Can Bayern look to Serge Gnabry with Lewandowski shelved?
Background photo: Lapunkd, CC BY-SA 2.5
It would be an act of ignorance not to acknowledge Bayern Munich's decent exploits this season. The Bavarians have their ship moving in the right direction as the campaign nears its climax. They top the Bundesliga table with 49 points from 23 games and, despite Erling Haaland's ridiculous form for Borussia Dortmund, remain Germany's in-form team with four victories and a draw from their last five matches.
Hans-Dieter Flick's men set the standard in the Champions League as well. After thrashing Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge this past week, die Roten put more than one foot in the quarterfinal draw. Following a sub-par outing last term, the seven-times running Bundesliga champions look set to dominate domestically while making their mark in Europe again. Striker Robert Lewandowski deserves thanks for making the difference in attack with 39 goals in 34 matches across all competitions. He leads the Champions League with 11 goals. He bagged a goal and two assists against the Blues to hold BVB's young talisman at bay for the moment. Unfortunately, the Polish striker also fractured his tibia in the win and is expected to be lost for four weeks.
Spoiler alert: his absence represents a huge loss for the Bundesliga leaders. Bayern need someone to step into the void. The first candidate to come to mind might be Thomas Muller who headed a cross off the bar while the match was still goalless. A club and national legend, he'd be a like-for-like replacement.
But the player who's been putting up numbers at the Allianz Arena only bettered by Lewy is Serge Gnabry. The 24-year-old winger has Bavarians forgetting Arjen Robben on the right flank with his 17 goals and 10 assists in 30 appearances overall.
Gnabry moved his career lightyears beyond his Arsenal days. His marauding runs either rip through defences or create openings for teammates. The ball stays on his foot like a €1 Euro coin glued to the sidewalk by a prankster. Gunners faithful mourn his departure. He bagged four goals in Tottenham's 7-2 group stage spanking and fired two past Chelsea on Wednesday evening.
While he tends to score in bunches and not as consistently as Lewandowski, that could change if he moves inside. Hans Dieter Flick has every reason to trust him as a difference-maker in the Pole's absence. Gnabry isn't a flat-track bully. His scoring sprees tend to come in big matches. They earned him Man of the Match honours against both the Blues and Spurs. He also found the back of the net against Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker.
Gnabry's deadly runs and dribbles prove too hard for defenders to handle. His link-up play and vision help him create clear-cut scoring chances. His 1v1 play is top drawer, deservedly fitting into highlight reels alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. He is the match for anyone with pace as well. Muller may be Flick's first choice in the middle due to his experience but looking to Gnabry could prove to be an inspired choice.