By Claas Philipp
Just under four weeks ago, Bayern Munich hit the nadir of their season. The team had lost to Bayer Leverkusen, setting them seven points behind Bundesliga leaders Dortmund, and faced elimination in the Champions League after losing 1-0 to Basel in the first leg of the last 16.
Coach Jupp Heynckes was under heavy fire, and when faced with the unavailability of Rafinha, he opted for a tactical change: in defence, captain Philipp Lahm was re-assigned to the right-back position, while youngster David Alaba - previously a defensive midfielder in the trainer's system - filled in on the left.
Following the introduction of the young Austrian, everything clicked for Bayern: wins against Hoffenheim (7-1), Basel (7-0) and Hertha Berlin (6-0) in rapid succession signalled the German giants' return to form. Bayern then overcame Monchengladbach on penalties in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals, and most recently downed Hannover to bring their winning streak to five consecutive games in all competitions.
Bayern results since Alaba's introduction at left-back
|Mar 10||Hoffenheim (H) W, 7-1|
|Mar 13||Basel (H) W, 7-0|
|Mar 17||Hertha Berlin (A) W, 6-0|
|Mar 21||Gladbach (A), W, 4-2 (pens)|
|Mar 24||Hannover (H) W, 2-1|
Alaba's story at Bayern began in the summer of 2008, when the Munich side signed the then 16-year-old from Austria Wien. Even in his youth, Alaba's talent was undeniable: as young as 12, he gathered interest from Arsenal.
After his move to Munich, Alaba's steep rise continued: in October of 2009, he became the youngest-ever player to be capped for Austria. Four months later, he came on as a substitute as he made his competitive debut for Bayern, and within seconds assisted a goal for Ribery. It would be the beginning of a great partnership, albeit one that would take time to develop further.
|PLAYER PROFILE | David Alaba (Bayern Munich & Austria)
Previous clubs: Austria Wien, Hoffenheim
||Goals||Goals per game
||6||0.08||3||17 (0 goals)|
Alaba gained the trust of Bayern coach Louis van Gaal as a left-back, but a pair of mistakes against Eintracht Frankfurt saw him relegated to the bench. In January of 2011, after sitting on the sidelines for half the season, the youngster joined Hoffenheim on loan.
Featuring primarily as a defensive midfielder, Alaba flourished in Sinsheim. And since his return last summer, his self-confidence has grown more and more, whether his position be in defence, midfield, or attack. And now he is indisputably the biggest rising talent of the Bayern team.
Without question, there is still much to be expected from Alaba. His first few appearances on the left side of defence saw the fans begging for more: his unwavering confidence on the ball, creativity and endless stamina make him a joy to watch. If he can develop his defensive play, he could be the left-back FCB have so sorely lacked since the departure of Bixente Lizarazu. A real stroke of fortune for Bayern.