Bayern Munich 2019–
His performances upon breaking into their first team may have furthered his reputation, but Alphonso Davies had by then already established himself as crucial to Bayern Munich’s plans. Born in a refugee camp in Ghana in 2000 after Davies’ parents had fled the second Liberian civil war, European football’s most dangerous attackers should give him little concern.
Davies’ family moved to Canada as refugees when he was five years old. He joined Vancouver Whitecaps in 2015 at the age of 14, made his Major League soccer debut a year later and, in the summer of 2018, agreed terms to join Bayern the following January for a MLS record £9.84m. If Bayern’s recruitment continues to prove effective, so does their ability to improve even the most promising of players. “He has unbelievable physical ability and he’s extremely quick,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, one of the club’s greatest players. “He has great acceleration. Nobody can get away from him.”
Davies’ greatest quality remains his versatility. His athleticism means he can be influential in both the first and final thirds, and can cover a huge amount of ground regardless of his nominal position. Like other explosive wide players, he can slow down to execute a pass, turn or shot after an explosive moment – but, unlike others, he does so without losing control.
Those abilities become particularly influential when he attempts a run from deep territory. If advancing into space (below), he does so with confidence, identifies those in more central positions, and favours accurately playing possession across the penalty area. When there aren’t suitable targets for him to cross to, he will instead play a one-two with a teammate to draw an opposing defender and then receive the return pass further forwards.
It is while he is defending that he most needs to improve. His athleticism frustrates opponents when they attempt to beat him on the outside, and represents a strength when Bayern are defending during transitions or with an organised defensive block, but he can become vulnerable if they move into a blindside position (below). Davies has proven himself adept at making timely interceptions, but if asked to defend in a block for a sustained period he can occasionally lose the relevant attacker – particularly when attacks are built on the opposite wing.
The best defenders excel at adjusting their body shape in a way that allows them to monitor their direct opponent while facing and potentially defending crosses from elsewhere. Davies already offers promising aerial ability; if his defensive nous can improve to match the rest of his game, he can grow into the complete full-back.
Role at Bayern Munich
Injuries to teammates contributed to Davies being converted into a full-back – and there are few clubs more capable of transforming a player’s position to such effect. As has previously been seen with Philipp Lahm, David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich, Davies quickly appeared naturally suited to his new position; in a 5-0 Bundesliga victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf, Bayern started with Davies in a back four alongside Alaba, Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard – essentially, a defence comprised of four full-backs.
Even from left-back, Bayern’s usual dominance of possession means that Davies spends a considerable amount of time in the attacking half. His willingness to offer overlaps (below) contributes to the threat they pose from the left inside channel – Pavard offers similar potential on the right – and invites the wide forward in front of him, most commonly Leroy Sane or Kingsley Coman, to drift infield and attack.
Bayern’s attack remains one of the most fluid in the world. The impressive Thomas Müller continues to offer intelligent movements and to find pockets of space; when he is selected as their number 10, those movements often take him towards the left inside channel and invite him to combine with Serge Gnabry or the overlapping Davies. Their striker Robert Lewandowski also withdraws into that same channel; from the right, Sané, Gnabry and Muller all do the same.
With Kimmich advancing into the inside channels from deeper territory, Davies consistently has numerous options when leading or contributing to an attack. Runs from wide into central areas – similar to those offered by Kyle Walker since he has been coached by Pep Guardiola – would further increase Bayern’s attacking options.