Benjamin Pavard: The weakest link or the signing of the century?

Bayern President Uli Hoeness is not one to mince his words and has been known to be brutally honest about players (just ask Juan Bernat). But he can also be hugely complimentary about his own players. The 67-year-old has singled out summer arrival Benjamin Pavard for some special praise claiming the young Frenchman will go down as one of the club’s best pieces of transfer business.

Talking to Sport1 on Saturday Hoeness said: “After just a few weeks, he’s already showing that he’ll be one of our best transfers ever.

“For me, it’s not decisive what a player costs. It was always clear to me that he would be an outstanding signing. Especially because he has a wonderful character.”

Pure Hoeness hyperbole, or is the 2018 World Cup winner actually the real deal and set to develop into a fantastic defensive lynchpin for the Bavarians?

The real deal

The €35 million summer signing from VfB Stuttgart has been an ever-present for Bayern this season mainly playing at right-back. This has allowed coach Niko Kovac to push Joshua Kimmich up into a midfield number 6 role that he prefers. The loss of arguably the world’s best fullback has been mitigated by the deployment of Pavard in that position.

The 23-year-old has slotted in well and has shown his versatility. The opening match of the season saw him deployed at centreback alongside Niklas Süle with Lucas Hernandez still out recovering from injury. When the former Atletico Madrid man was ready to return, countryman Pavard simply switched to the right back berth with ease.

Embed from Getty Images

Matchday 4 against Mainz saw a goal and an assist from the fullback as Bayern recovered from going 1-0 behind early on the run out 6-1 winners at the Allianz Arena. Pavard volleyed in Ivan Perišić’ cross into the far corner of the net on 36 minutes to get Bayern level. He then provided the cross for Perišić when he headed in to make it 3-1 after the break.

Versatility, confidence, an attacking threat, a decent crosser of the ball…. the list of qualities goes on lending credence to Hoeness’ latest comments that Bayern have a player of top quality and potential on their hands. Playing and training regularly with the top players Bayern possess should only see Pavard improve.

Doubt

As with any new, young player moving to a big club, there have been teething problems with errors appearing in his game.

Prior to the big clash last weekend against table-toppers RB Leipzig, there was some talk of Julian Nagelsmann planning to target what he saw as Bayern’s weak link- namely Pavard.

Bild Journalist Stefan Krause even drew up a mock game plan to be deployed by die Roten Bullen. While Nagelsmann did at times target Pavard, but he stood up well. If anything, it was Lucas Hernandez filling-in at the last minute at left-back, who struggled more.

Bild’s mock-up of Julian Nagelsmann’s tactics vs Bayern

Whilst Mainz at home ended well with a goal, an assist and a big win, it could have turned out much differently for Pavard. The story goes that Niko Kovac was seriously considering substituting the Frenchman for Corentin Tolisso and then moving Joshua Kimmich back to fullback after a nervy start from him. He didn’t cover himself in glory as Jean-Paul Boëtius headed Mainz in front and was a little careless with his passes at the start of the match.

On matchday 1 against Hertha, he reaction to being challenged by Marko Grujic could have been better. Instead of looking for the foul and holding his face, he should have focused on stopping the midfielder first, then complaining.

The verdict

So, the weakest link or the signing of the century? The truth is most certainly somewhere in between. The comment from Uli Hoeness can clearly be seen as an attempt to boost the self-confidence of a young player. Such public backing can only do Pavard’s belief good and serves to dispel whispers that the Bayern back four is anything but a well-oiled, functioning unit.

That said, he has an impossible task replacing Kimmich at right back (if that is indeed his long-term position). He is unlikely to better Kimmich, at best he can be a satisfactory replacement. The World Cup winners medal and the €35 million price tag only increase the scrutiny, while every seemingly small error t Bayern is magnified by the media and those wanting the Bavarians to fail.

Pavard was a good signing. Pavard was the logical signing. It just remains to be seen if Uli Hoeness’ optimism plays out fully.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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