During the week, the men from Munich gave a fitting goodbye to Bastian Schweinsteiger. From Wednesday at the latest, however, the focus was once more on the bread and butter of the Bundesliga – interrupted by transfer dealings off the pitch. Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rudy left the team shortly before the window shut. Bayern’s squad is now notably thinner.
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Niko Kovač made changes to his side in three positions.
Robben for Coman was compulsory due to the Frenchman’s injury. Süle and Martínez also made way, sitting on the bench. For them, Hummels and Goretzka came into the team. As a result, Thiago shifted back into the defensive midfield position. This tactical variation had already been seen during phases in the DFB Pokal and against TSG Hoffenheim.
Tayfun Korkut also made three changes. Baumgartl, Aogo and Donis came into the side. Badstuber, Thommy and González had to give way. Particularly bitter for the former Bayern man Holger Badstuber. However, he had already been involved in goals conceded against Rostock in the cup and also in the first league match in Mainz.
Korkut tried a 4-5-1 system. There were only two nominal attacking players in the starting line-up in Donis and Gómez. Tactically speaking, pressing was mostly done without, with the Rekordmeister mostly engaged only in and around the penalty area – the staggering there, however, was very close. The distances between the lines were very tight. As a result, there was very little room for Bayern.
The game flowed along quietly as a result of that tactical set-up as well the guests’ lacking creativity. Bayern found no way to breach the stronghold. They managed only rarely to overload the flanks or to create space for a shot or a pass with a dribble.
If Stuttgart had weaknesses, then it was in defending spaces on second balls. In the 37th minute, Bayern used one such opportunity. Via Boateng the ball was flicked back and forth between Müller and Lewandowski. Müller laid the ball across to Goretzka, who skilfully threw off his marker and curled the ball into the far corner.
The goal was the ignition at the end of the first half. Goretzka, Hummels and Müller had chances to double the lead before half-time.
Just after the break, Bayern hit the post through a free-kick from Alaba. Then came Bayern’s best phase under Kovač so far. Chance after chance came along, but on several occasions the vital bit of luck with the finish proved evasive.
In the 60th minute Müller played the ball across to Goretzka from a central position. He brought Lewandowski into the game, who didn’t pass to the free Ribéry, but looked for the finish. His left-footed effort flew into the bottom right corner of the net.
In the 75th minute, Bayern extended their lead to 3-0. Via Kimmich and a back-heel from Lewandowski (!) the ball ended up with Müller. He stared Zieler down and converted.
Finally, VfB’s resistance was broken for good. The tie fizzed out quietly.
Bayern in the end won deservedly, the margin of 3-0 included, and have a good chance of going into the first international break of the season as league leaders. The performance in the second half in particular brings the excitement for the season to a boil.
4 things we noticed
1. Goretzka causing problems from midfield
Leon Goretzka deservedly got his first start after two substitute appearances in the previous two games. It was exciting to see how he can assert himself against an opponent that mostly sought to keep a clean sheet in the first half. Goretzka had a go as a second poacher and as a pivot between the lines. Merely 22 touches came of that in the first 45 minutes. That’s not being genuinely integrated in the attack. In part, however, that was down to Bayern’s early focus on the flanks. The ball went out wide very quickly. The central midfielders pushed up very high and because of that were only rarely integrated.
What Goretzka did very well, though, was his positioning around the penalty area. Here he pushed into the penalty area as a header of the ball, or lurked on the edge of the area for the second ball. This was good to see for Bayern’s first goal and a short time later when Goretzka had another opportunity to shoot.
2. Lots of risk for an away game
Korkut’s set-up played into Kovač’s hands. However you want to read it, you could argue that the Bayern coach anticipated things well. With Thiago in defensive midfield, playing an excellent game, Kovač went without the strengths in duels and stopping counters of Martínez, who is still good at breaking play up with good anticipation.
In Müller and Goretzka, nominally two central midfielders, Kovač brought a lot of attack on the pitch as well. Both operated in phases alongside Lewandowski. As a result, Stuttgart had a lot of space to run into on turnovers in the early stages, because the full-backs and Thiago had a lot of space to cover. In a few situations it was clear how much Bayern risked in order to succeed in Stuttgart.
3. Ribéry still searching for form
Franck Ribéry clearly had a battle at the start of the game with the young Maffeo, who came through at Manchester City and was supported a lot by Donis. Ribéry tried and tried, but lost the ball very simply seven times and played several loose passes. As a result Stuttgart got good counter opportunities because (see points 1 and 2) the central midfielders had pushed very high up. Normally that doesn’t go well, but was of no consequence today since Stuttgart went into the game far too passively. As the game went on, however, Ribéry became more confident and had more positive involvements.
4. Secure passing
FC Bayern had an outstanding pass completion rate of 91% over wide stretches. And that in an away game. The Stuttgarters’ passivity made it somewhat easier for them too, though Hummels, Boateng and Thiago constantly attempted drilled, sharp passes. Especially in the second half the positional play was so good that the guests completely dominated the game. With that being so, it’s hard to conclude whether Stuttgart were really passive or Bayern were just unbelievably fast.
Korkut’s side had to shuffle across a lot. In the end that helped little, because Bayern were able to slot plenty of balls into the gaps Stuttgart left, especially in the second half. Goals two and three came from that, as well as more opportunities to make the result even more convincing.