In the last few days, there were reports in Germany that Joshua Kimmich might be on his way out at Bayern. The club denied the reports (too) aggressively but the 22-year-old is definitely a player to look at.
There are players who were very much trained to play just one position and stick with that position for most of their playing career. However, Germany tends to produce versatile footballers and Kimmich is the best example. When he got subbed on for Lewandowski in Bayern’s 4-1 win and replaced him as a Striker he finally played every outfield position – quite remarkable.
So, what makes him the player who can just perform superbly at right back for “Die Mannschaft” even though he hasn’t played there more than once at club level? What makes him the supposed heir to Philipp Lahm, one of the best Right Backs to ever grace a football pitch?
Part of the reason why Kimmich can play in such a variety of position is his extraordinary footballing intelligence. He has a great positional awareness and he is someone who is always eager to learn more and whenever he plays in a position he hasn’t / has barely played in before you are inclined to believe that it’s a natural position for him.
People might remember the occasion when Pep Guardiola stormed onto the pitch after Bayern just drew 0-0 at Dortmund. At first sight, it looked like he was unhappy with the young German but the Spaniard just realized a good opportunity to teach Kimmich – who had just played his 6th league game at Centre Back despite only being 176cm tall in a row – something.
Here we see Kimmich realizing that the PSV-Goalkeeper wants to play it short so he presses the only passing option whilst denying the easy pass out wide with the help with Robben. When the PSV-Defender plays it back to the Keeper, he drops off making the back pass to the same player – now in a wider area – the only option.
This one is also a good example of what Kimmich can do in terms of defending. He realizes that the Leipzig player is at the touchline and has restricted movement because of it so he charges at him and dispossesses the defender. Knowing exactly when to pull the trigger and being able to pull the Trigger in terms of Pressing are very good traits to have. Depending on the team this is also exactly what you look for in a Fullback.
Creativity and Vision
When Kimmich gets praised it’s often not for the defensive shift he is putting in but for his creativity and final touch in the midfield and attacking third. If he plays in midfield, Kimmich is a player you want to put under pressure because if you are Wolfsburg and don’t really have a plan he can just produce things like this:
He uses his vision to play intelligent through balls from midfield and in general, he really likes being in the middle of the pitch, even when he doesn’t play in a central role. When he played right back for Germany for the first time in their 1-0 win over Northern Ireland he did a lot of horizontal movement against the busses they were facing. I am still not sure if this was just him or if it was an instruction by Joachim Löw because the rest of the team didn’t really seem to be prepared for lateral movement from their right back.
That game was also the one that led to people comparing him with Philipp Lahm. Because Lahm obviously played in Midfield quite a lot in his career and he always used to say that he prefers to play there. When he played right back under Guardiola it was more or less a midfield role – similar to how Kimmich interpreted his role in said game against Northern Ireland. Both don’t have overwhelming pace but that never stopped Lahm from doing his part in the Robben signature move.
It’s not only his vision on the ball, it’s also his sense of space off the ball that makes him good, highlighted by a run of games earlier in the season where he scored seven goals in six weeks from Central Midfield.
Why Guardiola loves him
Guardiola always says good things about his players but when he talked about Kimmich you always knew that it wasn’t his typical “He is a great player, we need 20 of them” phrase.
Guardiola absolutely loves intelligent players who know when to things that he is teaching them. Looking at the great Barcelona midfield – Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta – all of them were/are very intelligent players, all of them know how to create and use space and all of them have great technical abilities.
If someone is asked what makes Busquets such a good player most people won’t name his defensive qualities but instead his vision, his passing range, his body feints… Kimmich is no Busquets but this theme applies to him. Even if he plays at Centre Back, most people don’t talk about his Defensive Qualities but instead about him not being bothered by Pressing at all and about his Distribution – this is what happened after the mentioned 0-0 between Dortmund and Bayern.
Arguably, linking Kimmich to his old club (Leipzig) and his old manager (Guardiola) is a bit lazy but it is a signing that would make a lot of sense. Looking at the players he has played in all sorts of positions this seasons, a player who can play almost anywhere and who loves to learn is a perfect fit for any Guardiola team. He would also fit into two of the holes the Citizens have in their squad. They a) don’t really have any Central Midfielder and when they played that super fun “gung-ho” 4-1-4-1 it was pretty much four Winger and b) they really need Fullbacks and Kimmich would also be a great fit if he wants to play with Inverted Wingbacks again.
That being said, the player and Bayern wasted no time in denying any reports linking him with a move away from the German Champions and with him being the heir to Philipp Lahm I can’t see that happening – at least not this Summer. Yes, Kimmich has gone through a hard season and he has reasons to be unhappy about how the season went but if Ancelotti starts trusting him more – and he really should – Kimmich’s long-term future is at Bayern.