Joshua Kimmich experienced a turbulent start to the second half of the season for a number of reasons. A new trend is troubling the 27-year-old midfield strategist – but now he has to watch.
Joshua Kimmich made an extremely unusual experience for him on Sunday evening in Wolfsburg: he had to leave the pitch before the final whistle. With coach Julian Nagelsmann, the 27-year-old is not only protected against rotations, but also against substitutions. Kimmich played 14 competitive games in a row for his FC Bayern Munich from the first to the last minute. Before that he missed a game and a half because of a corona infection.
The fact that Kimmich actually had to go down after 54 minutes in the 4-2 win against VfL Wolfsburg was not due to his coach, but to referee Harm Osmers. He showed Kimmich yellow in the first half for an unnecessary push against Mattias Svanberg and yellow again for a tactical foul on Maximilian Arnold after the break. Makes yellow-red. “Absolutely stupid,” Kimmich described the first scene insightfully. In his opinion, the second was “very little”.
Oddly enough, Kimmich’s dismissal hardly harmed FC Bayern’s game: in the phase immediately before that, Wolfsburg had pushed energetically to make it 2: 3, and the attacking storm eased off a bit when they were outnumbered. Of course, this shouldn’t be attributed to Kimmich’s sudden absence, but it somehow fits into the picture that Kimmich is currently giving. Despite some isolated highlights, things have been rather mixed for FC Bayern’s midfield strategist, who was often outstanding in the first half of the season.
FC Bayern Munich and the problems in midfield
Yes, he scored the important equalizer against 1. FC Köln (and then complained about his team’s lack of “attitude and sharpness”). Yes, in the 4-0 win against a harmless FSV Mainz 05 in the DFB Cup he provided an assist and put in a convincing performance. Yes, he also set up Thomas Müller’s 3-0 lead against Wolfsburg with a free-kick cross.
But: At the start of the second half of the season against RB Leipzig, he owed the equalizer with a double fault. And in Wolfsburg, Kimmich received the very first dismissal of his professional career (which, of course, is quite surprising given his aggressive style of play). Regardless of these individual scenes, Kimmich does not currently have the constant, dominant influence on the FC Bayern game that he and Nagelsmann would like or expect. The strategist is tactically not ideally integrated into his team’s game.
In general, the processes in midfield at FC Bayern are bumpy: Because co-sixth Leon Goretzka likes to move up extremely far, there has recently been a big gap between Kimmich and his front men. After the World Cup fiasco with the German national team, Kimmich had expressed his fear of “falling into a hole” in emotional words – but he probably didn’t mean this midfield hole in front of him.
The hole was largely closed only in the 4-0 win in the DFB Cup round of 16 against Mainz, when Nagelsmann relied on a 3-1-4-2 system. Because Dayot Upamecano was injured, the coach returned to the usual 4-2-3-1 in Wolfsburg. This time Goretzka stayed a little further back. In addition, right winger Leroy Sané regularly dropped. FC Bayern only showed really smooth combination play in the phase when the first three goals were scored.
Joshua Kimmich is increasingly being man-marked
In addition to the system problem, there is a trend that Kimmich personally finds unpleasant: Opposing coaches increasingly let him man-mark. Of course, this idea is not new, but it is currently used with remarkable regularity. Emil Forsberg was chasing him against Leipzig, against Cologne Mathias Olesen and against Wolfsburg first Patrick Wimmer and then Svanberg, whom Kimmich pushed away at some point and saw his first yellow card for it.
“Man marking has increased in recent games,” emphasized Kimmich after the game. “Of course it’s difficult when you have someone behind you. Then you have few opportunities to shape the game with a view to the future.”
In fact, Wolfsburg took Kimmich out of the game as much as possible with this tactic. In the first half he recorded only 27 ball actions and thus the fewest of all Bayern players. When he was sent off in the 54th minute, it was 32, a worryingly low figure. Normally, Kimmich likes to collect a clearly three-digit number of ball actions in a game. His season average in the Bundesliga is 97.
Nagelsmann wants Kimmich’s chipballs “to show off more”
Nagelsmann expects from Kimmich “that he transfers his rousing nature to the team, that he is a leader on the field. Not only because of the way he plays, but also as a communicator.” When Thomas Müller was on the bench for the first two games in the second half of the season, Kimmich stood in for the injured Manuel Neuer as captain.
Nagelsmann maintains a close relationship with Kimmich, calls him his “extended arm on the pitch” – and demands that the muscles of this arm be better used. “We have to bring his biggest weapon, the chip balls, to the fore even more,” explained the coach before the Wolfsburg game and called Kimmich “by far the best six in the world” in this category. Although Kimmich has “a huge impact on our game” according to Nagelsmann, he should “have even more influence”.
That wish didn’t come true in Wolfsburg, and it won’t happen next Saturday in the home game against VfL Bochum either. Kimmich has to serve his ban because of the yellow-red card – and thus escapes the next man coverage.