Joshua Kimmich

Why Joshua Kimmich could be a bigger player than Lahm

Bayern Munich pinned all their hopes on Joshua Kimmich to fill the colossal shoes of the retired Philipp Lahm at the start of the season. Thus far, the 22-year-old has done so seamlessly, albeit, adding an extra ingredient to his own game.

Bayern was thrown off balance, back in February, when Lahm made public his intent to quit at the end of the campaign. At just 33, he would have carried on playing for, at least, another three to four years. Worse, still, jumped at the pension plan offered abroad. But the diminutive right-back had no motive whatsoever to boost his bank balance nor dent his unwavering loyalty to the Bavarians. He just felt he’s had enough. “I can manage that until the end of the campaign, but not beyond it,” he said.

Lahm’s final bow for the club against Stuttgart was indeed a colourful one. Almost 80,000 fans crammed the Allianz Arena to catch a final glimpse of their idol. Withdrawn after 87 minutes, the 33-year-old received a thunderous ovation from the spectators. But amidst the excitement and jubilation, a certain feeling of horror gripped the faithful. “Who replaces Lahm?” was the question they all smugly muttered.

That’s not to say the club had no viable option at right-back. Rafinha had done the job on those rare occasions the 33-year-old was drafted into midfield. So had the youngster, Joshua Kimmich. There was also the versatile Sebastian Rudy, confirmed to join the club in the summer. Still, none was considered as good as the departing legend.

The club’s hierarchy, meanwhile, already knew their man for the job; that man was Kimmich. Their position isn’t far-fetched; his size, stature, ability and demeanour made him the ideal candidate for the role. Like his predecessor, Kimmich is good at receiving the ball and taking it forward in the same movement. He glides over the field, not just shuttling up and down the right flank, but also drifting deliberately infield, penetrating crowded midfield from a deep right position. The inevitable and inescapable comparisons have since followed.

Although their physique and style of play is almost an exact match, comparing both was somewhat delusional at this tender stage. “Philipp enjoyed a perfect career,” Kimmich, himself, told Bundesliga official. “You can never replace a player like that like-for-like, but it’s also important for me to go my own way. I don’t want people to see me as a Philipp Lahm clone. I want to do things as Joshua Kimmich.”

Indeed, Kimmich is taking his own pathway to greatness. Since Lahm’s retirement, the 22-year-old has taken up that role with aplomb. So far so good, he’s by far been Bayern’s most consistent performer, consistently shuttling up and down the right flank with ease. While his defensive prowess has never been in doubt, his exploits in the final third have come to the fore. Kimmich has been directly involved in eight goals from 13 games for Bayern this season.

That’s remarkable considering his predecessor managed paltry 12 strikes in the league throughout his career. Worse, the 33-year-old never found the net in Europe’s elite club competition. Kimmich, meanwhile, has grabbed two already this season, one of which was a looping header from long range against Celtic on Wednesday. In total, he’s scored five since leaving RB Leipzig.

Today’s full-backs are frequently getting involved in the offensive side of the game, nicking a goal or two to help their teams. That’s exactly what Kimmich brings that’s been lacking in Bavarian.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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