With Bayern not exactly enjoying their usual dominant stroll to the Bundesliga and in danger of another quarter-final exit in the Champions League, increased criticism is being levelled at the players. One player particularly copping the flak is keeper Yann Sommer- Bayern’s winter replacement for Manuel Neuer. But how justified is the heat coming the Swiss custodian’s way?
They say you have to be a little mad to be a goalkeeper. You also have to have thick skin as errors you make generally are magnified and often lead to crucial goals against. A series of top saves can quickly be erased from people’s memories if you happen to concede a goal that should have been saved.
It was always going to be a little difficult for Sommer to instantly adapt to life at Bayern, even despite his vast experience. A new defensive unit to get to know and differing levels on involvement in the game take time to acclimatise to. A solid if unspectacular start was made in the Rückrunde, but Bayern’s last two disappointing results have seen the former Borussia Mönchengladbach stopper coming in for some real criticism.
Last week against Manchester City in the first-leg of the Champions League quarter-final, Sommer was seen by some to be somewhat culpable for the City goals- in particular Rodri’s opener. While well hit, the shot was seen to be ‘saveable’ and Sommer’s lack of height was brought into question.
Andrej Kramaric’s free-kick on Saturday, which pinched a draw for Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena, has also seen Sommer coming under scrutiny for conceding.
The case for the prosecution
Former Germany international Didi Hamann has been very vocal in his criticism of Sommer speaking after the loss at the Etihad laid a lot of the blame in Sommer’s direction.
“What happened to Upamecano, that has a lot to do with the goalkeeper. If you’re a bit unsure as a central defender, then you need a goalkeeper who gives you security. For me, the goalkeeper was hopelessly overwhelmed today.
“You don’t have to show me [the shots he saved], I don’t give a damn! That’s what he’s in goal for, that’s what he’s paid to stop the ball! The goalkeeper has not only unsettled the team today, but also in recent weeks.
“You’re going to Manchester. You know a lot has to go right for us to get a result. And then you have a goalkeeper in there who almost shoots the ball in himself after 20 minutes. That’s when you start shaking.
“I thought when he came, he can do it. I have to reconsider today. I don’t think he’s an option to be a goalkeeper for Bayern next year because he’s played too often in the big games in recent weeks (and) was overwhelmed.”
Hamann however is not a lone wolf in attaching blame on the new goalkeeper. Ex-Bayern keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff has also weighed in against Sommer with recent comments made to Munich’s Abendzeitung.
“Sommer is rightly being criticized. I didn’t recognize him against Manchester City. He made bad passes, always sideways instead of forward. I don’t understand why he tried to build up the play, that was risky.
“A goalkeeper has to speak on the pitch. He has to command the players ahead of him and hold the backline together. They have to know where they have to stand. Sommer didn’t do that. He just stood still and waited. I don’t know, did he take sleeping pills?
“My main focus was always to speak on the pitch. My teammates were so annoyed that they told me: ‘Shut up now’ – I answered: ‘If I didn’t say anything, you wouldn’t know where you should run’ – Sommer has to speak more.”
The case for the defence
There have however been a number of voices sticking up for the under fire Sommer with his replacement at Gladbach Jonas Omlin and his former sporting director Roland Virkus countering the criticism.
“It’s disrespectful” Virkus said when asked about Sommer. “Yann has done an outstanding job in Mönchengladbach over the years. He is the Swiss national team goalkeeper. He is one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. The way he’s being treated is disrespectful.
“As a goalkeeper, you certainly have unkind games sometimes. But that does not diminish the lifetime achievement of a goalkeeper. Yann is an excellent goalkeeper and Bayern deliberately chose him. I don’t think it’s okay to dump the blame on him.”
His Swiss compatriot Omlin also backed up his mentor saying, “I learned a lot from him. I think the goalkeeper discussion about Yann Sommer is completely exaggerated. For me, Yann is a super goalkeeper. He’ll end up deciding games himself again.”
Because this is Bayern Munich the glare of the media is 100% brighter that it was for Sommer at Mönchengladbach and he hasn’t exactly walked into a team brimming with confidence and purring like a well oiled engine. He hasn’t made any huge howlers, but the accusation that ‘Manuel Neuer would have saved it’ will be a constant thorn in his side. Yann Sommer is a very good keeper- the problem being that Manuel Neuer is a world-class keeper and he won’t ever be a like-for-like replacement.
The criticism from Hamann and Pfaff is a little on the harsh side, but that is the way of the world at Bayern when you fall even a little short of perfection. Bayern have bigger problems right now than Yann Sommer as a goalkeeper, but the number one will always see their molehill errors turned into mountains by the watching ‘experts’.