Why this Bayern Munich star deserves to be in the Ballon d’Or conversation

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When it comes to football award shows, the Ballon d’Or is, without doubt, the crème de la crème. Hardly any other football awards can top the excitement and tension leading up to the Ballon d’Or and despite the fact that its reputation has been slightly damaged due to some questionable decision making, many around the football world are eager to see who will win the award in 2021. Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi and even Jorginho have been mentioned as possible recipients of this illustrious award but one name that has scarcely been mentioned is Joshua Kimmich. A key cog in a phenomenal Bayern team, it boggles my mind how underrated Kimmich actually is. He has been, arguably, the best midfielder over the last 2 years and yet no fervent Ballon d’Or shouts have ever been made for him. In this article, however, I will break down exactly why Kimmich deserves to be in the Ballon d’Or conversation.

Excellent passer

Not one player in world football is currently a better passer than Joshua Kimmich is and the stats can back that up. With a whopping 9.03 passes into the final third per 90 and 9.36 progressive passes per 90, Kimmich clearly uses his excellent passing range to benefit his team. Kimmich can also use his long range passing to pick out Bayern’s pacey attackers in the form of Gnabry, Sane and Coman. This is very useful in the German Bundesliga as teams like to press high up the pitch which is often aided by a high defensive line (in order to minimise midfield spaces that Bayern can exploit). The diagram below highlights Kimmich’s long range passing well. 

The opposition are pressing Bayern high up the pitch with a high defensive line, Kimmich plays an excellent ball under pressure over the defensive line. He is very good at doing this as he averages around 12.5 passes under pressure per 90. Gnabry controls the ball and shoots quickly before the goalkeeper can even adjust himself, which results in a goal. 

He is also an excellent set piece taker averaging 1.66 shot creating actions per 90 from dead ball situations, which cannot be topped by anyone in world football. A large majority of his corner kicks and other dead balls are inswinging, which is a difficult yet dangerous trait to master but one which Kimmich clearly has done.

Kimmich also averages 2.7 key passes per 90 as well as 0.27 assists per 90, both of which are truly world class for a midfielder. One criticism that can be aimed at Kimmich however is that he is quite one-dimensional when it comes to his chance creation methods. He primarily creates chances via his passing or set piece situations and doesn’t really create much via his dribbles or any other methods. This could be due to the fact that he predominantly plays as a deeper lying midfielder so he’s unlikely to create chances via his defensive actions or his dribbles as he’s further away from his team’s attacking third. 

Efficient ball carrier

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Kimmich is an excellent ball carrier; he averages around 7 progressive carries per 90 as well as 1.9 carries into the final third. This is in spite of the fact that he is actually a poor dribbler, averaging around 0.79 dribbles per game with a 67.4% completion rate. This proves that Kimmich is efficient with his ball carrying ability and he uses it to exploit open spaces rather than get past opposition players by dribbling past them.

Lethal from distance

Kimmich is very good at shooting from range; in the 20/21 Bundesliga campaign he averaged 1 shot outside the box per 90 and he averaged 1.3 shots outside the box per 90 in the 20/21 UCL campaign. He scored 4 goals outside the box in the 19/20 and 2 goals in the 20/21 Bundesliga campaigns. He uses a technique where he places the ball with power into the corner of the goal, this makes it very difficult for the goalkeeper to save the shot. This trait is useful against defensive and stubborn low block opposition as it can possibly result in a goal or even be blocked by the opposition onto the path of a Bayern attacker who then has an easy shot at goal.

Defensively proficient 

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The above diagram collects data from all CDMs in the top 5 European Leagues in the 20/21 campaign and compares them to each other. As previously mentioned, Kimmich is the best creative deeper lying midfielder in world football but what is surprising is his off the ball work rate and defensive actions. He averaged just more than 6 possession-adjusted defensive actions per 90 last campaign which is, without doubt, very good. Moreover, he has made 0 errors which have led to shots over the course of the last year. This shows how great he is defensively. There is still room for improvement however as he only tackled 22.8% dribbles that came at him last campaign which is extremely poor. Nonetheless, the stats prove that Kimmich is proficient defensively with room for improvement in certain departments.

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