Bayern Munich’sAi??Jan Kirchhoff was recently loaned out to Schalke on an 18 month deal. Is this the ideal switch to help the youngster get his career back on track?

A Ray Of Hope For Jan Kirchhoff

Martinez (left) and Thiago (right) have made life difficult for Kirchhoff (Image courtesy mundodeportivo.com)

Jupp Heynckes seemed to have found the perfect solution to Bayernai??i??s midfield troubles when the club splashed ai??i??40 million on Javi Martinez last season. With Pep Guardiola set to arrive in the summer of 2013, Matthias Sammer brought in Jan Kirchhoff on a free transfer in view of providing the Spanish tactician an ample midfield unit to choose from. Unfortunately for the young German, Guardiola brought in his Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara to aid the Bayern midfield, thereby rendering Kirchhoff as surplus.

Krichhoff arrived at the Allianz Arena with the reputation of being a versatile defense minded player. Under Thomas Tuchel at Mainz, Kirchhoff was regularly used as both a defensive midfielder and as a center back. His performances in both positions were commendable, Bayernai??i??s interest in him being testament to this. Prior to the arrival of Thiago and the knowledge of Guardiolaai??i??s 4-1-4-1 formation, Kirchhoff was being touted as cover for Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Things havenai??i??t panned out as the 23-year-old may have expected, thanks to Guardiolaai??i??s tactical surprises. Despite having the luxury of three world-class midfielders, a budding star in Kirchhoff and a pre-existing system that had achieved incomparable success, Guardiola decided to deviate from the Heynckes way. Injuries plagued the trio of Schweinsteiger, Martinez and Thiago, because of which Philipp Lahm was moved into the lone defensive midfield, a position where he excelled beyond imagination, thus moving Kirchhoff further into Bayernai??i??s midfield oblivion.

The season-long injury to Holger Badstuber would surely have given the former Mainz man a glimmer of hope, but Guardiola dashed it all by opting to use Daniel van Buyten as cover for his central defense pairing. Bayernai??i??s chase for six trophies calls for smart squad rotation, and Guardiola has managed it incredibly well thus far. One would have thought that Kirchhoffai??i??s talents merited a considerable amount of playing time in either midfield or defense given the Bayern situation, but Guardiola has managed perfectly without the highly-rated German.

So low is Guardiolaai??i??s faith in Kirchhoff that the defensive midfielder hasnai??i??t managed a single start this season. Even in games where Guardiola has looked to tinker around and give his more regular starters a rest, Jan Kirchhoff has been overlooked. Only once has he managed to stay on the field for at least half an hour and it came in the first round of the DFB Pokal against BSV Rehden, a side languishing in the Regionalliga Nord.

A Ray Of Hope For Jan Kirchhoff

Kirchhoff’s stay in Bavaria was short but far from sweet.

Is Kirchhoff really that far from Bayern quality? Probably not. Prior to arriving in Munich, he commanded a starting spot at Mainz, a side growing synonymous with mid-table standing in Germanyai??i??s top division. He was also an integral part of the German U-21 side, one that boasted of names such as Lewis Holtby, Sebastian Rode and Tony Jantschke in their European Championship qualification campaign. There is no doubt that Kirchhoff is far from starting team material, but to overlook him completely is surely going too far. The German youth international is undoubtedly quality enough to earn the role of a backup player at a massive club like Bayern Munich.

Being a side competing for domestic league and cup laurels, as well as participating in Europeai??i??s most coveted club competition, Schalke require a squad of considerable depth and quality. It thus comes as no surprise to see the Royal Blues bringing Kirchhoff to Gelsenkirchen.

Jens Keller has been a proponent of the 4-2-3-1 at Schalke, with the double pivot being a lot more defense minded than those used at most other clubs. Jermaine Jones, as ferocious a midfielder as he might be, is on the wrong side of thirty and doesnai??i??t seem to be able to put in those tireless performances that one associates with him. Marco HAi??ger has shown signs of promise when deployed in that holding midfield role, but a cruciate ligament tear has ruled out the 24-year-old for most of the season.

Roman NeustAi??dter came to the Veltins Arena with a great reputation following a great season at Borussia Park. The switch hasnai??i??t been as seamless as many had thought, and NeustAi??dter has failed to reproduce the solidity that he boasted of at Borussia MAi??nchengladbach. In Leon Goretzka, Keller is blessed with one of the brightest midfield talents in the world. The only downside to this starlet is that heai??i??s still only 18 years old. Goreztka isnai??i??t yet ready to become the lynchpin of Schalkeai??i??s defensive unit.

With each of Schalkeai??i??s options for the double pivot being faulty in some respect, it seems perfect to bring in a player so highly rated by the German champions. At well over six feet, the imposing figure of Kirchhoff will add a lot of muscle to Schalkeai??i??s midfield. Despite not being the greatest passer of the ball, Kirchhoffai??i??s defensive-mindedness will surely allow the likes of NeustAi??dter and Goretzka to move forward with more freedom. Being just 23 years old also works in Kirchhoffai??i??s favour as heai??i??d provide a lot more legs in midfield as opposed to the similarly-minded Jones.

The loan deal for Kirchhoff makes two things clear ai??i?? Schalke see him as an important addition whoai??i??d be useful over more than just six months, and Bayern donai??i??t want to let him out of their sights as they could see him blossoming into the kind of player theyai??i??d like to have on their roster in about 18 months’ time.

ai???Jan will certainly get the match practice at Schalke that he has not been able to get so far in Munich,ai??? said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. ai???We wish him all the best and hope that he develops well there that he will then return to FC Bayern in 2015.ai???

Whether Kirchhoff will develop into a Bayern starter in the next year and a half is debatable, but his loan move to Schalke will pave the way for a solid future, hopefully one in which he can become a regular feature in European football. The growth of the 4-2-3-1 and the double pivot are also huge positives in Kirchhoffai??i??s favour. For the good of the game, it looks like this youngsterai??i??s career is back on track.

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