Joshua Kimmich: Bayern Munich's unheralded creative gem
From an entitled supporter's perspective, it's nearly impossible to be positive about Bayern Munich. They still chase Borussia Dortmund, second a place they haven't been this late into any of their six previous Bundesliga title-winning seasons. Happily, watching Joshua Kimminch battle through 90 minutes week in and week out brings a smile to their faces.
Positives were few and far between for new manager Niko Kovac in a thrilling Der Klassiker at the Westfalenstadion as 2018 faded. On a crisp Saturday night in Dortmund, his side bottled it when it mattered most. Kimmich’s classy display offered respite. It was something to take home from the painful Bundesliga defeat.
Bayern led twice through Robert Lewandowski only for Marco Reus to peg back on each occasion. Paco Alcacer came off the bench to score the winner and keep Dortmund four points clear atop the table. That advantage was held over Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern were much further behind than the three-point gap that now exists between the rivals.
Although criticised for positioning rather than a lack of ability or athleticism, Kimmich gave his team an extra offensive outlet on the right. He sat near the edge of the Dortmund box to support the attack. His persistence was rewarded with an assist for Lewandowski's opener.
That performance wasn't isolated. Kimmich asserts himself as an archetypal right back at the ripe age of 24. While his defensive traits remain a cause for concern, the German is making up for it with remarkable attacking artistry. Kovac can't complain if the youngster keeps producing.
Kimmich owns a Bundesliga-best 10 assists, tied with Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. Across Europe’s top five leagues, only Lionel Messi has laid on more goals for teammates.
The German has been increasingly influential since that defeat to BVB. He made three goals in December as the record champions returned to form with five wins. This year, he's chipped in with three, twice against VfB Stuttgart.
Kimmich is out-creating acclaimed playmakers Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and teammate James Rodriguez. In all competitions, that pedigreed trio share 11 assists, one less than the Bayern right back.
On occasion, Kimmich deploys to the middle. He began his career as a midfielder, converting only after signing with Bayern. Stats show he's more productive on the right. Kimmich racked up two goals and 20 assists in 47 Bundesliga matches in that role.
He hasn't missed a minute in the Bundesliga this season. It's easy to see why. Whether in midfield or defence, he is a tireless worker, covering more ground than any of his teammates.
Despite his tender years, he reads the game well and dictates tempo. When he isn't unlocking defences with precise through-balls, his penetrating drives down the flank fend with inch-perfect crosses. Factor in his set-piece wizardry and he is an enormous asset to Kovac.
The former Leipzig prodigy averages 77 passes per game with a 92% accuracy. No full-back completed more passes than Kimmich in this season’s Champions League group stage . He also put in a competition-high 48 crosses.
Bayern pinned all their hopes on Kimmick to replace club legend Philipp Lahm in 2017. Two-and-a-half years later, people already expect the student to eclipse the master.