Today, news sources have confirmed the speculation—and what no Bayern Munich fan wants to hear— that captain, Manuel Neuer, has been ruled out until January 2018. Bayern confirmed the news after the 31-year-old underwent another foot operation, having been pulled out of training on Monday. This is likely to have been as a result of a recurring hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.
Having won worldwide accolade as FIFPro’s “World’s Best Goalkeeper”—for the fourth consecutive year in 2016—the impact of Neuer’s loss doesn’t look a positive one for Bayern on paper. However, let’s take a closer look at how the side might fare with Neuer watching from the sidelines.
Can Ulreich rise to the standard set by Neuer?
There’s one man who will certainly be optimistic following the news of Neuer’s injury. Earlier this year, back-up keeper Sven Ulreich reportedly told German news sources that he’d consider a move away from last season’s Bundesliga champions in a bid for regular first-team football. Since his move to Bayern Munich in 2015 Ulreich has made just 13 appearances. He has won 9 matches and kept 4 clean sheets. Today’s news brings a great opportunity for the 29-year-old to finally show off his ability.
During his time at former club, VfB Stuttgart, Ulreich managed to keep 50 clean sheets in 220 appearances. When we look at Neuer’s stats though, this doesn’t seem quite as impressive. Neuer has currently made 298 appearances for Bayern Munich and in that time, has managed to keep 158 clean sheets. When we compare goals-conceded stats, Ulreich—during his 13 Bayern appearances—has conceded an average of 0.88 goals per game. Not surprisingly, Neuer averages a lower 0.65 goals past him per game.
What the stats don’t show us is Neuer’s positive mental influence over his teammates. The experience he passes on to them and his commanding presence in the captaincy role are likely to be missed. Likewise, Neuer’s renowned for his distribution of the ball from the sweeper-keeper position which Ulreich will have to master. Ulreich is lacking in first-team football, but, should Bayern fans worry considering the defenders they have?
Back four to the rescue?
Bayern’s defence is—arguably—up there as the best in the world. With the likes of Rafinha and Joshua Kimmich, their back 4 is a mixture of youth and experience. As well as defensive prowess, their defenders have also shown that they’re not shy in front of goal. Last season, Kimmich scored 9 goals in 40 appearances. That is not far off the pace of Thiago and Vidal who both netted 9 goals in 41 appearances.
There were some worrying signs for Bayern fans at the start of the season, however, when the side faced Leverkusen in the opening contest of the Bundesliga campaign. Without the reassurance of Neuer behind them in this game, the defenders looked disorganised and allowed 19 shots on goal.
Could the timing of Neuer’s absence be any worse?
There’s never a perfect time to pick up an injury, but when you look at Bayern’s fixtures for the next few months, it doesn’t look comforting. Certainly not if you are a Bayern fan that is. PSG fans will have welcomed Neuer’s injury, as the two sides face each other next Wednesday in Champions League. Bayern will travel to Paris for their second game in UCL group stage play. Ulreich and his defence will have the likes of Neymar to deal with at Parc des Princes. Neuer’s absence could potentially cost Bayern their anticipated top finish in Group B. That would mean being drawn against a better opponent in the next round.
Manuel Neuer could potentially be a big loss for Bayern but it will be interesting to see what the next few months provide. If Bayern’s defence manage without him, could we see a new FIFPro “World’s Best Goalkeeper” for the forthcoming season?