Bayern Stumble at Gladbach
The lineup saw three changes to the side that faced Mainz last weekend. Gnabry missed the match through injury which lead to Costa starting his place. Süle replaced Boateng and Goretzka came in for the ineffective Tolisso. Additionally several others made it back onto the bench including Kingsley Coman.
The match started off better than we’ve seen from this team in a long time. From the opening whistle, Bayern had a level of control and energy that had been missing for seemingly months. The pressing was energetic and effective. They finally looked like the team that won the treble last season.
In the 20th minute, Alphonso Davies played a pass in the box and for some unknown reason Florian Neuhaus reached down with his hand and made contact with the ball. Following VAR review, a penalty was given. Robert Lewandowski stepped up and buried it to make it 0-1.
Just six minutes later, Leon Goretzka would steal the ball off of Gladbach, pass to Sane, get it back, dribble to the edge of the box completely unmarked and blast another past Yann Sommer to make it 0-2. At this point everyone watching assumed the game was all but over. How wrong we all were.
In the 35th minute, Jonas Hofmann would glide past Süle following a poor give away by Pavard and bury a free shot on goal past a helpless Neuer 1-2. Then just before the half, Gladbach would steal the ball off of Kimmich and play a flawless pass to Hofmann who timed his run perfectly to stay onside and coolly finish past a once again helpless Neuer 2-2.
Shortly after the restart, Süle would play a very poor pass towards Pavard. The ball was stolen by Hofmann yet again who dribbled into the box and found a wide open Neuhaus just outside. The defender dribbled once and blasted into the top corner 3-2. Bayern would search in vein for the equalizer and even looked a little better after Coman replaced Costa but never really threatened Sommer’s goal.
Every goal Bayern conceded in this match was a result of mistakes on their part. All of them were the consequence of poor passes or decisions. The first saw Pavard attempt an ill advised pass to Sane which was easily intercepted. Similarly, the second was the result of a pass from Davies to Kimmich who was completely smothered by defenders and had no chance to move the ball along before he too was robbed. The final, and most egregious was from Süle who played a pitifully lazy pass towards Pavard which was predictably intercepted as well.
Apart from all of these situations being the results of bad passing or decision making, they also all came from members of Bayern’s defensive unit. This match obviously does not qualify as an isolated incident either. Bayern’s back line has had a horrible time playing the ball out of the back and many of the goals conceded this season are a direct result of poor decisions, misplaced passes and a general lack of focus.
However, there is another aspect to these passing issues that becomes obvious when you start to watch. The players off the ball are not moving the way the used to or need to. Whether it’s fatigue, lack of focus or something else, the players are not moving to create passing opportunities and lanes for the players in possession. Far too often they are standing around picking their noses or asses waiting for the ball to be played to them and ignoring the rest of the field. Meanwhile the other team is constantly moving and applying pressure as soon as the ball is played to any them. They have become so predictable at times that you feel like a squad of five year old’s could give them problems.
While I think we can all understand that fatigue is likely a factor, it is extremely concerning for the rest of the season that coming off the longest break they are likely to have for the next five months, they still look dead on their feet after 30 minutes of hard work. If in fact that is the issue, it is going to be a very long remainder of the season with a lot less silverware than we’re all hoping for.
One of my lasting memories of Niko Kovac was his bizarre substitution policy. There were times where I literally think he forgot that he was allowed to use players on the bench or at least that he didn’t have to wait till the 85th minute to use them. Hansi too seemed reluctant to use subs heavily early in his reign but has since taken a much more usual and practical approach. However, tonight Flick reverted back to those early days and used just one substitution despite the loaded schedule that this team faces in the coming weeks and months and the generally poor performance from several players. Perhaps the most perplexing of which was the decision to leave on Süle, who was in part responsible for all three of Gladbach’s goals, especially when both Hernandez and Boateng were available.
However, any number of players could have been substituted during this match. None of the back line was particularly good and might have been replaced by the two mentioned players or Sarr in Pavard’s instance. Müller didn’t have a tremendous match tonight. Why not give Musiala a shot? Kimmich has had better run outs and while you are always risking a punch to the face by taking him off, Tolisso, Musiala and Roca were available on the bench. Ultimately, it’s irrelevant who he actually might have used. It just seems strange that in a year as packed and odd as this one, where you have five substitutions available to you, to use just one. Especially in a game that you not only lost but completely lost control of in the 30th minute.
This is difficult. Perhaps the hardest choice yet because practically no one earned it. However, I will give it to Leon Goretzka if for no other reason than his fantastic goal and no glaring errors that spring to mind. For about nine minutes, he had Bayern fans world wide feeling good about this team’s first half performance for the first time in a long time. That goal was also a beautiful thing to watch and was the result of an almost entirely individual effort on his part. While he is not completely blameless in this loss or in some of the issues mentioned above, he certainly was not one of the parties primarily responsible and tonight, that’s about as good as it gets.
Honorable mention: VAR for awarding Bayern a penalty.