Will the return of Manuel Neuer “fix” the defense of Bayern Munich? May be. Probably.
Bayern Munich’s defense has been shaky at best since the club returned to the pitch after the winter break. Pundits and fans shifted the blame from the defense to the midfield, to various individual players and to the coach. However, is the solution to many current problems simply the return of the greatest goalkeeper of all time to Manuel Neuer?
No one here blames Sven Ulreich here. When Bayern brought Ulreich to Munich for the second time this summer, everyone was delighted that the club had a solid replacement for Neuer after Alexander Nübel’s loan spell at AS Monaco. He’s a spectacular substitute for the club, but it’s not Neuer. He’s not the best, and when you’re not the best, you’re always going to be compared to the best.
Ulreich has made seven appearances this season, including six in 2022 in Neuer’s absence. In these six matches, Bayern have conceded nine goals. Now, again, nobody blames Ulreich for the volume of goals he concedes. Many of them can be blamed for abysmal defense or, quite frankly, a hilarious own goal.
Clearly, Neuer has conceded 28 goals in 28 games in all competitions this season. This total includes the 0-5 thrashing in the DFB Pokal against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Take that game out and Neuer conceded a much more acceptable 23 goals in 27 games.
I happen to be a firm believer that a returning Neuer will be a big boost for Bayern and, perhaps, will solve most of the defensive problems. Why is that?
Trust. Neuer, who turns 36 at the end of the month, plays with an otherworldly confidence that only comes when you’re the best at what you do.
His presence in the Bayern goal affects the way Bayern play as a team. Neuer’s ability as a sweeping keeper eases the pressure on Bayern’s back line letting them know that, Oh! Neuer is back there! He is so good with the ball at his feet that he acts as a third centre-back when Bayern are in possession, easing the pressure on central midfield and full-backs.
Obviously, it’s not just the Bayern player who is affected by Neuer being in goal. While not dispelling #SvenTheWall, trying to score against Neuer is simply a tougher quest than trying to score against Ulreich.
Almost three and a half years ago I wrote an article for Bavarian Football Works titled Manuel Neuer’s decline: Bayern Munich, Germany should be worried. At the time, Neuer was struggling to recover from his long foot injury, but his self-confidence was gone. He lost control of his box, made questionable decisions and had one of the worst save percentages in the Bundesliga.
Then it flipped like a switch. Neuer became fully fit and with that he started to establish himself again as the best goalkeeper in the world. His confidence is visible when he plays as much as he has ever been.
Will Neuer’s return to the starting line-up be enough for the Bavarians to lock things down at the back? That may be the case, but it’s enough to give Bayern fans hope that Bundesliga and Champions League glory is back on the horizon.