Josip Stanišić: How the versatile defender fits into Julian Nagelsmann’s dynamic Bayern Munich – scout report
At the time of writing, Julian Nagelsmann has coached Bayern Munich for three competitive games in all competitions. The Bavarian giants are playing a very dynamic style of football under the young and vibrant manager, one which represents Pep Guardiola’s football more than any other head coach since the Spaniard left.
Nagelsmann has made his intentions clear through his team selections of what type of system he wants to implement at the Allianz Arena. One of the more interesting decisions was to put Joshua Kimmich back into the centre of midfield.
Hansi Flick preferred the German international as a right-back, but his successor feels different about Kimmich’s capabilities. However, putting Kimmich back in midfield has caused a void at right-back that needs to be filled.
So far, Nagelsmann has found the man who can fulfil this role within his system – 21-year-old Josip Stanišić. Stanišić has featured in all three of Bayern’s games this season, starting in two of those. The versatile player has proved to be very useful for the new manager and it looks as though he could play a big role in the current campaign.
This tactical analysis article will be a scout report of Stanišić. It will be an analysis of the player’s strengths and weaknesses as well as a look at how he fits into Bayern’s tactics this season so far.
Stanišić has a rather interesting build for a right-back. His body frame is large for such a young player, and he is quite tall. At 21 years old though, he has now finished his physical development and should not get any taller.
The defender currently stands at 6ft 1 (186cm) and weighs around 80kg, or 176lbs (12st 8lbs).
Stanišić has played in numerous positions along the backline including at centre-back and the player certainly does have the perfect build for a central defender but is slightly bigger than your average fullback despite it being his main position.
Throughout his entire career in the Bayern first-team, and even with Bayern Munich II, Stanišić generally just played at right-back although he already has a plethora of experience in other positions and roles in the defensive line including as a wingback, a left centre-back, a right centre-back in a two-man partnership, and even as a right central defender in a back three.
It is difficult to define his role within Nagelsmann’s side as he performs several key functions in each phase of the game that fluctuates depending on the situation. Some of these include holding the width and moving into the halfspace to facilitate a central overload. These will all be analysed in detail later in this scout report.
So far as his heat map shows, Stanišić has mostly been involved wide on the right flank but there is heavy involvement too in the right halfspace.
One of the most telling aspects of the player’s heatmap so far, from the first four games of the season in all competitions, is that Stanišić gets up and down the field quite a lot, being involved in the action at both ends of the field making him an all-round solid fullback.
The 21-year-old has a very high work rate and so is constantly active, looking to create an opportunity to receive possession when Bayern have the ball, but breaks his neck to get back and defend when the Bavarians lose it.
Receiving out wide and in the halfspace
As was already touched on in the previous section, Stanišić’s positioning changes regularly when Bayern have possession of the ball. In the opening Bundesliga game of the season against Borussia Monchengladbach, a match that ended 1-1, the young defender had been instructed to stay wide.
By doing so, he was stretching Monchengladbach horizontally across the pitch and even created good passing angles for the centre-backs to play to when they were unable to pass the ball centrally through a congested midfield.
However, part of the opposition’s game-plan was to create pressing traps in the wide areas and Stanišić was persistently forced into giving the ball away or else keeping a closed body shape instead of a positive one and play back to the centre-backs rather than looking to play inside or down the line to progress play.
In this image, Dayot Upamecano, Bayern’s right centre-back, cannot progress the ball through the central areas due to Monchengladbach’s narrow defensive block. Stanišić has positioned himself high and wide and so Upamecano opts to play to the Croatian-born player.
This triggers a pressing trap and so the 21-year-old decides to take a touch with a closed body shape, as can be seen above, and play back to Upamecano as all the nearest passing options have been closed off.
Stanišić often comes back inside or receives the pass with closed body positioning as he prefers to play safely on the ball than risk taking a defender on and giving the ball away or trying to play a more progressive pass forward. This is represented in the following data visualisation from Bayern’s most recent game against Koln:
As shown, Stanišić made 40 passes in total but only 14 of these were forward with just 3 progressing the Bundesliga giants into the final third of the pitch. He ended the game with an 88 percent passing accuracy, but the vast majority of his passes were lateral or backwards.
Soon after, it became clear that Bayern were not coping so well with these wide pressing traps and so Nagelsmann instructed Stanišić to play in the halfspace and create a central overload against Monchengladbach’s 4-4-2 mid-level block.
This was quite a clever use of Stanišić. Despite being a young player, he is quite intelligent from a tactical perspective. The defender understood what are of the pitch to occupy and, as can be seen in the image above, he would position himself behind the Monchengladbach left-winger.
This would pin the winger and force him to stay centrally to mark Stanišić or else a passing lane to the fullback would open up. However, the reason this was an intelligent use of Stanišić is that it facilitated a direct pass to the Bayern wingers from the centre-backs.
In the previous image, Stanišić is in the right halfspace pinning the opposition winger. Leroy has created a passing angle out on the right and Upamecano can play directly to the former Manchester City winger who can then use his strengths and take the Monchengladbach fullback on in a 1v1.
Bear in mind also that Stanišić has not touched the ball whatsoever in this scenario. Football truly is a game of chess and the young defender is a perfect pawn for Nagelsmann’s tactical game plans.
Rest defence positioning in a back three
Against Borussia Dortmund in the Super Cup, Stanišić played an even more interesting role and position on the field. He was still utilised by Nagelsmann as a right-back in the build-up phase as Bayern tend to build out with a 4-2 structure.
Against Dortmund, this switched to more of a back three once Bayern reached the halfway line. Alphonso Davies was given license to get forward on the left but instead of positioning Stanišić wide on the right or in the right halfspace, the soon-to-be Croatian international tucked inside and created a back three with the two centre-backs.
He had very little permission from the new manager to get forward throughout the game and was mainly focused on his defensive duties.
The reason for positioning Stanišić in a back three is three-fold. Firstly, as stated on numerous occasions, the youngster has played as a centre-back quite a few times in his football career and so is comfortable performing this role, particularly when in possession.
Secondly, Nagelsmann wanted to create numerical superiority against Borussia Dortmund’s two-man first line of pressure.
There are different ways of doing so. One of the most used variations of this is when a midfielder drops into the backline either beside the centre-backs or in between them.
Having a right-back who is comfortable playing in a three allows Nagelsmann to instruct Stanišić to tuck inside while keeping his midfielders in advanced areas of the pitch to create passing angles to receive.
Finally, Stanišić was deployed in this role for Bayern to have a solid rest defence against Borussia Dortmund. Rest defence is a positional structure used when a team has possession of the ball to ensure they can counterpress efficiently when the ball is turned over.
Nagelsmann knew that Dortmund would look to soak up pressure for much of the game and utilise transitions when they won possession and so using Stanišić was an effective way of trying to prevent and even delay these counterattacks.
This is an example of some really good positioning from Stanišić when Bayern had possession of the ball in a positional attack.
He has stepped up onto Youssoufa Moukoko to ensure that if Bayern lose possession and the young attacker receives the ball on the break, he will have little to no time or space to get an attack going and Stanišić can smother the transition at the halfway line before it becomes more dangerous.
Covering spaces, high pressing and rest defence positioning
Due to his vast experience playing in the centre of defence, Stanišić covers for the centre-backs very well when he plays at fullback. Some defenders such as Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold are immense in the attacking phases but lack solid positioning when defending.
However, Stanišić’s positioning defensively is superb and means that the central defenders of Bayern can be aggressive with aerial balls or when closing players down between the lines because they know that the young defender will cover them.
In this scenario, Upamecano has come away from the defensive line to aggressively challenge for the long ball and has left space in behind him for an opposition forward to take advantage of.
Stanišić reads the danger and steps inside, temporarily positioning himself as a centre-back to prevent the space left by Upamecano from being exploited with a flick-on should the French defender lose the header.
Bayern are a side who press high given the nature of how Nagelsmann wants his team to play. When pressing an opponent high up the pitch, Stanišić gets tight to his opposite number and is usually tasked with pressing the fullback from the other team.
So far this season, Stanišić has competed in 7.02 defensive duels per 90, succeeding in exactly 52.9 percent of them. He also makes 7.43 recoveries per 90 and 5.78 interceptions per 90 so is performing solidly for Bayern Munich despite the Germans averaging 61.2 percent ball possession on average so far this season in all competitions.
Stanišić is the definition of a swiss-army knife and is the type of player that Nagelsmann loves due to his flexible approach to football regarding formations and player positioning. While he is not the most technically gifted player at his age level, Stanišić has proven to be extremely useful under the young German manager and could be a very important cog in Nagelsmann’s wheel for the remainder of the campaign at the very least.