Secondish Half Wins

Marc Separator January 3, 2021

However those hopes quickly faded as the first half progressed. Mainz would grab the lead in the 32nd minute. Jonathan Burkhardt would score the opener following a clear shove on Boateng that prevented the defender from making a clearance. While the contact was not overly strong, it certainly appeared to be a foul and Boateng was subsequently booked for dissent as he and his teams were outraged by the non-call.

This continued a now eight game streak of Bayern allowing their opposition to score first. However, the misery would continue from there. Just before halftime, Mainz were awarded a freekick just outside the box and Thomas Müller completely lost his man Alexander Hack who easily headed it in the far corner past a diving Neuer. This more or less wrapped up a poor first half and Bayern went into the dressing room down 0-2.

Hansi Flick, as you might expect, changed things up at the half. Süle replaced the booked Boateng and Goretzka came on for the struggling Pavard. This forced Kimmich back to his old right back position. Bayern immediately looked more dangerous and it was Kimmich who would score first for the Bavarians in the 50th minute with a header from a Gnabry cross. Just five minutes later, Leroy Sane would tie things up at 2-2 with a very nice long range shot that went into the lower corner.

It would take another 15 minutes to get the 3rd but Niklas Süle would smash home a deflected shot off a corner kick to make it 3-2. From there Bayern would never look back as Robert Lewandowski would go on to score two goals himself to give Bayern a 5-2 victory.

First Half Woes

Once again Munich struggled out of the gate and were forced to come from behind. While you can perhaps make an argument about the performance not being as bad as the 0-2 halftime score suggests, it has become a pattern. The defensive lapses and lack of creativity up front has been a hallmark of Bayern over the last few months in the first half. They have nearly always found ways to come back from these setbacks, it is not sustainable long term.

At some point they are going to face teams that going down one or two goals early in a game is going to be a much bigger problem and they simply won’t be able to overcome it. While I am not sure what the solution might be, Hansi Flick must come up with a solution to these false starts if Bayern are going to compete for trophies this season.

Untenable Solutions

Due to the performance and scoreline following the first half, Flick was forced to make a few changes in the second half. The one that clearly stands out is Goretzka replacing Pavard, moving Kimmich to right back. While this change worked today and clearly made Bayern a much better team, this is not a long term solution. With the departure of Thiago in the “summer”, Bayern sacrificed the ability to play Kimmich at right back except as an emergency.

Tolisso and Goretzka may be good enough to play against the likes of Mainz, but there is a plethora of history that shows the two of them are not capable of pairing together successfully against better sides. Kimmich is the heart of the Bayern midfield and there is no ready substitute. We had all hoped that Marc Roca might be the poor man’s solution, but Hansi Flick has shown little inclination to use the Spaniard. Therefore Flick will have to figure out a way to get Pavard back to his form of last season or figure out another solution in that position with Sarr, Richards or some one else.

Man of the Match

While Lewandowski surely deserves a shout out here, Kimmich to me is the player who made the biggest difference in this match. Apart from scoring the opening goal, he also provided the assist on Sane’s goal and was the corner taker for Süle’s. But the biggest thing he did was to provide stability to the defensive line and a legitimate threat down the right flank. His presence at right back allowed Sane to be far more dangerous than he had been in the first half. His crosses into the box were dangerous. His presence in the back helped to prevent any second half goals and he was the warrior and leader that he always is. Hansi Flick must feel like one of the luckiest men in the world to have such a versatile, talented and hard working player as Joshua Kimmich.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Kimmich still does not convince that he is better in midfield than at RB…we can talk about Pavard having a poor outing today but it seemed to me that Kimmich was targeted as being weak and not getting rid of the ball fast enough in centre MF …fast forward to him being on the right flank in the second half of the match and his true genius prevails…almost immediadetly!

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    1. While I can understand why you feel that way, the truth is that with the departure of Thiago, Bayern really has no other option for a holding midfielder that can do the things Kimmich can. Whether he is better at right back than in midfield is therefore irrelevant in my opinion because the other options (Goretzka, Tolisso…etc) are not sixes or cannot be relied upon to play every match (Martinez). Kimmich has to play as a six this season and Flick has to find a way to either get Pavard back into rhythm or another option at right back. The holding midfield position is far more important than right back in the grand scheme of things and I’d much rather have a substandard Pavard (or Sarr) in that spot and Kimmich in the midfield than see Goretzka and Tolisso play together for any length of time simply to move Kimmich to right back.

      I do disagree with you however that Kimmich was being targeted or that he was in any way a problem with the build up or in possession. In fact, I would go so far as to say he is the only midfielder we have where that is not the case. The slip he had on the edge of the box, while unfortunate, is really a result of the field giving way under his feet than anything else. Also it is a systemic flaw that put him in a tight position and Neuer could have played that long or to another player given how high Mainz were pressing at the time. I don’t remember any other situations in the first half where Kimmich made a mistake in possession and there were plenty of other issues from that regard including a lot from the back line and Tolisso being generally poor.

      1. Good points, Marc…I sadly regret that Thiago left and I would agree that the pairing of Kimmich and Goretzka is probably Bayern’s best bet right now (and certainly not a bad option, to say the least!)
        I do find that though he is world class in skill and has the heart of a lion, Kimmich can be overpowered due to his size…not exactly a van Bommel or Javi in his prime. I’ve read both pro and con about his midfield abilities and as I said previously, though he is a player of the highest quality, I miss seeing his skill, guile and wicked crossing ability on the flank.

  2. I can certainly see your point regarding physicality and that to me is why it was so important that Goretzka developed into the player that he is now. The two of them offer a lot as the double pivot in this squad. That is not to say that both don’t have room to grow. They absolutely do. However I think both have shown a tremendous work ethic and an ability to learn very quickly. While they may not be at the highest of highs yet in terms of a midfield duo, I think they absolutely have what it takes to get there. The center backs are the other side that should mitigate that lack of physical presence from Kimmich. However, I feel like all of them have struggled to dominate the way that they are physically capable of, likely due to simple exhaustion. If the center backs and Goretzka bring the physicality that they are capable of, Kimmich is strong enough and tenacious enough to hold his own as well.

    In all honesty, I was not a huge proponent of moving Kimmich to midfield either. I love what he brings at right back. He is absolutely one of the top right backs in the world when he plays there. However, he has also developed already into a world class midfielder and as I said earlier, I have every faith in his ability and tenacity to go even further. However, it is also very difficult to watch our right back position struggle as much as it is knowing that we have someone who is maybe the best in the world at that position already in the squad. BTW, thank you for your comments! It’s always nice to have a conversation going!

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    1. Answer IconDurham Bundesliga Fan Page January 5, 2021 - 22:46

      I understand Marc’s thoughts on the need to keep Kimmich in the midfield, though I agree with Mani and that he is a better right back. What makes that relevant is games like today. I don’t think we would have the score line that we did if we replaced Pavard with Sarr or Richards, while replacing Joshua with Leon in the midfield was less significant. The gap between Kimmich and the next midfielder is much smaller than the gap between Kimmich and our right backs and depending on how teams are playing us, it can be more useful to have him in a “less important” position. Teams are going to take different approaches in taking on our team. I think the flexibility to move Kimmich to his best position to support a backline that is clearly having problems is wise. I think it too rigid to keep him at the 6 to make him happy, consistency, etc, but that is for Hansi to handle.

      1. I was also part of the “Kimmich must play RB” crowd last year, but he has proven to be one of the best midfielder in the world currently. While it might be true that the gap between Kimmich and other midfielders are smaller than between him and the RBs (subjectively), I think this can’t be a simple mathematic (e.g. Kimmich = Tolisso + 1, Kimmich = Pavard + 2 => Kimmich at RB is +1 better), the 6 position is collectively very important in organisational sense, and while it worked well vs Mainz (a big part of that was their diamond clogging up the centre), I can’t imagine we play long term with Goretzka – Tolisso, especially Tolisso, who was not that bad last weekend, but no where good enough to be the main playmaker and organiser.

        This is more the problem of squad planning and conservative transfer, I’m not exactly blaming Brazzo and our board, I understand the big COVID uncertainty, but when they said Tolisso could step up to be Thiago’s replacement I already knew it was a ridiculous claim, Flick must be pissed off with that statement but what could he do? Losing Thiago without an adequate replacement (this player was not available, at least for a good price last summer anyway), but also still lacking a quality attacking RB, have robbed us of the ability to play Kimmich at RB for medium to long term.

        The most feasible solution would be Pavard gaining back his form or Roca finally catching up (which I strongly doubt). The Pavard case is very mysterious to me, he was not that overused, as compared to other defenders, and if he has been living with a nagging injury, it must have been discovered by now. 2 weeks of rest before Christmas (due to poor form), plus another 2 weeks winter break, still the same performance.

      2. Hi Durham Bundesliga Fan and Hien! Thanks for your comments and interaction. We really appreciate the chance to interact with you.

        I do understand where you are coming from Durham. It is very hard to watch our RB’s struggle so much when we have maybe the best RB in the world already in the squad. However, I think Hien really hit the nail on the head here. While Kimmich is unquestionably the best RB that we have in the team, he is also unquestionably the best six. To me you then have to weigh two different factors: 1) Between Pavard and Tolisso, which is the more underperforming player? 2) Which position is more important in the grand scheme of things?

        For me, I don’t see a tremendous amount of difference between the performances of Pavard and Tolisso. Neither are playing well. Neither are contributing in a meaningful way when they are on the pitch. However, there are a few things related to the positions that make Tolisso the worse option IMO. First of all, the double pivots are arguably the most important positions on the field. They set the tempo and organize everything. The start off nearly every attack. They are the first line of defense. They are the safety valves in possession. They are the link between the defense and attack.

        That 6 week period without Kimmich, in which we had to rely on Tolisso and Goretzka was enough proof to me that they cannot be relied upon to man those positions over the long term. Goretzka is a very good player but he is not suited to the deeper role while Tolisso is completely incapable of playing that position. When they are the midfield pairing, we have no control and no buildup through the midfield. We have a backline and an attacking line with a void in-between.

        So even if you believe that from a purely talent stand point, the difference between Tolisso and Kimmich and Pavard and Kimmich is less for Tolisso, the truth is that Pavard is far more suited to playing RB than Tolisso or Goretzka are to playing as a deep lying six and the deep lying six is far more important to Bayern as a whole than who is playing RB.

        Finally, the fact that this worked against Mainz is not proof that it will work over the long term to me. Mainz had a very defined game plan that focused on trying to exploit the wings rather than the middle of the pitch. When Bayern made that change at half time, Mainz was unable to adjust. Mainz is also the second worst team in the league this year with 6 total points in 14 games. It’s really not that surprising that Bayern eventually overwhelmed Mainz. However, if they were to permanently move Kimmich to RB and play the Tolisso/Goretzka MF pairing, teams would game plan for that and start exploiting the middle of the pitch rather than the wings. And when they play a team better than Mainz, that would become a problem much more concerning than having an underperforming RB, at least IMO.

  3. Durham Bundesliga Fan Page January 8, 2021 - 21:19

    Yes, this all makes good sense. One thing I’d like to clarify is that I am not and I am not sure anyone at this time would consider moving Kimmich permanently back to RB. Given our squad’s depth, that would be disastrous. What I do advocate is greater/continued flexibility. I feel that when moving Kimmich comes up, there is often a binary approach to his position (he is either one thing or the other), when in fact he’s both and can and should play both as needed by the team.
    While I appreciate that the 6 is a more important role, I think game plans can impact the ability of any position to express itself on the field and I think Mainz came in with a plan that did just that.
    Mainz may not be doing well in the table, but neither is Hoffenheim and we know how that went. So I would disagree with the idea that the performance in the second hand was simply Bayern’s class eventually overpowering Mainz. I believe it was the shifting of players that made the difference. Once the wings were fortified by placing Kimmich at RB, the game opened up for us and their gameplan fell apart. I think it was a good game plan by Mainz and one that we may see again from time to time and I just would like the team to respond by putting it’s best players in the positions where they have the most impact for the team rather than player preference or our own rigidity.

    And Thanks so much for the response! I am in a desert of soccer fandom, let alone Bundesliga fans (save the random German tourist) so I really appreciate being able to flesh these ideas out.

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    1. I can certainly understand that perspective. I especially would be on board if we still had Thiago in the squad because he would offer them far more flexibility and stability in terms of their general structure regardless of when Kimmich is forced to RB. Flexibility is certainly something that shouldn’t be lost and I’m certainly not trying to advocate never playing Kimmich in that position again. I just strongly believe that we don’t have any options, other than potentially Roca, who can play at the 6 in the way Kimmich does and that scares the hell out of me.

      I also didn’t mean to imply that the only reason that we won against Mainz was because we eventually overwhelmed them with our superior skill. The changes that were made absolutely affected the result of that match. They were necessary and without them it is quite possible that we would have lost. What I was trying to say is that Mainz was incapable of making adjustments of their own. It also mattered less that Goretzka and Tolisso as a midfield pairing is less than ideal. Against better teams, they will be able to adjust. They will change their focus in how they attack and it will result in different problems that are just as dangerous. Unfortunately, as I said before, I just don’t think that a midfield comprised of any of our other options is sustainable against better sides. Maybe you can occasionally move Kimmich to RB and play Martinez with Goretzka, but you still will be missing the passing ability that Kimmich has. Until Roca becomes a viable option for Flick or we bring someone else in who is, Kimmich to me has to default in as a 6.

      Thank you for your response! It’s great to converse and interact in this way. We all have different opinions and thoughts on how things might improve. It’s enjoyable being able to discuss things with you and see that people are actually interested in doing so.

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