After enjoying life as a central defender under Hansi Flick, Bayern Munich should permanently move David Alaba in the central defense.
After a difficult few months at the start of the season, Bayern Munich steadied their campaign when Hansi Flick was appointed as the first team manager. Flick’s immediate impact helped the team climbing up the table by going on a long winning run.
Flick made a clear change in the philosophy as Die Roten were playing a much attractive brand of football. The intensity of the pressing was much better, which helped them to play on the front foot and create problems for the opponent from the word go.
Despite an injury crisis at the end of 2019, Flick managed to make the team a much more solid defensive unit. Bayern were conceding very few chances under Niko Kovac, but individual errors at the back made sure that they kept on giving away cheap goals. Flick’s man-management made sure that defenders played with much more confidence and avoided making errors at the back.
Apart from man-management, the change in personnel and moving the defensive line a few yards behind also helped Bayern. Moving the defensive line behind helped in decreasing the vulnerability of the team towards counter-attacks. Die Roten were able to sniff the danger quickly and didn’t allow the opposition to gain advantage from turnovers.
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In terms of personnel, David Alaba’s introduction in central defense helped Bayern to a great extent in making the team a much more cohesive defensive unit. The Austrian defender has been playing as a left-back for Die Roten consistently and rarely been used in central defense since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2016.
When the team is defending, Alaba’s clever positioning allows the back four to be two steps ahead of the front three or front two of the opposition. He commands the defensive line with authority and example, bringing a great sense of coordination amongst the four defenders. Moreover, he can sniff the danger quickly, intercepting the passes which have broken the midfield line. The performance against Chelsea showed Alaba can keep quiet any type of forward as he dominated the duel against Olivier Giroud.
Alaba’s recovery pace also helps in covering up the cracks in defense. He is not as rapid he used to be, but he has the potential to beat almost every forward in the world in a footrace. Moreover, a clean tackling technique makes sure that he doesn’t give away fouls in dangerous positions.
The Austria international is much more effective on the ball as he is off it. Alaba has an adventurous short and long passing range. He can deliver a single pass into forward by breaking lines of the opposition’s system with ease. Moreover, he can also switch the play by pinging a cross-field pass to a winger. Due to Alaba’s presence in central defense, Die Roten is able to progress the ball in a much effective manner. When Bayern is dominating possession, he dictates the play by slotting in the holding midfield role.
Alaba is still 28, but his all-round abilities make him a much more potent central defender than a left-back. He is still one of the best full-backs in Europe, but Bayern will be in a much better position if he is used as a central defender on a consistent basis. The likes of Lucas Hernandez, Niklas Sule, and Benjamin Pavard are good defenders, but Alaba is much more complete than all three players. All these three defenders can develop a strong partnership with Alaba in the heart of the defense.
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Moreover, the emergence of Alphonso Davies in the left-back position further strengthens the argument of playing Alaba in central defense. Alaba can take over the mantle of becoming the senior central defender in the squad from next season and lead the defense for at least the next four years. The departure of Jerome Boateng can be compensated by permanently changing Alaba’s position. For the player’s sake and team’s cause, it is necessary that Alaba makes this positional change and help Die Roten in achieving success across all competitions.