Joshua Kimmich's Injury Has Opened the Door for the Bundesliga's Chasing Pack

James Cormack
Joshua Kimmich damaged his meniscus after challenging Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland
Joshua Kimmich damaged his meniscus after challenging Borussia Dortmund's Erling Braut Haaland / Pool/Getty Images
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Since 2018, German football's dominant force has teased the rest of the division with opportunities to knock them off their perch.

In the wake of a dominant 2017/18 Meisterschale triumph in Jupp Heynckes third stint as boss - Bayern Munich's sixth title on the spin - the appointment of then Eintracht Frankfurt manager Niko Kovac handed Borussia Dortmund, in particular, their first opportunity.

Bayern still secured a domestic double during Niko Kovac's ill-fated tenure
Bayern still secured a domestic double during Niko Kovac's ill-fated tenure / TF-Images/Getty Images

However, despite Kovac's best efforts to undermine the identity Pep Guardiola had worked to instil during his three-year stay and alienate senior members of the squad - he tagged Thomas Muller an “emergency back-up”, for example - Die Roten were still able to secure yet another Bundesliga crown by a two-point margin following a Dortmund Rückrunde slump.

Bayern's vulnerability, though, was laid bare in their humiliating defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16, with their stark demise under the pragmatic Kovac continuing into 2019/20.

The Croatian was given inevitable sack in November 2019 following a 5-1 defeat at his former club Frankfurt - a loss which left them four points adrift of then leaders Borussia Monchengladbach after ten matches.

Kovac's successor Hansi Flick, initially viewed as a stop-gap before one of Ralf Rangnick or Erik ten Hag would take the reins, then endured a bumpy start to his tenure with back-to-back defeats ensuing within the first month. The second of which - a 2-1 defeat at Gladbach - meant a seemingly demising giant were now seven points off Die Fohlen at the summit.

Victory over Bayern left Gladbach seven points clear of Die Roten at the top of the table in December
Victory over Bayern left Gladbach seven points clear of Die Roten at the top of the table in December / TF-Images/Getty Images

Surely now, with the innovative minds of Marco Rose and Julian Nagelsmann masterminding two of the Bundesliga's leading contenders, it was time for Bayern to knocked right off their f***ing perch, Fergie style.

Uh, oh. So the whole 'Hansi Flick evolving Bayern into the best team on the planet' wasn't exactly a part of the plan.

Reinstalling the principles laid out by Louis van Gaal, improved by Heynckes and almost revolutionised by Guardiola, Flick, as we all know, guided Die Roten to an incredible treble.

With December leaders Gladbach flailing and Herbstmeister Leipzig discovering a freakish fetish for dropping points at home, it was Dortmund, after enduring a woeful Hinrunde, who emerged as Bayern's 'closest' challengers - 13 points adrift they were in the end up...

A run of 19 wins in a 20-game unbeaten streak to end the season helped Bayern to the Bundesliga title last term
A run of 19 wins in a 20-game unbeaten streak to end the season helped Bayern to the Bundesliga title last term / KAI PFAFFENBACH/Getty Images

Then, once Manchester City's Leroy Sane was added to the Bavarians' ranks in the summer, there was a universal fear that their stranglehold on the division would only get tighter. However, the departure of Thiago Alcantara - arguably Europe's premier midfielder last term - to Liverpool meant that on the balance of play, Die Roten were slightly weakened heading into 2020/21.

And while the Spaniard's departure is yet to suggest any signs of a slump - they sit top of the table having won six of their seven games - an unfortunate sequence which unfolded in the recent Klassiker victory over Dortmund may well have opened the door for the Bundesliga's previously hopeless chasing pack.

Caught in possession on the halfway by a determined Erling Braut Haaland, a failed attempt to prevent the demonic Norwegian breaking away in transition left Joshua Kimmich writhing around the Signal Iduna Park turf.

It looked a bad one, and it's since been revealed that Kimmich will be out until January after undergoing surgery on a damaged meniscus.

While Dortmund, of course, were unable to capitalise on Kimmich's early exit despite a smart initial gameplan from Lucien Favre and a rather impressive but wasteful showing overall, Die Borussen and the chasing pack have now been blessed with an opportunity they simply have to seize.

As Dortmund defender Mats Hummels succinctly noted post-match: “Bayern are outstanding in attack but open defensively,” Die Roten - now without two key midfield stars from their imperious 2019/20 campaign - are a vulnerable unit.

With Thiago now developing a Scouse accent and Kimmich on the treatment table until the new year, Bayern simply won't be able to control contests in the manner which they previously did.

Thiago Alcantara was a key spoke in Hansi Flick's wheel
Thiago Alcantara was a key spoke in Hansi Flick's wheel / Pool/Getty Images

In the short-term, Bayern are poised to become overly reliant on their centre-backs for ball-progression, their attempts to sustain attacks will be a more strenuous ordeal and they'll struggle further at defending transitions. Now less likely to exert such territorial dominance over their opponents, expect their high defensive line to be breached at even greater regularity

All of this is the ripple effect of Kimmich's injury and Thiago's summer exit.

Leon Goretzka may well be the finest box-to-box midfielder the continent has to offer at the moment, but he simply can't provide what the aforementioned pair provide in terms of control, aiding build-up and progressing the ball from deep. Corentin Tolisso, Kimmich's poised replacement, boasts a similar profile while Javi Martinez is surely too unathletic for regular minutes alongside Goretzka.

Marc Roca and Tanguy Kouassi are talented alternatives, but are relatively unknown commodities.

Summer addition Marc Roca may see plenty off the field amid Kimmich's absence
Summer addition Marc Roca may see plenty off the field amid Kimmich's absence / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Now, the outcast may appear pretty grim - and overly dramatic - for the league-leaders but let's get one thing clear, Kimmich's injury is not going to spark a sharp collapse, far from it. However, it unquestionably hands upcoming opponents a significantly better chance to take points off a juggernaut which may appear a wee bit rusty.

Just look at how open and stretched Saturday's Klassiker was and compare that to Bayern's 1-0 victory over Dortmund which all but secured last season's title in May. The manner in which they controlled that contest against a firing BVB side was so impressive, with their linchpin and match-winner, Kimmich, so pivotal in establishing that stability.

Thus, the window might only be slim for Dortmund & co. - there are only six matchdays before the end of 2020 and 12 before the end of January 2021 - before Kimmich's expected return. During which they must find a phrase which has often been removed from their dictionary during crunch time: consistency.

Lucien Favre and Borussia Dortmund, in particular, have to take advantage of Kimmich's injury
Lucien Favre and Borussia Dortmund, in particular, have to take advantage of Kimmich's injury / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Dortmund's unnerving knack of dropping points against inferior opposition, whether it be Nurnberg in 2018/19 or Paderborn a season later, has cost them in the past.

They simply can't afford any slip-ups in an upcoming run which includes FC Koln and Werder Bremen as Bayern Munich attempt to mitigate the impact of Joshua Kimmich's absence.


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