How will Bayern Munich line up without the injured Sadio Mane and Lucas Hernandez?
With Sadio Mane and Lucas Hernandez both sidelined with injury for the time being, there are inevitable questions about how Bayern Munich will line up without them. bundesliga.com takes a look at head coach Julian Nagelsmann’s options.
Mane was substituted off in Bayern’s 6-1 win over Werder Bremen on 8 November and subsequently underwent successful surgery in Austria to reattach a tendon to the head of his right fibula. All of which means the 30-year-old must now go through a period of rehabilitation before he can be deemed match-fit again.
Bayern have not given an indication of how long the Senegal attacker will be sidelined, but injuries of this kind can take up to three months to heal. Taking that as a rough rule of thumb, Sane would therefore miss a handful of matches at the start of 2023, starting with the trip to third-placed RB Leipzig on 20 January.
When Mane joined Bayern over the summer he said he was happy to play in any position across the frontline, and Nagelsmann initially fielded him has a centre forward as the team tried to find its feet again following the departure of Robert Lewandowski. While he scored against both Eintracht Frankfurt and Bochum on Matchdays 1 and 3 respectively, there was the sense that Mane still had more to offer
Nagelsmann, never afraid to tinker with formations or tactics, switched Mane to the left for the UEFA Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen on 12 October, in which the Bayern No.17 provided a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win.
“The idea behind it was to get him into the game well,” said Nagelsmann afterwards. “That’s why we did it. He was very dynamic down the left against Plsen. He’s also used to playing there.”
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And there he has stayed for Bayern, contributing two goals and three assists in five subsequent Bundesliga games. So how do they fill the slot for a wide-left attacker? There is no shortage of options at least, although some of the pegs are rounder than others.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting looks to have made the lone striker role his own in Nagelsmann’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jamal Musiala currently irreplaceable behind him as an attacking playmaker, and Serge Gnabry in devastating form off the right.
Which leaves us with Mathys Tel, Thomas Müller, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman vying for Mane’s place on the left. Tel has impressed with three goals in seven Bundesliga outings this term, and he recently hit five goal in three games for France’s U19s in European Championship qualifying, but he is more of an out-and-out forward and, at 17, still considered too raw to be a regular starter.
Müller would not be a natural fit on the left either. He is likely to vie with Musiala for minutes more centrally, and although he can play on the right, with the possibility of Gnabry switching flanks, Nagelsmann is unlikely to want to shake things up too much.
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That leaves just Sane and Coman as the most viable options. Much will obviously depend on them returning unscathed from the 2022 World Cup, and while the pair are similar in terms of speed, direct running and goal threat, on the face of it, Sane looks the more likely to start.
The 26-year-old has made 13 Bundesliga appearances this season, including eight starts. He has hit five goals and three assists in 838 minutes, compared to one goal and three assists for Coman over 526 minutes (nine games, five starts). The Frenchman’s reduced output is due to a muscle tear forcing him to the sidelined for a month between early September and early October, continuing an unfortunate injury trend that has led to him missing 100 competitive games for Bayern since joining in 2015/16.
The likelihood is that both players will be given plenty of time to shine, particularly with Bayern potentially playing 30 more matches in all competitions between the end of January and the business end of the season in May.
So that’s the attacking department sorted. But what about the defence? Hernandez started the season as first-choice centre-back alongside fellow Frenchman Dayot Upamecano, the fact that he is naturally left-footed giving him an edge in the pecking order. Prior to his cruciate ligament tear at the World Cup, the 26-year-old had only played in seven league games (six starts) in 2022/23 though, owing to a groin complaint that forced him to the sidelines in October.
Again, Bayern are well stocked in this department. Upamecano has played more minutes than anyone else under Nagelsmann this season, so on that basis alone – quite aside from him being a superb defender – he is a guaranteed starter.
Benjamin Pavard could tuck in from right-back alongside his compatriot, with Noussair Mazraoui coming in at right-back, as has happened in nine times so far in 2022/23. However, Nagelsmann seems to prefer Pavard’s reliability on that flank compared to the more attack-minded Mazraoui.
As a result, summer signing Matthijs de Ligt should partner Upamecano for the foreseeable future. “He’s very good, very mature,” Nagelsmann said of the 23-year-old. “He makes almost no mistakes and is very aware that he is a centre-back.”
Manuel Neuer is also appreciative of his teammate’s qualities: “He’s very vocal and he’s also got great body language. He’s always communicating.”
So while the losses of Mane and Hernandez are undoubtedly setbacks for Bayern, they have the quality in reserve to cope. Don’t be surprised if they line up like this when they return to Bundesliga action in Leipzig on Matchday 16: Neuer – Pavard, Upamecano, de Ligt, Davies – Kimmich, Goretzka – Gnabry, Musiala, Sane – Choupo-Moting.
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