David Alaba had been struggling to find consistent form in recent seasons. However, under Jupp, the Austrian seems to have rediscovered his discipline.
Years ago, David Alaba was seen as one of Europe’s most promising youth prospects. For Bayern Munich, Alaba provided an exciting future to usher in another golden generation. Years prior to the treble-winning season, Jupp Heynckes had seen a gradually successful conversion of the Austrian as a left-back. The youngster proved to be fairly versatile.
In many cases, David Alaba has accommodated to a number of roles at both club and international levels. He’s been known as no stranger in central-midfield for Austria, being the nation’s standout performer. Even under Guardiola, Alaba had been experimented with in several roles around the pitch.
But whether it was part of the Ancelotti turmoil or some other issues, Alaba had seemed to fall behind his normal high standards. In more recent seasons, Alaba looked more lackadaisical and undisciplined. However, it looks like another tenure with Jupp Heynckes has given him that spark back.
Bayern Munich accustomed to playing aggressively with full-backs
Bayern Munich have been a dominant side in the Bundesliga particularly for some time now. Both right and left-backs are expected to be supplements to the offense, overloading the opposition’s penalty area, as part of their play-style. Both Philipp Lahm and David Alaba would be often seen partnering with Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben along the touchline.
However, Alaba eventually ran into problems taking this tactic for granted. The Austrian was often seen spending most of his matches at the opposite end of the pitch, with little success. He showed carelessness in his attack, and as a result failing to drop and help defend. When frustrated, Bayern Munich would desperately try to force chances through countless crosses.
And despite this not being Bayern’s strong suit, Alaba was often the culprit for these issues. The majority of his crosses were either easily intercepted or too high going over everyone’s heads. In addition to these stale attacking efforts, it led to an unbalanced defense. All-too-easily, the Austrian international was caught out of position. He allowed gaping spaces open on the left-side. As a result, this forced his center-back teammates to pull themselves out of positions to cover for Alaba.
With Bayern Munich being most stretched when caught on counter-attacks, this often led to dangerous shots onto their goal, if not conceding altogether.
Jupp Heynckes proves to be the catalyst for change
Fast forward to Jupp Heynckes and his re-appointment as manager. Since then, Bayern has seen a stint of “FC Hollywood” drama with Ancelotti’s sacking. Heynckes recognized that one of Bayern Munich’s biggest areas of concern was the loose defense. This was certainly ironic since the club has some of the best defenders in Europe.
For Alaba, a big portion of his drop in form seems to be discipline. Jupp Heynckes is known to be no slouch in this area, as the team has seen a collective increase in defensive play. With this naturally including David Alaba himself, he’s now become more self-aware of balancing his offensive and defensive game.
Obviously, a left-back is a defender first and foremost. Alaba seems to be reminded of this as he’s been much stronger in driving the offense forward on the left, while dropping back quickly to help the back-line when necessary. The remaining area of concern was technical refinement. His decision-making whenever providing to offense has seen better focus and improvement in the quality of his crosses.
But with how Bayern play with their full-backs, another important aspect of making Alaba effective is with who and how he’s partnered with the left-midfielder/winger in front of him. In this respect, thanks to Kingsley Coman and his rediscovery of form, his chemistry with Alaba allows them to be a dynamic and productive force going forward. With Ribéry at the latter end of his career, this is a welcome sign for the squad’s future.
The defensive screws are tightening ahead of thickening competitive fixtures
For Jupp Heynckes and co, these are very positive results. After the disaster in Paris in the Champions League, the German champions desperately needed a rise in urgency. With a defense consisting of Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng, rising stars Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Süle, and David Alaba himself, Bayern are expected to be more composed.
If these progressions and the renaissance of form being enjoyed by other players, like Javi Martínez for instance, continue, the Bayern Munich defensive structure of old could return in time for the season’s most decisive matches.