It may have have been “only” Hannover, but Die Roten were impressive in every department. There was a clean sheet, the midfield were magnificent, and Joshua Kimmich was simply outstanding.
1. Constructive Rotation
For those who have demanded that we all give Niko Kovač a fair chance to fine-tune his team selection and develop the squad, it looks as though things are starting to bear fruit.
At the start, there was a different starting eleven every week. This was replaced by a period of stability, as the long injury list started to shorten. After starting with the same names for the previous three matches, the Bayern coach made some welcome and very constructive changes.
In the back four, Mats Hummels returned for Jérôme Boateng. Joshua Kimmich was switched back to his more customary right-back slot in place of Rafinha, allowing Thiago Alcântara to make a welcome start. Also making a start was Kingsley Coman, who replaced Franck Ribéry.
Everything fell into place for Niko and the minty-fresh Münchener. Hummels was untroubled all afternoon. Thiago showed just what the team had been missing, with his usual mix of understated style and elegant nonchalance. Coman continued where he had left off in Amsterdam. Then there was Kimmich.
2. Full Metal Kimmich
Playing as a defensive midfielder, Joshua Kimmich has turned out a number of polished performances. Making an even bigger impression on social media however was his interesting facial hair, which made the 23-year-old look a shifty spiv.
All change in Hannover. Kimmich was back at right-back, looking like an extra from Full Metal Jacket.
Kimmich’s development in Munich has been phenomenal, and we all know about his versatility and tenacity. As a “six”, the kid is great. But as a right-back he is even better. He may not yet be the next Philipp Lahm, but he is surely getting there. While Kimmich still has to work on his defensive positioning, he offers a lot more going forward than the former Bayern and Germany captain.
One of Kimmich’s biggest features is his eye for goal, perfectly illustrated by his opening strike. With nary a second thought, his crisp volley found its target like an arrow.
Add to that a couple of assists for Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski, and you have the perfect man of the match performance.
3. It’s only Hannover, but…
Looking at the opposition, it is easy to suggest that today’s result was no big deal. After all, a team like FC Bayern should be expected to hammer a team that is struggling at the other end of the table. But this season has given us a completely different context.
In previous seasons, Die Roten simply had to turn up when playing those teams considered as cannon fodder. An early goal would usually lead a couple more before the break, followed by a stroll through to the finish. 2018/19 has shown that this is no longer the case.
Right at the start of Bayern’s winless spell in September, it was “only” FC Augsburg. Then, it was “only” SC Freiburg. Last month, it was “only” Fortuna Düsseldorf, keller-dwellers who were as leaky as a boat made of Swiss cheese. The truth is that while Hannover looked like a poor 2. Bundesliga side, we can no longer take these games for granted.
With Dortmund winning again and clinching the unofficial title of Herbstmeister, the best we can hope for now is to close the gap a little before things close down for the winter break. Next up, RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt.