One might argue that “it was only Nürnberg”, but we might have been saying that about Augsburg, Freiburg and Düsseldorf too.
1. Nürnberg comprehensively blanked
Not long ago, a clean sheet at the Allianz Arena was something we all took for granted. They were part and parcel of FC Bayern’s dominance at home. This season things have not been so watertight, with Die Roten conceding a number of costly soft goals.
We have to go back quite a distance to find the last clean sheet at home in the Bundesliga, a disturbing run of matches that stretches back further than the start of this troubled season. Ten matches in all, with the last shutout coming at the end of March. Against? Borussia Dortmund.
This was Bayern’s first win in five home matches, providing a welcome relief to the Munich faithful. OK, I can hear the comments. It was only Nürnberg, who have been a walking target since their return to the top flight. But a win is a win, and teams that not long ago would have been seen as little more than cannon fodder have proved to be anything but.
Overall, it was an almost perfect display. Der Club offered little up front, but the door was firmly closed at every opportunity by a Bayern team that was efficient, effective and most crucially error-free. The result was that Manuel Neuer had a very quiet day.
2. Set-piece supremacy
I have mentioned this numerous times already this season, but watching Bayern scoring goals from set pieces warms the deepest, coldest recesses of the soul. Against Benfica, Joshua Kimmich delivered two corners that were clinically dispatched by Robert Lewandowski. The same two players repeated the same trick after just nine minutes today, giving the Bavarians the perfect start.
Ever since the Pep Guardiola days, I have banged on about getting the basics right. A team that is dangerous at set pieces will always set opponents on edge, adding to the fear factor. It can also make a crucial difference in bigger, tighter matches.
The first corner goal of the season came against Hoffenheim in the season opener, and I have now started to lose count. Which can only be a good thing.
3. Kimmich conundrum
Bayern fans have been waxing lyrical about the “kid” from his early matches in the famous red Trikot. Joshua Kimmich has shown that he not only has the skill, tenacity and versatility, but also the winning attitude that defines a star player.
While I have been far from keen about making comparisons with Philipp Lahm, Kimmich has shown that he is a more than decent right-back. But the move to what has long been seen as his natural home in the defence has been nothing short of a revelation. The mustachioed 23-year-old was master of the park today, and he would have had an even better day were it not his being denied by the crossbar right at the death.
This all creates a bit of a conundrum for Niko Kovač. In Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Javi Martínez and the returning Thiago Alcântara, the coach has four defensive midfielders at his disposal. Does Niko stick with the currently working Kimmich-Goretzka combo, or does he shift Kimmich back to the right-back slot to accommodate Thiago?
While Thiago sitting on the bench is arguably a misuse of resources, Goretzka has slowly grown into his role at Bayern. It is the ultimate Luxus-Problem.