Bayern Crash out of the Champions League
Heading into today, there was some hope that Leon Goretzka might make it back into the lineup. Those hopes were dashed as the squad was announced before the match and Goretzka’s name did not even appear on the substitute list. His absence was therefore added to the others who were missing, most notably Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry. Hansi Flick therefore fielded the team that was left to him with Neuer in goal, Pavard, Boateng, Hernandez and Davies at the back, Kimmich and Alaba as the double pivot and Sané, Müller and Coman as the attackers playing behind Choupo-Moting. The only real options off the bench that wouldn’t be behind break in case of emergency glass were Musiala and Martinez.
The match itself was a bit of a mixed bag. It had plenty of tension and intrigue. This especially became true as Bayern took the lead in the 40th minute thanks to a scrappy Choupo-Moting goal. However, the actual quality of play, especially from Bayern, was substandard.
For much of the game, a lot of Bayern players looked as though they had just met. Unfortunately, Choupo-Moting may have been the most glaring example of this as the likes of Kimmich, Müller, Sané and Coman put balls into areas that they expected him to be but wasn’t. It’s almost like they forgot that Lewandowski wasn’t playing today. A few times in the first half especially, Müller was so visibly frustrated that Choupo-Moting wasn’t where he had passed that he simply stopped playing, threw up his hands and berated the unfortunate striker.
The truth of the matter though is that Choupo-Moting was only a small part of the problems tonight. Kimmich looked exhausted. He sprayed a ton of passes to seemingly no one throughout the match. Coman never really made an impact. Sané would look dangerous at times, but he too often wasn’t involved and his end product was lacking when he was. Müller was ok but not great and really struggled to impact the match the way we have seen him do so often over the last 18 months.
The back line again didn’t cover themselves in glory either. Davies looked a bit lost and timid. Pavard didn’t really seem to do much of anything, which I guess could have been worse. Boateng was ok but not great and Hernandez was very up and down. The first half for the Frenchman was borderline awful. The second half was reasonably good.
The score line is certainly too flattering though for the job the defensive unit did. Manuel Neuer and pure luck are the only reasons that PSG failed to score. Nearly every chance they had was better than every chance Bayern had. As obnoxious and nauseating as Neymar is, he had an excellent day overall and came close to scoring a multitude of times, including hitting the woodwork twice and somehow whiffing on a sliding effort at an open goal. Mbappe as well had several huge opportunities but more times than not fell victim to the offsides trap of Bayern or was the provider for one of Neymar’s chances.
Bayern put in a valiant effort, but the result probably is not a shock to most supporters out there if they are being honest with themselves. If someone told you before the season that we would face PSG in the Quarterfinals with out Lewandowski, Gnabry and Goretzka, I think most of us would have been pretty unwilling to bet heavily on Bayern going through that tie. Going out 3-3 on away goals then is really not that horrible of a result, but is certainly disheartening knowing how close they were and that any one of those players might have made the difference.
Unfortunately, this is a reality Bayern fans have grown very used to since 2013. Apart from last season, it seems like Bayern end up missing not just one but multiple key players in the later rounds of the Champions League. In this scenario, not only were Bayern missing the best player in the world at the moment, but also their next two best finishers in the squad.
Coman and even Sané are not pure scorers. They are creators first and foremost who will score the occasional goal. Sané is far more dangerous than Coman from that perspective but the reality is that even he is not the type of player that is going to go out and win a game for you by taking on defenders and scoring goals.
With Lewandowski out, those two had an even more difficult task as they didn’t have the same target to work with when creating those opportunities. Choupo-Moting is simply a different player and doesn’t move or operate the same way that Lewandowski does. That is not any of their faults, it simply is what it is. If anyone is to blame for the unfamiliarity with each other, it is actually Hansi Flick, who has almost completely refused to rotate players despite the fact that nearly all of them have needed some rest at various times during the year.
In the end, the ask was too much. Without any natural goal scorers on the pitch, too many chances fell to players who you would prefer not to be getting them. Kimmich and Alaba both had a ton of opportunities between the two matches but neither of them was able to really threaten the goal. Maybe the most desperate measure was taken at the end of this match when Flick put Javi Martinez in as a striker for Choupo-Moting. In a lot of respects, you can see the logic. Javi is probably the best header of the ball on the team, or at least the team that was available. Bayern were increasingly getting into positions where crossing was the primary option. However, this desperate ploy did not pay off and Bayern found themselves with just one chance at silverware for the first time in a while.
This match felt like the end of an era for several reasons. First of all, we know that this was the last time we’ll see David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez in a Bayern jersey in the Champions League. Those three players have literally won everything for Bayern. They were stalwarts during one of the most successful periods during the clubs illustrious history. It’s unfortunate that this team couldn’t give them one final run at glory.
Then there is the ongoing drama with Flick. It almost seemed like this might be the last we’ll see of him as well for Bayern in the Champions League. While this is much less certain, the talk around the coach seems to indicate there is a good chance that he will end up taking the national team job following the season.
I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if he’ll leave or not. If he wants to be here, then I would love to see him stay. Regardless, he has already left a deep imprint on the history of this club. No doubt, he will always be loved and welcomed by Bayern supporters and the club in general regardless of what he ultimately decides.
It’s also the end of this incredible run Bayern have been on which saw them win six trophies in a single season and not lose a Champions League match till last Wednesday for nearly two years. That is something we will all remember for the rest of our lives.
But the season isn’t over. There is still the league to play for. Lewandowski still has a chance to set the all time Bundesliga scoring record. They will now have plenty of rest between every match and should be in prime position to win a 9th straight league title. All in all, it’s still good to be a Bayern supporter, even when they fall a little short as they did tonight.