Bayern Hold on In Köln
Munich from the beginning looked a bit listless. Köln were clearly the more ambitious team in the opening 15-20 minutes, however it was a Thomas Müller penalty that would give Bayern the lead in the 13th minute. A long ball onto an on running Gnabry resulted in a header that ultimately went off the defender’s arm. There was likely no intent in the hand ball but the penalty was given and it was probably the right call by the book. Just before the end of the half, Gnabry again would get the ball on a quick counter and the Köln defense swarmed into the box and towards the other Bayern players while largely ignoring an on rushing Gnabry. Serge would seize the opportunity given to him and cut in on his left foot and blast it past the defenders and into the far corner to make it 0-2.
The second half started with a relatively decent spell from Bayern where they dominated play for about 10 minutes, clearly in search of a match sealing third goal. That goal never came however and eventually the desire to conserve energy won out. Köln would get one back late in the match off a deflection that at first looked offside but upon review was just kept onside by Süle returning to the line late. Köln pushed for an equalizer in the last 10 minutes but never really caused Manuel Neuer any real concern and things ended 1-2.
We’ve touched on it before. We’ll almost certainly touch on it again. But a lot of the issues today started with the need to rotate. This season is much more likely to see these types of performances than last because Bayern have so many matches in such a short amount of time that they simply cannot afford to play their “best eleven” every match. This almost always leads to multiple issues within the squad.
First and foremost, it causes chemistry issues. When you make 6 changes from the last two matches, that invariably means that you have a lot of players on the field that are not used to playing with one another. It takes time to build that instinctual sense of where people will be. What a player will try to do in certain situations. It will almost always lead to an increase in wildly misplaced passes and some counterattacking opportunities for your opposition.
Additionally, it detracts from that cohesion amongst your starting players as they have to adjust and get used to all of these other players. Of course this is all part of being a football player or professional athlete, however part of what made Bayern so dominant last season was the ability to play nearly the same starting eleven for the last six months of the season. The chemistry that the team had from playing together that much is really hard to come by. This is a challenge that Hansi and Co. are going to have to contend with all season long and hope that they can muddle through well enough in the busier parts of the season to be at their best at the end of the season.
The other factor that clearly came into play to day was a desire to conserve as much energy as possible. While I won’t say that the players are purposefully not trying their hardest, they also know that the have 2 more big matches coming up in the next seven days and if it’s possible, it would be best not to over exhaust themselves in this match. The early goal by Thomas Müller gave them a little extra leeway to take their foot off the gas so to speak.
You could see that Bayern were very much trying to slow the tempo of the match very early on. They wanted to keep possession and make Köln chase after the game while potentially taking advantage of any slips. While an understandable strategy, this type of tactic does not lead to the most interesting of matches to watch. It also resulted in several opportunities for Köln that may have been avoidable if they were a little more on top of their game.
Ultimately though, these types of matches are bound to happen in any season much less in ones as packed as this one. Bayern’s ability to win ugly like they did against Moscow or grind them out like today against Köln are the signs of a good, mature team. The objectives today coming into the mach surely had to be to get a win, expend as little energy as possible to do so, come out of it with no new injuries while getting some players much needed rest and others much needed match time. All of these goals were ultimately accomplished and while maybe Hansi would have hoped for a little more, ultimately I think he will be satisfied with the results. After all, they can’t all be 8-2 victories!
Up next Bayern will travel to Salzburg on Tuesday, which is mercifully close to Munich, for the third of their Champions League group stage matches. While Bayern will clearly go into this match as the favorites, Salzburg will certainly present a challenge to the Bavarian side. Until then let’s hope that the players get back to Munich and have time to rest (cough…Kimmich) and can approach next week with more energy and gusto.