After becoming the first-ever millennial to play in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Alphonso Davies made his big move to European giants Bayern Munich in January 2019 after agreeing to a deal in July 2018. It seemed like Davies would learn his trade behind fellow wingers in Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry.
However, after settling into the country and team last campaign and the first couple of months of German football this season, the young Canadian has found a new position at left-back and has become a regular in the Bayern Munich team which are four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
This tactical analysis scout report will be using analysis to determine the strengths and weaknesses that the Bayern Munich left-back has and why a move to left-back has been a successful one thus far for the player.
The positional change into left-back for Davies would have been questioned by many people. The youngster had been operating on the wings for his entire time in the MLS, so why did he get moved backwards?
The fullback role has been revitalised in recent years, with Liverpool and their fullbacks being the main example that a fullback can still have a large offensive output.
Davies naturally had a high defensive work-rate even when playing on the wing. In the 2018 MLS season, he averaged 1.41 tackles won and 1.26 interceptions per 90 minutes played.
The image above is from one of Davies’ first appearances of the season, where he was operating on the left-wing. Although he is playing further up the pitch, after the play breaks down, Davies follows the run of the RB Leipzig player well. This is an example showing that Davies has a solid defensive work-rate.
This would be a great asset for many teams but as Bayern Munich have the highest average possession in the Bundesliga (66.8%) and do not need this kind of defensive work-rate from their wingers. Utilising Davies as the fullback is a good idea as he can still bomb forward and help in the attack, yet he can also recover well and use his defensive assets to help the team.
Bayern Munich also operate in a 4-3-3 but they drop their pivot (Thiago or Kimmich) into the backline to progress the ball. This allows the fullbacks to operate higher and the shape changes into a 3-4-3. This is another reason that operating at fullback does not stop Davies having a good offensive output.
Alphonso Davies’ heatmap shows that operating as a left-back has not affected his attacking tendencies, with the majority of his movement being in the opposition half. The youngster is clearly a great athlete and being able to utilise him and another winger like Gnabry on the same side can create major problems for the opposition, like with the overlaps and runs Davies makes which will be analysed now.
Causing problems with his pace and overlaps
It is no secret that Davies is very… very fast. The 19-year-old has shown the use his blistering pace has in both defensive and offensive transitions for Bayern Munich. This part of the analysis will be looking at the offensive side. His ability to use his pace going forward is great, whether he is overlapping a player or not.
Shown above, Gnabry has the ball on the left. With two opposition players close, Davies offers an overlap option. Due to his extreme pace, Davies causes a problem for the defenders as the through pass to Davies is now an option. This creates the space for Gnabry to come inside and pass to Thomas Muller, who has space in the centre.
Again, shown above is a dangerous run by Davies after he plays his pass to Gnabry. This run towards the left flank creates the space centrally for Gnabry to drive into and results in a shot and goal for the German winger.
Both of the above examples show the danger Davies’ pace and direct runs have, as oppositions have to track his runs otherwise they won’t be able to catch him if he does receive the ball, due to his pace. This leads to pockets of space being created which his teammates can take advantage of.
Yet, the ability to keep good control of the ball when making a run is another feature in what makes Davies a good attacking fullback. The fullback makes 4.09 progressive runs per 90 and also attempts 8.7 dribbles per 90 although he has only been successful in 56.8% of those dribbles this season; potentially showing a weakness if he was operating on the wing for Bayern.
After giving a one-two with Philippe Coutinho, Davies drives at Andreas Christensen and manages to burst past the Chelsea defender while kicking the ball around him on the other side. After this, he gets to the touchline and tries to cross but it is unsuccessful. The Chelsea defenders could not deal with his pace.
Recovery pace in defensive transitions
His pace is immense and can also be a great asset in helping him defensively. With an average of 11.22 recoveries and 5.19 interceptions per 90, Davies is a strong defensive outfit.
In the image above, Mason Mount has received a through ball and has a three-yard head start on Davies, although Davies quickly recovers and manages to show his defensive strength where he manages to hold off Mount for the ball to go out for a goal kick.
The images above are another clear example of how Davies’ pace is very beneficial defensively. The first image shows Mount has an extra five yards on the Canadian (he was offside but the flag was not raised) and also Davies was mid-turn and Mount was already in full stride. Taking this into account, even though Mount is not known for his speed; he should still be safe to get his shot or pass away.
The second image shows the impressive recovery the Bayern Munich left-back makes so that Mount cannot get a clean shot off on goal and can only toe-poke the ball straight at Manuel Neuer.
Clearly, his pace is a great asset in both the offensive and defensive areas of the game. Yet, the defender has impressive defensive qualities such as his interceptions and recoveries. This is not solely due to his pace, and the defender can only improve further in his defensive aspects.
Having the pace is one thing, but to be a good wide player you need to have the final ball and Davies has a good one. Davies can play a classic cross but also looks to pick out a man in the middle or a cutback rather than crossing into an area, he often does this through a low cross. He opts for a low cross 56.7% of the time.
Having players such as Muller and Lewandowski, who look for space in the box, the low cross can benefit them highly.
In the image above, Davies has already made one of his blistering runs on the left and finds himself inside the area. Rather than panicking the 19-year-old looks up and plays a perfect low cross to the back post where Lewandowski has peeled off the defender to score a tap-in.
Again, in the image above, Davies has the ball on the left side. He manages to look up and find Muller’s late run on the edge of the box with a low cross. Although Muller misses the target, the ability of Davies to find the German in space is impressive.
With a 34.5% crossing accuracy for the season, Davies does have room to improve in the area but he does have the vision to find the players with spaces in the box.
Not a one-trick pony
Although Davies is most dangerous offensively when running at a player and delivering crosses, that is not his only asset going forward. The 19-year-old has good decision-making and knows when to play a pass inside and is also comfortable dribbling inside to create more passing options.
This means the Canadian can have multiple options when going forward and also keep the ball for his side more often, which is important in Hans-Dieter Flick’s tactics which see Bayern have the highest average possession in the league. Davies averages 57.85 passes per 90, a high amount considering his position; he also has solid accuracy with 86.1%, which is impressive considering 15.5 of these passes are forward ones.
In the image above, instead of running down the flank, he chooses to cut inside; this then opens more passing options for him once he’s dribbled past his man. He ultimately finds Lewandowski and the play ends in a Coutinho shot.
Shown above is another example of where Davies chooses the inside option. Passing to Corentin Tolisso allows the pitch to be opened up and Bayern has a better chance of creating a shot on goal. After passing the ball, Davies immediately turns and runs the change, this takes a player out of the game and means that Tolisso cannot be outnumbered and pressed when receiving the ball.
Davies’ ability to come inside and keep possession rather than always going for the run helps Bayern to control games and keep their high possession; which means players like Thiago and Kimmich can get on the ball more and be more effective. It also gives Davies a different dynamic to his game rather than being too predictable with what he’s going to do when on the ball.
Davies can sometimes get caught out positionally in defence; this is an area where he will naturally improve the more he plays at left-back though. As well, with the Bayern wingers usually keeping a high position while in defence; teams can sometimes create overloads on the wings.
In the above situation, Davies has followed the man inside and has left an open pass to the opposition player wide right. His positioning is poor and he should be splitting the two players in the situation and communicating for Jerome Boateng to come across.
This image shows Davies switching off in defensive transition and letting a man bypass him and get into a good position to receive a square pass. Although the ball does not go to the player, Davies still needs to be more aware and react quicker.
Davies does have the speed to make up for his positioning but improving in this area can only make him more of a well-rounded defender and improve his overall game.
This analysis shows that it is clear that Alphonso Davies is going to be a top player and in the modern game, left-back seems like a great position for him to develop further in. With extreme pace, solid dribbling and a great cross, he has many important assets which can help him stay at the top level.
The Bayern Munich left-back quite frankly has no major weaknesses in his game as well, as his defensive positioning will only get better with time and he has the recovery pace to minimise the negative effect of his positioning for the meantime. Bayern Munich have a great player on their hands.