Dismal First Half Saved by Late Goal
It was hardly a quiet few days however with news of Toni Tapalović’s dismissal leaking just yesterday. This set the Bayern fanbase ablaze with speculation and theories. Temporarily at least Tom Starke has taken his spot on the coaching staff.
Meanwhile, Julian Nagelsmann fielded the same lineup as he did against Leipzig consisting of Yann Sommer, Benjamin Pavard, Matthijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Three Things We Noticed
Abominable First Half
The first half of this match was nearly as bad as any in recent memory. Köln got off to a quick start, scoring off a corner kick in the fourth minute as Davies completely lost his man allowing the Rhineland team to easily take the lead 0-1.
Anyone expecting a sense of urgency or honestly any type of response at all from Bayern were sadly mistaken. The entire team was listless, disorganized and frankly disinterested.
Köln’s pressure completely overwhelmed Bayern’s defense and midfield who seemed incapable of staying calm on the ball or making themselves available while off it. Their passing even when not under pressure was abysmal, misplacing and misweighting passes at seemingly every turn.
The attackers were hardly better. Gnabry did manage to put himself into good positions several times, but his finishing left A LOT to be desired. All of them also seemed to think they had no choice but to do everything themselves once they received the ball.
They dribbled for seemingly ages ultimately running into three to five Köln defenders, and often several of their own teammates, before being stripped and creating a counterattacking opportunity for their opponents.
As a result Bayern created next to nothing in the first half. They deserved to be down by far more than the one goal and it cames no surprise that there were changes at the half.
This issue of ball control is quickly becoming a serious area of concern though. I’m honestly not overly concerned about the misplaced passes and lack of coordination. Those things will almost certainly improve quickly over the next few weeks.
However, what does concern me is their ability to handle even the slightest bit of pressure. Kimmich and Choupo often appear like the only players on the pitch that are capable of dealing with it.
This is not a new problem either. Every time Bayern get in trouble in recent years, it’s almost always for this exact reason. What’s more alarming is that this could potentially get worse.
Manuel Neuer until his injury was still one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper in the world with the ball at his feet. Thinking back on it, it’s alarming to realize just how often the backline has used or relied on him to bail them out of precarious situations.
While I think Sommer will be perfectly fine with regards to distribution and providing an outlet, I don’t think he’s going to be quite the lifeline that Neuer has been. The entire backline and midfield therefore really needs to spend time working on getting out of close quarter situations and help the team to transition the ball forward more consistently.
The same is true for the attackers, especially the wingers, who need to provide more width and availability in support. Of course Nagelsmann is also culpable here. I understand the desire and theory behind getting Gnabry and Sané more inverted, but it can’t come at the expense of easy giveaways in transition.
A Glimmer of Hope
All that said, the second half was a vast improvement on the first. They were still a long way from looking like the team we all know they’re capable of being but after the previous three halves, it was a step in the right direction.
They at the very least played with heart and urgency. They seemed far more in sync than they had thus far in the new year. They even managed to create several legitimate scoring opportunities.
Kingsley Coman made an immediate impact upon his entrance at half time, as did Ryan Graveberch in the midfield. Coman provided the width that was entirely lacking in the first half, which helped to spread the field and allow Musiala and Sané more room to find their way into the box.
But it was obvoiusly more than that. Someone, whether it was Nagelsmann or Müller or Kimmich or one of the other leaders, obviously lit into the squad. They absolutely deserved it, and it obviously made a difference.
So when Kimmich blasted in a fantastic goal in the 90th minute to give Bayern a 1-1 draw, it didn’t feel entirely undeserved. Still Bayern could have had no complaints if they had lost and were extremely fortunate not to have.
Objectively speaking, this has already been a long season the team and the players. In some respects it might be natural for them to be suffering a bit of a hangover from an extremely bizarre winter break. But at some point they also have to snap out of it and get back to business. Hopefully, that’s what we saw today.