FC Bayern Munich; not solely reliant on their first eleven anymore, the German giants still lean on their outstanding star.
Having conceded the title for two consecutive years for the first time since the 94/95 and 95/96 seasons, Bayern analysed their problems this summer and strengthened the squad in terms of quality and, most importantly, depth.
Like in the mid-90s, under future Bayern manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, Dortmund have been the Bavarian’s main rivals at the top of the league in the last couple of years. Although Bayern have always been able to beat big clubs in the recent past, as shown in their decent Champions League run, ending in a bitter loss against Chelsea in the final, injury problems and fluctuating form often cost them consistency.
The signings of Javi Martínez (€40m from Athletic Bilbao), Mario Mandzukic (€13m from VfL Wolfsburg), Xherdan Shaqiri (€11.8m from FC Basel), Dante (€4.7m buy-out clause from Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Claudio Pizarro (free transfer from Werder Bremen) were necessary to compensate these kind of problems in the future and offer manager Jupp Heynckes a depth of players that the club hasn’t had in previous seasons.
Javi Martínez clearly offers a potential world-class option alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in defensive midfield, and potentially cover at centre-back once he has settled in. Therefore, Bayern are not solely dependent on Luiz Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk in that area anymore, especially due to the addition of further experience at the back arrived in Dante, who was one of the main contributors to Gladbach’s success last season.
Up front, Bayern have not only one, but two quality options to replace Mario Gomez now, in Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro. Both are very complete strikers to challenge the German international, who has been injured for the beginning of the season, for the lone spot in the team’s 4-2-3-1.
The fifth major signing this summer - hugely talented Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri finally has the potential to put pressure on the Bavarian’s starting wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. However, it isn’t one of these new signings that is accountable for Bayern’s recent success in the Bundesliga.
The most important man in Munich is still the aforementioned Frenchman Franck Ribéry, who is sometimes underrated in Europe and his native France, but performs on a level that is second to none in the Bundesliga.
Franck Ribéry tops the league with a WhoScored rating of 8.81 and has been awarded the WhoScored Man of the Match in 3 of the 8 games he’s played this season, with his importance to the club also evident in their results.
With Ribéry playing, Bayern are unbeaten with a 100% win record out of 8 games in the Bundesliga. They have a goal difference of +27 in those games, averaging 3.5 goals for, 0.1 against and 18.8 shots per game.
Without Ribéry, Bayern have only recorded 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss out of 5 games in the Bundesliga. In contrast, their goal difference is +6 in that time, averaging 2 goals, 0.8 goals against and 16.8 shots per game.
Bayern certainly aren’t a one-man team, but the importance of the Frenchman to the German league leaders is very similar to the importance of Lionel Messi (WhoScored rating 8.90) to FC Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo (WhoScored rating 7.82) to Real Madrid or Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Paris Saint Germain (WhoScored rating 7.91).
With 3.3 shots per game, Ribéry is third in the league, only behind Bayer Leverkusen target man Stefan Kießling and, surprisingly, Freiburg winger Daniel Caligiuri, with 3.5 shots per game.
His pass success percentage is at an astonishing 89.7%, leaving him predominantly among defenders and central midfielders in the leaderboard. The only wingers with similar numbers are Schalke’s Ibrahim Afellay (90% pass success percentage as well), who joined on loan from Barcelona’s “passing machine” and was mainly used as a central midfielder at PSV Eindhoven, Frankfurt’s Takashi Inui (87.2% pass success percentage) and Afellay’s Schalke teammate Jefferson Farfan (86.2% pass success percentage).
His figures are even more impressive when considering Ribéry averages a Bundesliga high of 3.8 key passes per game and is not reluctant to play the risky final pass. Compared to the three wingers above, with similar pass completion rates, it is an outstanding number, with Jefferson Farfan averaging a very solid 2.9 key passes per game, but Takashi Inui (0.7 key passes per game) and Ibrahim Afellay (0.6 key passes per game) falling way behind.
Ribéry is also joint-first in the league with 4.4 successful dribbles per game, only topped by Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa (5.1 successful dribbles per game) in Europe’s top five leagues, leaving him well ahead of Lionel Messi (3.4 successful dribbles per game) and Cristiano Ronaldo (1.2 successful dribbles per game).
There are 4 goals and 6 assists in 8 games to Ribéry’s name so far, and while they are now able to rotate stars from their first eleven more appropriately after a shopping spree this summer, Bayern have one man in their squad that they may never be able to replace.