Bayern Obliterated by Hoffenheim
Whether it was these changes or any other myriad of reasons you could come up with, Bayern Munich for the first time since January. Not only did they lose however, they were completely outplayed and the 4-1 scoreline for Hoffenheim could have easily been 7 or 8 if they had converted some very easy chances and Neuer hadn’t made some epic saves.
So much has been made of Bayern’s high backline under Hansi Flick. The “experts” across Europe expected that it would be Neymar and/or Mbappe that would exploit this trait. However, it was Andrej Kramarić that would be the one to really punish Bayern.
From the start, Hoffenheim’s game plan was plain to see. Play quick balls over the back line and hope that the Croatian got on it. This plan worked better than probably anyone in Hoffenheim could have possibly predicted. Again and again they played seemingly perfect passes to Kramarić who had no trouble outpacing Bayern’s backline. While he didn’t actually get on the score sheet till the 77th minute, it was his runs that created most of the mischief in the match.
From a Bayern perspective, it’s debatable how much they can take from this experience. I doubt that Hansi is going to change much based on this beating but he also can’t ignore how things played out today. Neither can the board and Salihamidžić. It is extremely early in this season, but the congested schedule, reduced summer break and general wear and tear are already becoming factors.
Multiple players looked less than 100% today. Alaba, Davies, Boateng, Sané and Gnabry all appeared increasingly exhausted as the match went along. Most of them never really displayed the explosiveness that they normally possess. The passing was subpar. When those passes went awry, Hoffenheim’s long balls over the backline left the players struggling to catch up. These problems are only going to get worse. There are no huge gaps in the schedule this year for players to get rest naturally and while no doubt the players will play themselves into better condition, that exhaustion is going to play a massive role.
As cliche as it has now become, squad depth is a real problem. While on the surface most of the players who appeared in today’s match are ones that we would be expecting to play a major part in Bayern’s season regardless of who they would potentially bring in, the adjustments in positioning that were required due to these changes is a problem. Kimmich specifically. In a match like todays, if you need or decided to take off Pavard, Kimmich then becomes the only option at right back. This was not a huge issue when Thiago was around, but now it creates a massive hole in the midfield. Goretzka and Tolisso have their strengths, but they do not provide the stability and organizational leadership that Kimmich does. No one else in the squad does. He is the engine of the team now and to remove that engine leaves them vulnerable in several areas.
It doesn’t stop there though, even before Kimmich moved back, Tolisso’s presence in place of Goretzka was also an issue. Goretzka’s physical presence and ability against the ball has made him nearly as indispensable as Kimmich. Tolisso is still a good player, but his strengths are as a 2 way player. He does not provide the calming, steady presence of Kimmich and he doesn’t provide the strength and defensive prowess of Goretzka. This is something he is going to have to improve upon tremendously this season if he is to see significant playing time.
Finally there is the Lewandowski conundrum. It is no secret that if he is unavailable, Bayern have little to replace him with. That is not a shot at Zirkzee, but replacing the best number 9 and arguably the best player in the world at the moment is not something you can reasonable expect a 19 year old with limited experience to do. Thomas Müller is not a striker as much as Bayern tries to sell us on him being the alternative. Today proved this. Without Lewandowski occupying the middle of the box, Bayern really had no focus in their attack. It was far easier for the Hoffenheim defense to shut down attacks on the wings because the middle of the park was not a significant danger. I don’t expect that we will bring in another striker, however, adding another winger would at least give Flick the option to move Gnabry or Sané more central and play off of Müller which could provide a more dynamic attack.
With just about a week left to bring in new players, Bayern have some work to do. If there is a genuine desire to compete in all competitions, they genuinely need to bring in at least 2-3 players. A right back and a winger are desperately needed. An argument for another experienced midfielder can also be made. We’ll have to wait and see if these needs are actually filled. We as fans can see the reluctance to spend more and while their fiscal conservatism is admirable and the market for players is not good, they simply cannot afford to do nothing.