Bayern Back on Top

Marc Separator December 19, 2020

The lineup was likely not what anyone would have predicted prior to the match. Niklas Süle once again started at right back alongside Jerome Boateng and Lucas Hernandez with Alphonso Davies at left back. David Alaba moved up to play along side Corentin Tolisso in the midfield. The attacking unit was pretty standard with Kingsley Coman, Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry playing behind Robert Lewandowski up top.

The first 30 minutes of the match went about as well as they have gone in recent weeks. Bayer had by far the better chances and scored an absolute beauty of a goal to open the scoring. However, Bayern has made it a habit of scoring just before the break and this match proved no different. Lewandowski was left wide open by Jonathan Tah and Müller put in a perfect cross for the striker to head home and make it 1-1.

The Second half was much more back and forth. Both teams had some chances early. Bayern however played much more consistently throughout and by the 75th minute, Leverkusen was clearly the team playing for a draw. Bayern had several chances that just missed, notably Gnabry forced a very nice finger tip save and Jamal Musiala hit the post squarely. However, it wasn’t till the last seconds of added time that Tah yet again would make a massive mistake and gift the ball to Kimmich who found a wide open Lewandowski for the winner.

Passing Woes

Passing over the last decade has always been a strength of Bayern. They have controlled the ball as well as nearly any team in the world. These past few weeks however have been the complete opposite. A combination of injuries, players playing out of position and general exhaustion has led to an increasingly sloppy passing game from the record champions. Today seemed to be the culmination of that.

The first half especially was just plain awful. Nearly every possession of Bayern’s ended in a wildly misplaced pass that seemed to have no real purpose or direction. Ball after ball were kicked into random space or directly toward the opposition, leading to chances for Leverkusen to counter. Most of these passes were also not a result of pressure from the opposition but simple mental mistakes. While we all know how drained the players are, this is something that should not happen. Hansi Flick must have been fuming internally following the first half and undoubtedly he’ll be very focused on this aspect when the players return.

Grinding to the Holidays

As mentioned above, we all know the state of Bayern right now. They have not really played like themselves in well over a month. However, they have managed to grind out results despite that and amazingly enough, head into the winter break at the top of the league and top of their Champions League group. Given all of the injuries and the physical and mental toll that the players have had to endure this season, those are two remarkable achievements.

This match was almost the perfect synopsis for the entire season. Bayern struggled and they didn’t play particularly well but they never gave in either. They went a goal down. Their second best offensive player, Kingsley Coman, had to be substituted because of an injury. Yet they still found a way in the end to come back and win this all important match. It feels very different going into the break at the top of the league having just beat your closest pursuers than in second with a tie. So while we can be critical of their performances at times, we also have to give them a lot of credit for continually finding a way to get results.

Man of the Match

Who could this possibly go to other than Robert Lewandowski?! The newly crowned Fifa player of the year for 2020 stepped up in a huge way to drag Bayern to a 2-1 win. His work rate as always was excellent. He continually found spaces and worked to be an outlet for the rest of the offense. In the end he also found ways to get open in very dangerous situations. For his first goal, he some how shed Tah and found himself wide open in the six yard box. While Tah is certainly largely to blame for this situation, Lewandowski also has to be given credit for seeing it for what it was and being in the right place.

The second however is where he deserves extra praise. Tah again made an error in possession taking a massively heavy touch. Lewandowski however put himself in the perfect position to pounce just incase of such an event. When the ball found it’s way to Kimmich, he was ready and found himself open again for a shot on goal. Despite a deflection, or maybe in part because of it, his shot found the back of the net for three well deserved points. Lewandowski heads into the winter break with 20 goals and 5 assists in all competitions and is on pace to have just as big an impact in 2021 as he did in the previous year.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Thank you Marc for the quick and brilliant recap, as always. I’m super happy the team was able to to conclude a perfect 2020 year (from sporting perspective) with a win, and a return to the top of the table. The number of mistakes and misplaced passes, as usual, were super annoying but the will is admirable. Exactly like the match Dortmund, a top clash vs strong and in form opponent, being in the back foot, conceding first, then losing a key player midway, this time Coman, but the team still managed to fight back and earn the win.

    The Sule as a hybrid right-back was an interesting tactical choice from Flick to stabilise the defence, and I think it worked well. Hopefully this will give Pavard an extra motivation, as well as a period of rest, and will return him back to old from in the new year. In general I think the defence was very good throughout the match, despite Leverkusen’s intensity, speed, and a lot of ball losses. What this match told me is also Alaba is not a midfielder, or at least not a Flick’s midfielder. Despite his speed, technical quality and vision, his positioning was poor, and he did not help a lot with neither buildup nor defensive shielding. Of course this is almost the first time he play there under Flick, but I think he should be content with being a leader in the defence. I’m also not happy with Tolisso at all, last time we said he was wasted as the lone 6, this time he has Alaba beside to be able to put more influence in the match, but he failed to do that, his pressing was not very impressive, he was hesitant to challenges, and his passing was not good. I feel bad for him, without Kimmich and Goretzka he was still not able to put his mark. I wonder how bad Roca can do to not even able to get a minute. His rare outings were always better than average to good.

    Kimmich’s return after a relatively long injury and was able to immediately lift the game was great to see. I really hope Roca can earn more trust from Flick in the 2nd half of the season, because we really have big issues building up the game and coping with pressing without Kimmich, and he won’t be able to play all the games.

    Last but not least, Sane was criticised a lot, especially being replace after coming on to replace Coman was really a bad moment, but I personally find him doing well in this match, or at least with improvement from previous matches. He needs a bit more automation in his movement, and he needs his confident back, then thing should get much better.

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