’s burden at right-back

Now, with the legendary Philipp Lahm in retirement, Kimmich has taken up the mantle at right-back for club and country. This comes as a godsend at both levels for the same reasons. For Bayern Munich and for Germany, the full-back positions are arguably those with the least depth.

The right-back position, while not the most glamorous, is nonetheless vital. This applies both to the backline and in providing additional width. In the current market, quality left and right-backs have become a scarcity.

The beauty in the right-back position lies in its mixture of attack and defense. A quality full-back requires a strong balance of both offensive and defensive capabilities to be successful. To begin with Kimmich’s highest highs in the position, one need only to look toward his season stats, per Transfermarkt.

Across all competitions, Joshua Kimmich has scored six goals. In addition, he has supplied 17 assists. For any full-back, these are impressive numbers. This is due to the fact that for a full-back to contribute so heavily in attack, they have to be incredibly dynamic going forward.

Positioning and the ability to place yourself in the right place at the right time — a valuable skill — are both needed to bag goals as a full-back. Meanwhile, crossing skills have to be at their peak in order to supply the number of assists Joshua Kimmich has.

Attacking prowess and defensive frailty

Just as important as contributing in attack, though, is the the ability to competently defend and track back in transition from attack to defense. Controversially, I don’t believe he’s shown a great level of skill in that particular arena just yet.

Kimmich’s greatest problem in the right-back position is his one-on-one defending. Occasionally, Kimmich gets so caught up in bombing forward and supplying width and attack, that he gets caught out of position if the opponent initiates a quick transition into a counter-attack.

In addition, Kimmich tends to have trouble against technical and pacy wingers, getting exposed in the process. One example that comes to mind is against Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic in the first half of the season. While Bayern won 3-1 on the day, Kimmich clearly couldn’t handle the American.

Throughout the match, Pulisic was skinning Kimmich alive, eventually leading to Dortmund’s consolation goal and sacrifice of a clean sheet. This is just one example, but Kimmich needs to use these as stepping stones to improve as the sport’s biggest stage cannot afford slip-ups defensively.

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Joshua Kimmich will undoubtedly be the undisputed starter at right-back for Germany at the World Cup. Kimmich surely possesses some valuable assets about him that come as a saving grace for both club and country. This is especially true given the lack of quality full-backs available for most countries.

However, his guaranteed position in both squads — Germany and Bayern Munich — can’t afford to go to his head. A lack of competition in a position can lead to complacency if a player is not careful. Kimmich will need to step up, particularly in defense, if he’s going to prove himself a lynchpin of the defensive back four this summer.