Toothless Bayern eek out Draw with Atletico
Not only was the lineup heavily rotated but it also resulted in a formation shift. Flick decided to play with three central defenders and two wing backs and leave Javi Martinez as the lone midfielder while playing his normal four attackers. A curious move as this essentially meant that Bayern was playing with four center backs and two wing backs since Javi played very deep, as you might expect.
The match proceeded about as well as you probably would predict given the massive changes and formational shift. Atletico dominated Bayern for nearly the entire match until the 70th minute when it looked like they started to give up on adding to their lead and instead focused on maintaining it. The Madrid side would end up out shooting the Bavarians thirteen to six but only three to two in the on goal category. To be clear, Atletico should have had far more on goal. They had at least four to five more opportunities where they were gifted opportunities to score and missed the goal by kilometers.
As these things so often go, Bayern would make them pay for those missed opportunities. In the 85th minute, Thomas Müller was brought down inside the box and awarded a penalty. The wily veteran would step up and bury the resulting freekick to earn Bayern an undeserved point. Amazingly still, Bayern would seize upon that momentum and were by far the closer of the two sides to winning the match in the remaining time. While I could sit here and pick apart this performance, there seems to be little reason to do so. So let’s focus on the things that might be positive coming out of it.
As we all know, the schedule is packed. The players are tired, both physically and mentally. Some of them have played nearly every competitive match for seemingly a year, including with their national teams. Bayern had wrapped up the group in the previous match day. All of this inevitably lead to the massive rotation of players in today’s match.
Even the “regulars” who played, outside of Alaba and Hernandez, have not been consistently in the starting lineup of late. Leroy Sane, Niklas Süle and Javi Martinez have all started their fair share of matches from the bench this season. Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Benjamin Pavard and Jerome Boateng all traveled to watch from the sideline but earned some much needed rest. Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso would all remain behind to rest up for the weekend.
While this resulted in an unsightly performance today, it was unquestionably the right move. Any chance to get those key players more rest should be seized when presented. The good thing is that Bayern only need to muddle through five more matches before they finally get to their shortened winter break. There is also hope that they may get a few more of their players back relatively soon following the restart. With both Kimmich and Davies running outside now. So while the rest of this year may not be the pinnacle of performances, there may just be some light on the horizon.
Unlike his predecessors, Hansi Flick has shown his willingness to use young players. Alphonso Davies in particular is a shining example of what can happen when these players are given an opportunity. Today was another chance for him to throw several of the youth players into a big match against a very good European team and get them experience. Jamal Musiala in particular is looking more and more comfortable at this level. He still has things he needs to improve in his game but every time out he seems to take another step in the right direction.
Chris Richards is another that has seemed to grow in his ability as he gets more match practice. A good thing too given that all of the injuries throughout the midfield and defense has required a lot of shifting around and substitutions throughout this season.
Then there is Bright Arrey-Mbi who got his first professional start and Angelo Stiller who was given his second chance this season. The former looked a little overwhelmed at times. A lot of times if we’re being honest, but it is still excellent experience for the 17 year old. Angelo Stiller on the other hand actually looked relatively good in his short time on the field. There were a few mistakes but all things considered it was a very positive performance for the young German.
This goes to Thomas Müller by default. Honestly, up until his goal, no one in the squad deserved any type of award. Every single player had moments that were awful. Bouna Sarr may have had a good case for being the best of the rotten bunch, but luckily for us, Thomas Müller came in and saved the day. In his 30 some-odd minutes, he impacted the match more than nearly any of the starters managed in 90.
In fairness to the attack, Bayern struggled to get the ball out of their own half the entire first 45 minutes, including some absolutely dreadful passes that seemed to be inteded for Atletico players. The first half performance had me wondering if you somehow assembled the worlds four greatest attacking players up front, if they would have done much better given just how bad the back seven was. The second half however gained some semblance of control and by the time Müller came on Bayern looked slightly less vulnerable in defense and just a tad more dangerous in attack.
By the 75thish minute, the tide had started to shift and Müller nearly grabbed a goal from open play off a long ball that was just a bit to far for him to get his foot to. However, the tricksy German would not be denied. He would get the ball on the edge of the box, dribble inbehind his own player and a defender who left his leg out a little too long and draw an unquestioned penalty. Müller then stepped up to the spot and smashed it home past a diving Oblak who guessed the right direction but still had no chance to save.
While this was a somewhat meaningless match that had no real importance, this is truly a quintessential Müller moment. To drag a team that was absolutely dreadful all day and find an equalizer is an incredible accomplishment. While he obviously has done, and probably will do, far more significant things in his career, it’s little moments like these that cement his legacy. His ability to muster up the drive, motivation and will to overturn such a lopsided match should not be forgotten.