Bayern caught cold by Hoffenheim
What a week. First, Bayern win 2-7 away to Tottenham in the Champions League, which induces some commentators to see them back among Europe’s elite. And then comes Hoffenheim.
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Niko Kovač decided not to make any changes to the team that played in the second half against Tottenham. His hand was partly forced as both Lucas Hernández and David Alaba were out with an injury. Pavard moved to left-back.
Hoffenheim’s coach Alfred Schreuder sent his team out in a 4-1-4-1 formation. He played ex Bayern player Sebastian Rudy in the center, where he was supported by Grillitsch defensively and Geiger offensively. In other positions, Schreuder had to improvise due to multiple injuries.
Bayern went into the game as the favourite, but it was Hoffenheim who had the first chance. Bayern stood very high and Bebou managed to play a pass in behind Bayern’s defensive line through the gap between Boateng and Süle to Adamyan. He had a clear route on goal but a slight hesitation allowed Boateng to track back in time and clear the danger.
It took Bayern 25 minutes before they started to approach Hoffenheim’s goal with any seriousness. In quick succession, Gnabry, Tolisso, and Coman had chances but could not find a successful finish. Previously, Hoffenheim was very stable in their 4-4-2 against the ball and prevented Bayern from finding dangerous passes in offense.
Bayern’s surge was a brief one and the game soon lost its momentum again. The scoresheet read a goalless draw at half time. Bayern was not able to properly link up midfield and attack in the first half. Their game was devoid of precision and patience. In some situations, they looked for a finish prematurely instead of trying to seek the next pass to an open teammate.
Both teams returned to the pitch unchanged. Again, Hoffenheim had the first chance. Tolisso loses the ball to Rudy under pressure. Via Geiger, the ball gets to Adamyan who manages to convert his second vital chance of the game.
Niko Kovač reacted swiftly and brought on Perišić and Müller for Tolisso and Coman. Bayern now played with a back three and two strikers.
In the following, Bayern was able to build up a little bit more pressure, which soon led to chances by Gnabry and Lewandowski. But Hoffenheim remained dangerous on the break. Bayerns change of system caused them to become more uncoordinated in defense. Moreover, Hoffenheim now played with more men in the center, which made it doubly hard for Bayern to conduct an effective build-up play.
Nevertheless, Bayern could level the score in the 73rd minute through – you guessed it – Robert Lewandowski. For a moment, Hoffenheim was unorganized in defense, which allowed Müller to chip a high cross towards an unmarked Lewandowski, who did not fail to head it in.
But the goal did not signal the beginning of a one-sided barrage of attacks on Hoffenheim’s goal. Rather, Hoffenheim remained the more dangerous team and scored again through Adamyan in the 79th minute. Prior to the goal, Bayern had already lost the ball several times in midfield in quick succession due to Hoffenheim’s pressure in numerical superiority there.
Bayern failed to find the equaliser during the remainder of the game. And so the final score read 1-2, which was Bayern’s first home defeat in 20 games, and a deserved one at that. At almost no point could Bayern replicate their Champions League performance from Tuesday. Their next game in the league will be away to Augsburg after the international break.
Things that caught our eye
1. Pressing in attack
Bayern pressed very high against a Hoffenheim that elected to sit deep. They attacked Hoffenheim’s respective player in possession with up to three men at once, which provoked Hoffenheim to surrender the ball fast for mainly Tolisso and Thiago to collect. Bayern’s few good chances during the first half came as a result from this. At the same time, Bayern managed to suppress Hoffenheim’s counters apart from the very first one. Hoffenheim resorted to playing a long ball forward 20 times in the first half to relieve the pressure. Unfortunately, about half of these balls arrived at their intended targets, which effectively foiled a lot of Bayern’s efforts in pressing.
2. Sinsheim is not London
It would have been foolish to believe that Bayern’s level of performance against Hoffenheim would pick up just where it left off in the game against Tottenham. “Football is no exercise in mathematics”, or so the quote by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge goes. It was a combination of a lot of small things that did not work for Bayern this afternoon. Consider for example a number of unremarkable throw-ins in midfield that led to losses of possession, or the number of uninspired crosses from half-field. All in all, Bayern was not determined enough for large stretches of the game and duly paid for their slackness with two goals conceded at home and an unnecessary defeat to boot.
3. Vulnerability in defense
Lucas Hernández was Bayern’s record transfer ahead of this season. They shelled out over €80m for the defender. It becomes clear why as soon as he is not part of the team. Of course, 2 ½ games are hardly conclusive evidence, but in all three games he missed, Bayern lacked stability and was susceptible at the back. Hernández often takes the initiative to move out and attack the player in possession when the opponent aims to hit Bayern in transition. When he plays as a full-back too, he is active off the ball. Bayern conceded six of their eight league goals against without him. Not all of these are exclusively due to his absence, of course, but Bayern’s coaching staff has to carefully analyse their team’s defensive performance this week. Some of what they delivered in this area looked way too careless and was reminiscent of their more than underwhelming exploits this time last year. In each of the three matches against Paderborn, Tottenham, and Hoffenheim, they conceded two goals. This is more than just the odd goal too many.