Second Half Glory
Julian Nagelsmann sent out a familiar lineup to start the match. Manuel Neuer, Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernández, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané and Sadio Mané started for the Bavarians.
The match started off less than stellar for the Munich side. Things were wide open and Barcelona pushed Bayern to the brink several times only to be saved by very nice saves from Manuel Neuer or last second tackles.
On the opposite side of the pitch, both Sané and Mané were able to dribble thereselves into the box but then failed to find anything to do with the position. Too many touches. Too little options.
All in all, Bayern were extremely fortunate to escape the first half at a 0-0 draw. Lewandowski alone could have had a hat trick on another night.
The second half opened with one change from Nagelsmann who brought on Leon Goretzka for Marcel Sabitzer, who had played well but picked up an early yellow.
Just seconds after the restart, Rafinha nearly scored the opening goal hitting the post, and seemingly picking up right where they had left off the first half.
However, Bayern flipped the script. Just a few minutes later Goretzka would blast a shot from outside the box forcing a nice save for Marc Andre Ter Stegen. The resulting corner saw Kimmich hit a wonderful ball into the near post which Hernández was able to head home 1-0 (50).
It would only take four more minutes for Bayern to double their lead as Sané dribbled his way past defenders and slid the ball past Ter Stegen into the far corner 2-0.
That would prove to be the end of the scoring, but Bayern dominated the remainder of the second half and easily saw out their win.
Three things we noticed
First Half Struggles
As great as the result was in the end, the first half had a lot of people scratching their heads and asking questions as to the plan. Given the performance, this was a reasonable reaction.
It was an odd half. The front line at times looked like they would break through only to dribble themselves into trouble without every taking a shot or finding a pass.
There were individual mistakes that nearly resulted in easy goals for Barcelona only to be prevented by quick recovery and more importantly luck. Neuer inparticular nearly gifted Lewandowski a goal with a terrible pass to Upamecano that was intercepted.
But that’s exactly where Bayern excelled in this match. Nearly every player had a few moments of brilliance in this match. They all seemed to come at opportune times as well.
The first half especially saw great plays from Neuer, Upamecano, Sabitzer, Hernández, Davies and Mazourai to keep Barcelona out of their net.
In the second half, Kimmich, Musiala, Goretzka, Hernández and Sané made a lot of things happen offensively. Goretzka and thereby Nagelsmann deserver a lot of credit for the impact the midfielder had.
I honestly questioned this move given his play in the last match and that Sabitzer was actually playing well. However he provided that decisiveness that was missing in the first half. He hit shots that forced plays that resulted in goals or opportunities.
Both goals were a direct result of great play from individuals and by the end, they looked much more like a team than a group of individuals but it took 60 minutes to get there. That can’t be true going forward.
One thing that has been a real problem so far this season, and especially in this match is how the players up top play together. There was one memorable moment in this match where Mané and Müller literally ran into each other as Musiala put in a great low cross.
We all quickly forget that these players have really only been on the field with each other for a few games. Even those that have played with each other for years are now playing in a different system and focus given the departure of Lewandowski.
These things take some time. I know we don’t want to hear it. I know we don’t want excuses. But this isn’t a switch you can magically pull. There are encouraging signs. But there have been a lot of struggles, especially as of late.
Mané inparticular has struggled since his early matches. Gnabry has yet to really pull things together. Müller is off an on. Only Musiala and Sané have been really consistent so far this season. My belief is that the rest will figure it out. They have the talent and experience. Now they need the time.
Unfold all comments Hide all comments
Hi Marc, thanks for the sum up. I agree with your conclusion. To me, it’s still acceptable to have less than stellar performance at this early stage, but the result is very important, as first: it ensures we survive this death group and will still compete next spring, and second: it buys more time and a bit more peace for Nagelsmann and the team.
It’s ironic a team like Bayern, losing its best (and only?) striker, who is still trying to figure out how to make up for it, managed to be more clinical to beat the on-the-rise team that received that striker, who disappointed in his finishing. It’s been a long time since Bayern arguably being dominated by an opponent, yet still registered a clear 2-0 victory. This match (and also partly the Inter Milan game), Bayern have had the needed luck that is usually missing in the recent Bundesliga games.
With all respect to Lewandowski, and while I still appreciate a lot his almost completed game yesterday: movement, technique, physicality, intelligence, the game also reminded me a lot of frustration in the past, watching him missing chance after chance in crucial Champions League games.
In term of tactic and team performance, I won’t complain about how our offensive players were clueless for the better part of the game, this has been said over and over again, and I hope they will eventually figure it out as you said (the brilliant start to the season also created extremely high expectation, which the team could not keep up), but there are also other worrying problems that need to be ironed out:
– a Xavi’s Barca playing with his highly technical midfield trio of Busquet-Pedri-Gavi is always looking to dominate. I was a bit disappointing watching Kimmich and Co being overwhelmed in the first half, with little to no plan to support them.
– Barca’s pressing and intensity, especially during the 1st half, were impressive, yet our ability to deal with the pressing was disappointing. This defence is much less playful than the like of Alaba, Boateng, and it shows. Neuer pumping the ball high was also not useful, as there wasn’t a target man to fight for those ball.
– Our own pressing on the other hand was not always effective, of course it suffered from the less than optimal offensive positioning, and the offence is still trying to get with each other in a new system, but we also lacked compactness a lot of time.
– Goretzka brought much needed physicality, aggressiveness and explosiveness, and until last night I almost forgot how good he can be, or how good a Kimmich-Goretzka midfield duo can be. Considering how much of a mess the current attack is, and how talent the midfield is do you think it’s worth to consider adding a 3rd midfielder and change the system?
– The whole defence had an individually brilliant night, and Nagelsmann deserved a praise for his decision to stick with Upamecano, who is a always a ticking-bomb. Mazraoui also confirmed his good performance from last weekend. Now speaking of which:
– the much improved squad depth proved to be vital yesterday. On a spring night a few months month ago, this Bayern might not manage to survive against this Barca side, losing Coman before the game, Pavard early in the game, and Roca or Tolisso as option to solidify the midfield.
– I think Kimmich and Mane need a break, to recover and also to have chance to reset themselves. I know we don’t have a like-for-like replacement for Kimmich (I asked this question in the summer when we bought Gravenberch), but if Sabitzer can adapt his game to suit, surely Goretzka and Gravenberch can do the same?
Hi Hien, Thanks as always for your comments and insights. There is certainly a level of irony to how clinical we were last night. In somefairness to Lewandowski, I think Neuer and the defenders did a pretty good job of preventing him from scoring. There were I think two chances where you can say he should have done better but I don’t want to diminish the role our players had in him not converting.
Obviously I agree with you regarding this hopefully buying some time and patience going forward. It is needed especially in today’s world where overreactions are so common. I’m a bit of an optimist when it comes to these things. When players have talent, as I believe every single one of them do, I believe that they will ultimately figure out how to play. I’ve always said there will be times where we struggle without a striker like Lewy, but there were times we struggled when we had him too. The players just need to figure out how to work within this new system and without that focal point.
The pressing on both sides is definitely a concern as well as the support for the midfield. I think that responsibilty probabaly has to fall to some degree on the higher midfield players of Muller/Musiala (or whoever is in that role). There are times where they seem to be unsure where they should be and most of the time they default to further forward, but I think one of them at nearly all times needs to have an eye on supporting the deeper lying midfielders at a moments notice. Again though, I suspect that these are things that with time will improve, though obviously the sooner the better.
I completely agree that Goretzka brought a completely different presence to the match. I think a third midfielder is something to consider, especially if you are giving Kimmich a break. A midfield comprised of Goretzka, Sabitzer and Gravenberch would be interesting and potentially help to negate their penchant to go forward when they shouldn’t.
The depth is very nice to have. Mazraoui played very well last night in place of Pavard. There is certainly every likelihood that the last few seasons we would have been in trouble missing so many players. Personally, having more depth is the best part of our summer transfer business. The big names are nice, but actually having a few more players capable of playing and playing well is hugely important.