Pavlović and Guerreiro (or the value of selflessness) 

miasanrot Separator March 31, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar

Two painful absences that reveal the real state of the team

Since the tactical approach is the same as recent matches, the main difference with today’s performance can be attributed, at least partially, to two key absences: Pavlović and Guerreiro. At the beginning of the season they where nothing more than “decent subs”, but with the injuries and squad depth problems they have stepped up as “glue-type” players, and in a team full of “individuals doing their job” they seem to be, next to the CBs, the most selfless players in the team.

With Goretzka’s recent adaptation as a LCB (forming a back three with the CB pair) in the build up and attacking phases, Pavlović has become Bayern’s main six. His ball carrying abilities and his capacity for resisting the press are unmatched within Bayern’s squad; he can receive the ball facing his own goal, turn and provide both progressive passing and carrying, like a true six.

Then we have Guerreiro; he won a spot in the starting eleven mostly because Davies was unavailable, but he’s proven he provides more to the team, in all phases, than the Canadian. Guerreiro is not super fast and doesn’t try to be a winger, instead he is more like a midfielder, providing balance in possession, good positioning, and good passing. His role is highly functional, especially with Goretzka dropping from the double pivot to the backline.

Guerreiro’s style also benefits Musiala (especially if he starts as a winger) because he can invert and overlap, with Musiala doing the same, making that flank less predictable, harder to mark. Davies today was not a good attacker, not a good defender, and not a good midfielder, missing shots, passes and being caught out of position often. He never inverted and his overlapping runs didn’t contribute anything to the game, making Guerreiro’s absence look like a black hole in that flank.

The build-up phase; Bayern’s biggest weakness. The mid block; its biggest opponent

Today Laimer was not even close to what Pavlović has been, but the expected shortcoming was exacerbated by Davies’ positioning and inability to stay close in the build up. While Kimmich was much more involved in this phase, often staying close to Laimer and De Ligt, Davies kept running forward and then remaining static on the LW position, becoming easily marked, forcing Musiala to occupy central positions and become more predictable, with Laimer then being forced to constantly pass back to the backline. This is how a single player’s positioning can affect the whole tactical structure of a team. This problem hindered Bayern’s build up and defensive phases, and by halftime 50% of BVB’s attacks came from that flank.

Even if this is one of his worst games and one of his worst seasons at Bayern, Davies can’t be singled out for today’s performance. When the build up is complicated, Bayern still has other top players to help out. Specifically, Musiala, Sané or Müller could and should have dropped deeper to help break BVB’s mid-block and move the ball forward, but this almost never happened in today’s match. Instead, the three attacking midfielders were more comfortable staying forward, waiting for the ball, with no success, often dribbling just to lose the ball and misplacing passes, even BVB’s first goal came from a misplaced pass by Müller.

Kimmich and Laimer were effectively the only two players focusing on carrying the ball forward, facing BVB’s line of four midfielders, so it’s not only that Pavlović and Guerreiro were absent, their teammates didn’t step up to the task of compensating for their absences. Whether this is Tuchel’s fault, or the players’ fault is difficult to know, but also irrelevant, because things like helping out in the build up or tracking back after losing the ball are actions more related to attitude than skill or tactics.

A terrible but revealing end to the season

Looking back at this season Pavlović and Guerreiro starting seem to be one of the most refreshing things to happen to the squad, along with Kimmich performing well at the RB position. But isn’t that a bit depressing? Instead of talking about Sané or Musiala or even Müller, we’re missing a fledgling CDM and a veteran LB who were meant to be no more than substitutes this season.

This has been a wake-up type of season. Underlying problems that have been there since Flick or even Kovac have surfaced and there’s no looking past them. We know Bayern needs to revamp the midfield. Check. Tuchel has already been sacked and will leave in June. Check. We know some players are over-paid, and some won’t be missed if they leave. Check. Those things seem to be just a piece of the puzzle. We can’t expect a 100M CDM to solve all of the team’s problems. We can’t expect for a coach to arrive and immediately fix systemic issues that have been there for years.

For example, having three or four players that don’t press, nor defend, nor track back, nor drop deep is shooting yourself in the foot in modern football. This is something that happens often to Bayern, and is one of the reasons why even weak teams can score despite a low xG and limited chances. It happens to Tuchel, but also happened under Nagelsmann, Flick, and even before that. It’s enough to beat small clubs, but any decent team that can defend and counter will exploit that lack of balance.

If we look at Wirtz with Leverkusen, him dropping deep or tracking back is not even an option, he does it almost every single play, despite being their most important player. If we look at their wingbacks, they overlap, invert, attack, defend. If a player is out of position, another one steps up. They keep doing it the whole match, regardless of the score. That way Leverkusen doesn’t depend upon signing a 100M CDM to progress the ball or defend, and they have enough in veterans like Xhaka and Palacios. That is something Bayern should take as an example, it’s not just about signing players, but about playing like a unit and having the right attitudes.

Is there anything we can learn from the worst season in more than a decade?

Like Tuchel said, congratulations to Leverkusen. Like Kimmich said, the team can’t behave like this, regardless of the circumstances, much less against an opponent like BVB. All of Bayern’s issues have surfaced this season and are quite evident, but something that should be non-negotiable in modern football is selflessness.

Players should do both the best for themselves AND for the team. Today’s defeat makes me think that besides a manager or a super-star CDM, selflessness is what the team has desperately needed this season. The team has an attitude problem I can’t remember seeing at Bayern. I hope the big change next season, more than super-star signings, is that Bayern plays more like a team and less like eleven guys jogging on the pitch, wearing matching outfits, which is what we saw today.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. To be frank tuchel is not the only problem that Bayern Haved, the squad lacks cohension, Atitude,consistancy,efficiency, determination, and winning mentality with many more

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