Both teams entered the match with three points. Bayern beat Olympiacos 3-0, while Dinamo Zagreb secured an unexpected win at home against Arsenal (2-1).
1. Bayern’s pressing overwhelms Zagreb
It’s almost unimaginable that, until the arrival of Jupp Heynckes in 2011, the Bayern game didn’t feature a coordinated or aggressive pressing. These days, the team’s hybrid between attacking pressing and counter pressing feels natural and they’re even capable of varying and adjusting the pressing intensity throughout a match. Among all the talk about individual quality and possession stats, this feature is overlooked too often. Against Zagreb, Bayern proved how much inferior teams suffer from such an intense pressing.
Between minute 10 and 40, Bayern applied an extreme pressure in Dinamo’s half, pushing forward regularly and destroying any buildup attempts. It was remarkable to watch the entire team adjust after losing possession. Boateng and Alaba used the high positioning to force their teammates to keep spaces tight. Connections between the flexible Lewandowski and the aggressive Coman, Costa and Götze, not to mention the supporting Kimmich and Thiago, were close to flawless.
The hosts pushed forward so intensely that you often saw 21 players within 25m of Zagreb keeper Eduardo. Dinamo didn’t find a solution to play themselves out of that pressure. The central defense in particular was completely overwhelmed. Center back Taravel had a disappointing passing accuracy of 65%, keeper Eduardo was even worse with 38% accuracy.
Once again it was obvious how much easier and simpler Bayern’s attacking is when possession is won back fast. The distance to the goal was short and Bayern took advantage of the transitional play over and over again. The best example for this is the fifth goal, where Kimmich claimed a bad clearance, allowing Costa and Thiago to use fast combinations to tear the opponent apart right at the edge of the box.
Four interceptions and 20 possession gains in the opponent’s half – the stats underline how wonderfully the pressing worked and probably made the difference.
2. Kimmich acts as ball magnet
The strong Bavarian pressing game was closely connected to Joshua Kimmich’s performance. The 20-year-old played a more advanced role than Xabi Alonso usually does, constantly attacking and bothering Zagreb’s central midfielders. Kimmich offers brilliant timing and is a better tackler than Alonso. He led the team with three interceptions.
Kimmich proved once again why club officials had called him a mature player with a great presence when signing him. The youth international didn’t hide, always asking for the ball and accepting responsibility. He made sure that the exceptional Thiago could focus on creativity, resulting in five key passes.
With the ball, Kimmich was just as impressive. He acted fast, kept the pace high and continuously detected dangerous spaces and promising one-on-one duels. In the second half, he was a true buildup player, controlling the game. 92 passes and an accuracy of 97% remind of Toni Kroos, then again Kimmich attempted to play more vertically.
There aren’t many things that he still has to work on. What matters the most is consistency, which is something he lacked in the second division last season. It’s gonna be interesting to see if Guardiola continues to avoid having Xabi Alonso play more than once a week, something he announced in preseason. Kimmich once again showed that the coach can count on him.
3. Hungry offense
Last week’s headlines about them being the „successors to Robben and Ribery” surely came too soon. Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa have yet to prove themselves against top-tier opponents such as Dortmund or the Champions League contenders. Still, the match against Zagreb showed again what a well-oiled machine the Bayern attack is right now, regardless of Guardiola’s personnel choices.
Even without Thomas Müller in the starting lineup, the game in the final third worked well. Bayern took 27 shots, with Lewandowski, Coman, Costa and Götze being responsible for 14 of those. Götze was a good addition to the attacking formation, supporting both the wings and the area inside the box. Robert Lewandowski’s streak continued, as he scored 3 goals from 8 shots.
The upcoming match against Dortmund will reveal how much the positive performance against Zagreb is really worth. That’s where it matters. No matter what combination Guardiola chooses up front.
|FC BAYERN – DINAMO ZAGREB 5-0 (4-0)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Boateng (64. Rafinha), Alaba, Bernat (46. Martinez) – Kimmich – Costa (58. Müller), Thiago, Götze, Coman – Lewandowski|
|Subs||Ulreich, Alonso, Gaudino, Benko|
|Dinamo Zagreb||Eduardo – Matel, Benkovic (46. Goncalo), Taravel, Pivaric – Machado (61. Rog), Antolic, Ademi – Soudani, Fernandes – Pjaca (69. Henriquez)|
|Goals||1-0 Costa (13.), 2-0 Lewandowski (21.), 3-0 Götze (25.), 4-0 Lewandowski (28.), 5-0 Lewandowski (55.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Boateng / Pivaric, Ademi|
|Attendance||70.000 (sold out)|
|Referee||Alexey Kulbakov (Belarus)|