Victory Against Salzburg Sees Bayern Advance
After the tie last weekend against Werder Bremen, Bayern was looking to bounce back in the Champions League match against Leipzig farm team RB Salzburg. Due to the fresh injury of Hernandez, Flick gave Chris Richards a starting spot in the back four. The triple coach also brought in summer signing Marc Roca to play next to Leon Goretzka. Finally a chance for the Spaniard to showcase his skills. The offense saw Gnabry and Coman flank Müller and Lewandowski in the center.
Let There Be Roca
While others were waiting on the new MacBook Pro with the M1 chip, tactic nerds and Bayern supporters like me were waiting for Hansi Flick to unleash Marc Roca. The young Spaniard joined Munich on the last days of the transfer window. But Flick was sure to introduce him slowly into the squad with Roca playing just one game and that one in the Pokal against lower-tier Düren. Especially with the injury of Kimmich and the hole in central midfield glaring, everyone was expecting Roca to become more of a regular.
So all eyes were on the 23-year old, who turns 24 on Thanksgiving thursday, for his Champions League debut. Roca played a more than solid game. With the ball he is a great distributor having a good feeling for open space and the right speed with which to pass. In the first half he completed 43/44 passes. Without the ball you would like him to move a little smarter. Sometimes he dropped too deep between the center backs, which left Boateng and Alaba without an option to move the ball forward. Other times he hid in the shadow of attacking Salzburg players. All things considered, he filled the role in the center way better than Martinez on the weekend and should definitely be considered by Flick going forward.
However, the day ended in the worst way possible. Roca was sent off after a second yellow in the 66th minute. Two dumb fouls cast a shadow over an otherwise really good debut.
No Offensive Game Plan
Despite all the efforts of Roca and the relentless Leon Goretzka, Bayern’s offense has been slow to get going since the national team break. Without any connection of the attacking and defending third, the Reds struggled to create any chances through the center. On the wings Pavard and Richards couldn’t support the offensive wingers and so a lot of times the attacks ended in long distance shots or ill-advised crosses. The once deadly combinations and almost blind automatisms of earlier this season seem to be lacking their dreaded edge. It will be one of Flicks bigger tasks to come up with a better offensive game plan for the next matches.
In the first half especially, Bayern once more struggled against Salzburg’s high line of pressure. The Reds had difficulties getting the ball past this first wave of defense as Richards and Alaba needed some time to get on the same page. This resulted in Richards losing some balls and Alaba playing some horrific passes. Both of these ended in clear cut chances for the Austrians. The aggressive pressure also hindered Bayern to take control of the match themselves.
Just like in almost every other game this season, the opposing side was most difficult when they got with speed behind Munich’s back four. Bayern keep on defending zones rather than individual players and that is why those players keep on escaping in the defenders back. A high risk approach.
Man of the Match
But you can play this high risk approach, when you have Manuel Neuer guarding your goal. The world-class keeper had another strong match, even though he failed again to keep a clean sheet for the sixth consecutive match. Whenever he was needed tonight, he proved to be the anchor of the defense. Several of his reflexes saved chances, that would have been almost safe goals with any other keeper.
One Underreported Detail
It seems hardly underreported, but Robert Lewandowski made some more history moving to the first spot on the all-time Champions League scoring list for humans. I mean Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are just in a league of their own, even for our Polish striker. His opening goal tied Lewandowski with Raul at 71 goals, his next goal would move him past the Real Madrid legend.
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Thank you Maurice for your quick recap. I have adjusted my expectation given the current scheduling and personnel situation, so I’m pretty happy with the game. To me it’s all about survival these days (survival in Bayern’s term of course: winning by whatever way, even not as dominant force as before).
I also found Salzburg playing very well, very fast and very physical. They pressed aggressively and well, sometimes they set up excellent trap to force ball losses, so to be unfazed by the first half, going on to with in the 2nd half, is a very professional performance.
I’m also happy with Roca, considering the fact that he has not featured at all before, I did not expect him to do very well. He could even have registered an assist had Lewandowski controlled the ball better following his good through ball. His positioning and pressing against the ball can be improved, but he need match practice to do that, he’s not an average-IQ footballer. I feel Flick now has a good option of a ball distributer than can certainly be better. Richards, to, he did better than Sarr vs Koln to my eye, so nothing complain.
The attacking is a bit worrying that’s true, and while Sane has been incredibly effective, his ball losses are quite annoying to watch
The Bayern’s defence leaking chances left and right, but Neuer always says no, what else is new?
as always thanks so much for your feedback.
I just gotta say that I grow increasingly frustrated watching Bayern games. From the last 540 minutes I’ve watched, at least 320 minutes were just outright awful. I totally get that the schedule is definitely taking its toll on the lads and that the many changes to the lineup harm the overall flow of the game. But the position game on offense just seems completely gone to me. We are not creating chances as a team anymore, but need individual players to work their magic. Honestly, lots of the stuff we always held against Niko Kovac. But that’s getting too far, at least at this point.
As for Sané I agree 100%. His failure to control simple balls some times are staggering. But he is always good for that one great moment each game.
Wow, I didn’t know that it is possible to speak one’s mind so freely here in the english section, in particular for a member of the MSR-establishment. It will be a sacred place for heretics sooner or later. My respects!
PS. I wish my English was better, so I rather stay on the sidelines, but I am in full sympathy with your disgust.
Complete off topic, but at least somehow ‘footballly’ and heartbreakingly sweet.
Former Arsenal interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg in an interview about his one-man backroom team with Per Mertesacker, when they were just preparing for the visit of Manchester City – slighthly paraphrased to be allowed to quote it:
“It was me and Per Mertesacker. It’s a funny story. We were sitting to do the tactics, watching City and in the middle of it Per said to me ‘Fred I have to go.’ And I said ‘why, what?’ He told me ‘I have to do the Under-12s Christmas party’. I was like, ‘alright then I’ll keep on going on my own’.”
PS. So much for staying on the sidelines.
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