The game is changing and Alphonso Davies epitomises the way in which Bayern Munich have rapidly evolved since the departure of Niko Kovac. The Canadian youngster is thriving from left-back, rather than at left-back, under Hans-Dieter Flick and Chelsea were the latest side to feel the force of the youngster in a dominant 3-0 win for the Bundesliga champions, which sees them all but through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
The 19-year-old ensures Bayern’s asymmetrical shape works perfectly, even if it takes a few minutes to decipher where all the pieces fit on the pitch. In essence he is a positionless player, able to roam free and wreak havoc. Except he doesn’t neglect his defensive duties like many luxury players, his searing pace allows him to stretch the pitch and always recover.
Mason Mount discovered just how quickly your window of opportunity closes when up against Davies. The England midfielder had quickly left his mark on his opponent with a nasty challenge on his ankle, yet Davies quickly removed the grimace from his face and began to own the left flank, denying Mount any joy on the night.
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Davies extinguished a first-half opening as Mount raced through on goal. First to stagger Mount’s progress towards goal after catching him easily, then imposing his strength to shield the ball away from his opponent and allow his side to reset from a goal kick to the glee of the travelling supporters in the Shed End.
A gifted dribbler, the former Vancouver Whitecap starlet is equally adept at punching the ball down field and collecting it on the other side. The one-two routinely undid Frank Lampard’s side throughout Wednesday’s night’s lesson at the hands of the Bavarians.
Initially part of a back four, Flick’s side routinely sent Davies into Chelsea‘s half, even occupying a position beyond right winger Kingsley Coman. Benjamin Pavard tucked inside to form a back three, but the Frenchman is not neglected and is more adventurous than, say, Eric Abidal, who balanced Barcelona’s back line for years when Dani Alves stormed forward.
Davies was roommates with Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori during their time in the Canadian youth set-up and has made great strides since making the leap to the Bundesliga just over a year ago for £9 million.
A goal and six assists this term in 23 appearances across the Bundesliga and Champions League have seen Bayern quickly adopt part of what has made Liverpool so formidable in recent years. The Germans of course saw first hand how effective players capable of dominating a game from full-back can be: Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were so prominent in last season’s comprehensive beating handed out at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of their last 16 tie a year ago. So it is no surprise to see Bayern evolve.
There is still an element of Pep Guardiola’s revolution in Munich, it is their Plan A, short passes with the ball moved at pace. Yet now Bayern are more versatile and Davies has emerged as a key cog to that.
Teammate David Alaba’s development over the years also shows how mastering one position is not the ceiling for a player anymore. The Austrian has not only proven to be efficient in midfield, but also at centre-back. But for now Davies will continue to maraud down the left, stamping his authority all over games and thrilling those who watch.
Serge Gnabry’s double had put Bayern in command, but Davies ensured the tie was dead and buried with his late foray. First Jorginho and Mount bounced off him, before gliding past Andrea Christensen and neatly laying the ball on a plate for Robert Lewandowski. The future has well and truly arrived.
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