3 Things We Noticed: FC Bayern – Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 (2-0)

It’s Bundesliga time again. Bayern open the season at home against Bayer 04 Leverkusen. We analyzed the match at Allianz Arena. Author: Justin • Translator: Tobi

For the Supercup match against Dortmund, Carlo Ancelotti came up with an alternative that is a hybrid of the initial 4-3-3 and the recent 4-2-3-1 system. Against Leverkusen, he chose that same formation.

FC Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen, basic formationsBayern vs. Leverkusen, basic formations

3 things we noticed

1. Youngsters taking over

It’s no surprise that Bayern’s squad offers massive quality. However, it was the performances of Kimmich, Süle, Tolisso and Rudy that got us excited for the upcoming Bundesliga campaign. While right-back Kimmich ran up and down his flank, formed triangles, played good crosses and was a general threat in offense, it was Tolisso who covered for him in defense. Just like at the Supercup, the Frenchman brought relief with smart positioning and well-timed forward runs.

Rudy’s debut was similarly impressive. Every now and then he seemed a bit unstable under pressure, but all in all he played well. Controlling the build-up, calming the team and constantly creating passing options, Rudy was present in key midfield zones. His current and former (at Hoffenheim) teammate, Niklas Süle, was rock-solid at the back. The defender won lots of tackles and furthermore contributed to the build-up. It was the young players that took over and stabilized Bayern.

That being said, they couldn’t stop the breakdown that occurred after the break. Leverkusen were now in control and, for the first time, Rudy had to deal with problems that Thiago has solved brilliantly in recent years. He didn’t always manage to escape the away team’s pressing but gradually learned to deal with it. It became obvious that the new singings still need a bit of time to learn, their mindset however was excellent. Lots of actions left us excited and intrigued. While the established veterans failed to control the second-half mess, it was due to the aforementioned four – and Vidal, who worked hard and won tackles but didn’t do much with the ball – that Leverkusen didn’t become more threatening.

2. Bayern finding ways to the goal, when they want

It appears that Ancelotti stumbled upon an interesting and promising formation a few weeks ago. Neither Robben nor Coman was a part of the starting lineup. Instead, the Italian fielded three traditional midfielders to support the front three of Ribery, Lewandowski and Müller. Said front three wasn’t particularly effective last season, as Müller was wasted on the right flank.

Now however, that wing belongs to Joshua Kimmich who’s covered by Tolisso. The German international was involved in seemingly every attack, thanks to the freedom provided by the Frenchman’s defensive work. Due to this, Müller is allowed to move inside, playing his best role as supporting man for Lewandowski. It’s obvious enough that this decision increased Bayern’s attacking directness. The attackers were very involved, with Ribery both moving inside and staying wide as he saw fit. The offense’s variability was much better than with Müller hugging the sideline.

That formation created many nice combinations. The hybrid between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 was a constant headache for Leverkusen in the first 45 minutes, the two-goal lead was much deserved. Bayern were fluid and constantly moving. The audience enjoyed the improved – although far from perfect – positional play.

All that being said, the second half did happen. Bayern displayed a rather long period of struggle, similar to what we saw many times last year. Surely the weather conditions can’t be blamed for that, as that’s something both teams face. Those downtimes are not acceptable and to be avoided. It took the Bavarians way too long to regain control, allowing a decent-at-best Leverkusen to be hopeful until the very end. Better finishing from the away team and Bayern might’ve just dropped some points here. In the second half, the team destroyed the image they had build in the first half.

3. Set pieces and a long path

Three goals in 60 minutes – not exactly a rarity in Munich. Bayern scoring through three set pieces, however, that wasn’t the most common prediction. The fanbase is used to taking a nap during corner kicks. Thanks to Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels, there’s finally some aerial threat on the pitch.

The former Hoffenheim man proved that quality just 9 minutes into the season, when he scored the opening goal. Set piece takers Kimmich and Rudy provide the technique, the center-backs supply the strong headers.

Despite all qualities, it does need to be said that Bayern showed some weaknesses. Control over the match was lost several times. The most common mistakes include bad passes that put the midfield under pressire and individual mistakes that should be avoided at all costs. Leverkusen were gifted far too many counter-attacking opportunities that they failed to take advantage of due to two reasons: they weren’t smart enough and were defended well by Süle, Hummels and Vidal.

After the break in particular did the record champions face some issues. Leverkusen adapted better to the drowned pitch and made a switch to a 3-4-3 system. That tactical change and the resulting pressing intensity hurt Bayern severely. However, the guests lacked the quality required to punish Bavarian mistakes. Ancelotti and his team will have to spend the upcoming weeks to work on security and controlling the match, both with and without the ball. Tactically, things looked decent for matchday one. Yet it’s still a long path to glory and every team member needs to be aware of that. After all, the lack of reacting and adapting to external changes was a big reason for Bayern’s cup knockouts of last season.

FC Bayern – Bayer Leverkusen 3:1 (2:0)
FC BayernUlreich – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels (62. Rafinha), Alaba – Tolisso, Rudy, Vidal – Müller (61. Robben), Lewandowski, Ribéry (77. Coman)
SubsFrüchtl, Friedl, Sanches, Pantovic
Bayer LeverkusenLeno – Henrichs, Tah, S. Bender (46. Dragovic), Wendell – Bellarabi, Kohr, Aranguiz (60. Kampl), Bailey (46. Brandt) – Mehmedi, Volland
SubsÖzcan, Baumgartlinger, Pohjanpalo, Yurchenko
Goals1:0 Süle (9.); 2:0 Tolisso (18.); 3:0 Lewandowski (53., penalty); 3:1 Mehmedi (65.)
CardsYellow: Vidal / Kohr, Aranguiz
RefereeTobias Stieler (Hamburg)
Attendance75.000 (sold out)


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