With yet another international break knocking at our doors, Bayern had to face a dangerous opponent in Hoffenheim. Following four draws to start the campaign, their result results have been good enough to enter the Bundesliga’s top group. Since Julian Nagelsmann took over as coach, only Bayern and Dortmund have collected more points.
3 things we noticed
1. Bayern’s lack of ideas against high pressing
In the first half, we once again received confirmation that this team is struggling against opponents with an aggressive pressing. Hoffenheim were as tricky as expected, proving to be a top team. Nagelsmann opted for a 3-1-4-2 formation that gave his side a numerical advantage in all of his key zones. They left a central hole on purpose, just big enough for Xabi Alonso to move into. As soon as the Spaniard received the ball however, Hoffenheim initiated the aggressive pressing. The midfield veteran was visibly overwhelmed by this.
Bayern failed to escape from that trap. Alonso stayed loyal to his position and Vidal hardly offered any support, leading to the entire midfield depending on Thiago – someone you should be able to avoid on this level. While Thiago once again did a great job, it’s simply too predictable if one guy has to do it all. The lack of a structure became most apparent when Hummels or Boateng were in possession. The former misplaced an unusually high number of ten passes, the latter even had eleven failed pass attempts.
This seems like a good moment to revive the old discussion about a back-three that probably would’ve made matches like this one easier. Alonso’s role in this system is pointless, revealing his weaknesses rather than his strengths that were so important over the last years. With a 3-2 or 3-3 structure in the build-up, Hoffenheim would’ve had more problems to get their pressing going and Bayern would’ve found it easier to get past that first barrier. Ancelotti will have to find solutions against opponents with an aggressive central pressing, and he will have to find those soon.
2. The Thomas Müller problem
The Bayern game is facing an issue. That issue is best incarnated by the struggling Thomas Müller. His playing time has been reduced lately, not starting in any of the last three Bundesliga matches, being merely a late sub against Gladbach and Hoffenheim.
On the one hand, that’s down to Ancelotti having yet to find a way to properly integrate him into the system. The German international is wasted as a winger, as the first attempts already proved. Recently, while being listed as a winger, he acted a lot more in central areas, as seen against PSV for example.
On the other hand, it’s due to Müller being in a massive form crisis. He has yet to score in the Bundesliga and hasn’t registered a single assist since matchday two. A year ago, he had scored ten goals in the first ten matches. Credit where it’s due, he has at least managed to score twice in the Champions League. Nevertheless, it’s obvious how much he’s missing his famous ease. Throughout the entire year of 2016, things haven’t come naturally to Müller – with his penalty failures being one of many indicators, the most recent lowlight against Augsburg in the German cup.
It needs to be said that Müller still manages to get himself into scoring opportunities – five shots against PSV and now two in 20 minutes against Hoffenheim, the arguably best scoring chances of the second half barring Hummels’ close call (which was created by Müller too).
Still, he needs to start scoring again. His form crisis, actually more of a finishing crisis, needs to stop. As Franck Ribery is getting closer to a comeback and Douglas Costa is becoming a bigger factor as well, Müller’s best bet for playing time would be to replace a central midfielder and force a formational change.
The international break won’t be of help, as Joachim Löw decided to give Müller a rest for the upcoming matches.
3. Glass half-full or half-empty?
The first half of a season can usually be looked at in phases that are determined by monthly international breaks. In the last three weeks, Bayern played seven matches. The first of the bunch was the rock bottom, as the 2-2 against Frankfurt was the worst performance to date. Since then, the team has improved, registering five wins (Augsburg x2, PSV x2, Gladbach), until this phase ended with the draw against Hoffenheim.
Bayern’s game has been improved a lot lately and included some very dominant moments. Particularly eye-catching were the powerful closing stages against PSV and Hoffenheim – four or five good scoring chances in the late stages of the CL fixture and six decent opportunities in the final ten minutes of today’s match. This is something Ancelotti can build upon, when the post-international break schedule sees Bayern face Dortmund, Leverkusen, Atletico and Leipzig among others.
Of course, the first 45 minutes of this match showed how vulnerable to pressing the Ancelotti system is. It will be interesting to see if the coach uses the break for tactical adjustments. In some recent interviews, he already did consider switching to a 4-4-2.
|FC Bayern München 1:1 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (1:1)|
|FC Bayern München||Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng (82. Alaba), Hummels, Bernat – Thiago, Alonso, Vidal (69. Müller) – Robben (78. Coman), Lewandowski, Costa|
|Subs||Ulreich – Sanches, Lahm, Kimmich|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||Baumann – Süle, Vogt, Hübner (46. Bicakcic) – Rudy – Kaderábek, Amiri (57. Rupp), Demirbay, Zuber – Wagner, Kramaric (71. Vargas)|
|Subs||Stolz – Polanski, Toljan, Szalai|
|Goals||0:1 Demirbay (16.), 1:1 Zuber (34./own goal)|
|Cards||Yellow: – / Rudy, Bicakcic|
|Referee||Markus Schmidt (Stuttgart)|
|Attendance||75.000 (sold out)|