The Mark van Bommel Conundrum: Have Bayern Munich’s Fringe Players Frozen Him Out?
After Mark van Bommel suffered a long-term injury during an international friendly match for Holland in early October, doubts about Bayern Munich’s chances of retaining their Bundesliga crown began to seriously grow. With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery already ruled out of action, there was a huge concern over Bayern Munich’s strength in midfield. Last year, that midfield nearly single-handedly lifted Die Roten to the Champions League final, to the Bundesliga title and to the DFB Pokal title. Now, it looked seriously depleted. Louis van Gaal was quick to alienate Andreas Ottl and Anatoliy Tymoschuk at the start of the season in favor of the more reliable Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mark van Bommel, but when van Bommel was ruled out for two months, the Dutch tactician had no choice but to turn to his fringe players.
Andreas Ottl’s form has been very impressive in his recent performances, and the midfielder has really proven a point to his manager. After a loan spell last season, he’s come back into the side and has made his claim for regular first-team football. He’s done so well, that Bastian Schweinsteiger is being used in a more advanced position to make way for Ottl! That’s something to be proud of, even though Schweinsteiger’s new role could be more due to injuries in attacking areas. Still, Schweinsteiger has flourished in behind the striker and Ottl has been a creative force from a deeper area of midfield.
And then there is Tymoschuk. When Bayern Munich looked incredibly light in defense, Tymoschuk was used as an emergency center-half to combat their frailty at the back. He made an immediate impression, and the Ukrainian midfielder who made a big money move from Zenit at the start of last season was finally getting some regular action. Then, after impressing in defense, Tymoschuk was given a midfield role next to either Bastian Schweinsteiger or Andreas Ottl and his form steadily rose.
Just this Saturday, Tymoschuk played his best game in a Bayern Munich shirt yet. He showed his class and netted twice despite playing a holding midfield role. He bossed the midfield and he claimed the match ball and it was nothing less than he deserved. What he’s also done, though, is he’s given Louis van Gaal a big problem. Tymoschuk has been playing in Mark van Bommel’s position in midfield, and he’s excelled there. So, does the captain get his place back?
Some will argue that it is impossible not to restore him because he’s the captain, but I don’t believe that’s a fair argument. Michael Ballack was spurned by Joachim Loew despite being named captain, and the German national team has not suffered in his absence. Has Bayern Munich suffered in van Bommel’s absence, or have Die Roten’s woes been more due to attack insufficiency rather than a midfield problem?
Definitely some things Louis van Gaal will have to think about. Considering his reputation, Mark van Bommel will definitely have to earn his way back into the side. You can’t argue with form, and you can’t argue with Louis. It’s just good to see a healthy bit of competition in the Bayern Munich midfield finally.
Louis van Gaal also has the option of playing Toni Kroos in behind Mario Gomez, which allows Bastian Schweinsteiger to drop back into his preferred midfield role. That means, partnering Schweinsteiger, would be one of Andreas Ottl, Anatoliy Tymoschuk or Mark van Bommel. None of them have had a below average game all season in midfield, so I would assume Louis van Gaal would pick the most in form player for his starting eleven. At the moment, that player is Anatoliy Tymoschuk.
It’s the kind of problem Bayern Munich want to have. Being able to boast such a stacked midfield is a real plus, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the dressing room. Next weekend Bayern Munich will travel to Schalke, and it’ll be interesting to see who Louis van Gaal hands a start to.