You might have heard of the phrase desperate times call for desperate measures. Well, this worked out perfectly for Bayern Munchen when they put their trust in their Austrian calm and composed left-back David Alaba to play in the heart of their defense when the German champions running out of options after Niklas Sule’s ACL tear.
Today we briefly analyze how David Alaba converted himself into a composed Center Half much to the delight of Bayern Munich, with the Bavarian club hoping that the Austrian commits his future to the club and embraces this new role of his.
Factors and Statistics
David Alaba has been a mainstay in the Bayern defense for years, but this transformation has been especially shocking. Alaba has transitioned from being one of the world’s best fullbacks to one of the world’s best Center back in a single season.
He has taken the role of Hummels who had departed to Dortmund as Bayern’s primary ball progressor contributing massively to buildup play as demonstrated by the 0.72 xGBuildup in the radar. What made our jaw hit the ground, is Alaba’s key passes per 90 metrics. He’s making around 0.63 key passes per 90 and doing so quite regularly.
One of the key factors that has helped Alaba develop his ability at CB is the introduction of the Canadian winger Alphonso Davies at LB. His quick turn of pace and recovery speed allows him to provide the Austrian with cover allowing him to step into midfield and play the ball forward.
This is Bayern Munich’s regular position when they have the ball, take a look at Alaba here (27)
Under Flick, Bayern’s Center Backs are responsible for progressing play from back to front a lot more than their midfielders. Both Alaba and Boateng step into midfield to both squeeze play and provide that cutting edge in possession that makes Bayern so dangerous.
The ‘David Alaba Center Back’ passing types showcase so many varieties of passes with him attempting 2418 passes and completing 2192 of them in the 2019/20 season.
The table above from FBref showcases the following passes per 90
- Live: Ball is in motion
- Dead: Ball is dead/stationary, normally includes set-pieces
- FK: Free Kick passes
- TB: Through balls
- Press: Passes made through a press
- Sw: Switch of play (more than 40 yards)
- Crs: Crosses
- CK: Cornerkick
The following are some of the strengths that Alaba at Center Back possesses which helped Bayern capture their 8th Bundesliga title in a row.
Line Breaking Passes:
As showcased from the statistical table above, Alaba is able to 9.59 passes per 90 minutes when he’s being pressed. This makes him capable of breaking opposition lines with ease. What makes this easier for him is his time at LB enabled him to travel with the ball too, making him tactically fexlible.
Alaba has always been positionally aware and tactically flexible. The Austrian, as mentioned before, has formed an understanding with Alphonso Davies. He understands when he has to drop centrally and when he has to provide width or offer himself out wide.
It helps Bayern Munich remain unpredictable.
Alaba acts as an extra midfielder to ease off the pressure from the double pivot of Kimmich/Thiago. The double pivot usually advances in the midfield and allows Alaba to advance into the pocket of space. This allows him to play the ball forward.
Alaba averages 88 passes per match with a pass completion rate of 91%
Just like every defender in the world, the Austrian defender has his downs which can be exploited at times usually because of him being a fullback for the most of his career
Maintaining the Line:
David Alaba by nature is a front footed defender who looks to not just start moves off, but sometimes getting on the end to finish them. This attribute of his, therefore, leaves him unable to maintain the line with his defensive partner at times this season, leaving Bayern to concede poorly constructed goals at the back.
Like the one they did to Bayer Leverkusen away.
Too eager to Intercept:
There comes a time when every CB has to show urgency by slide tackling a forward to stop a counter-attack or a sprint past them and many of them are really good at it. But David somehow struggles with this aspect as he is way too composed and calm in these situations.
David Alaba at Center Back has been a revelation, with Bayern Munich desperate to keep him at the club with talks on fresh terms due to start soon.
If Bayern are able to tie him down, then they have a fantastic Center-Back entering his prime in the position. Will they be able to? Or will we see Alaba at a spanish club soon as he has stated countless times he’d love to play for.