Long Week Ends With Bundesliga Win
I myself didn’t feel up to writing a match commentary after that match. There seemed to be enough being said by everyone, whether it be in the club, media, social media and/or blogs. While I find the criticism and questions warranted, there was also a lot of agenda pushing and lack of objectivity in the wake of a disappointing loss.
Bayern would then enter Sunday with just one competition left to them and the second bottom team in the Bundesliga to maintain their nine point lead at the top. Julian Nagelsmann would make several changes to the side that faced Villarreal on Tuesday as Manuel Neuer, Benjamin Pavard, Tanguay Nianzou, Dayot Upamecano, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Marcel Sabitzer, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski started for the Bavarians.
Bayern would actually start of the match in dominating fashion. They created a litany of chances early but got on the board through an own goal forced by Davies and Lewandowski in the 10th minute following a VAR review on Davies.
The following 45 minutes of the first half, including the ten additional minutes due to a massive amount of injuries for Bielefeld, were largely controlled by Bayern as well though with a few really good chances for Arminia.
Those injuries came from mostly normal play, baring Nianzou destroying Fabian Kunze. Near the end of that extended extra time, Kimmich played a fantastic ball over the top to Gnabry who redirected it into the back of the net 0-2. This too was initially called offsides but was overturned by VAR.
The two sides therefore went into the half with Bayern on top 0-2. Nagelsmann would make one change at the half bringing on Josip Stanišić for Nianzou who was on a card and being harassed by the Bielefeld faithful.
The second half would prove much less inspiring in general. Bayern looked as though they were asleep at the wheel for large portions and baring the play of Kimmich, Davies and Neuer, there was very little to get excited about.
The introduction of Jamal Musiala at least provided another spark and it would be he who scored the matches final goal in the 85th minute. Kimmich played another very nice pass to Lewandowski who took it into the box, waited for his teammates to catch up and then picked out a perfect pass to the oncoming Musiala who tapped it in 0-3.
While those criticisms and questions following Tuesday were expected and largely warranted, one thing that I think we should acknowledge is that there was much more energy and commitment by the Bayern players in that match.
The 90 minutes in Spain was another story altogether as they appeared very lethargic, but there was no question in my mind that they were really going for it and had every desire to win. Of course we expect that from any team but given how flat they had been over recent weeks, it was still noteworthy.
Sunday saw them maintain a good portion of that energy for the first half before relapsing in the second. Maybe this is understandable given the week they’d had and a two goal lead to a team that was unlikely to threaten them.
Still it did result in some good opportunities for their opponents and provided yet another example that there is something not totally right with Bayern at the moment.
While I have given Nagelsmann a lot of leeway this year, especially because of the poor squad planning and injuries, a lot of the questions being raised following the Champions League defeat are valid. While the likes of Guardiola liked to tinker, he seemed to do it in a more organic way most of the time.
Unfortunately, those injuries did force some of the shifts that Nagelsmann has made this season, especially regarding the decision to shift around between a back three and back four. While I found this somewhat understandable during Davies absence, I think in the longterm he needs too make a decision as to which he wants to play and stick with it.
While I know most of us in the Bayern fanbase want/expect that to be a back four, I’m not as convinced that it matters so much as long as there is consistency.
There have been a lot of times where players really are not sure where they’re supposed to be. It has shown itself in misplaced passes, missed defensive assignments and general obvious frustration on the part of the players.
The group of players he has available to him also is far more suited to a back four than a back three given the types of players that Kingsley Coman, Gnabry and Sané are. Expecting them to work that hard and be that effective on the defensive side of the ball is a bit much.
Nagelsmann therefore needs to spend time with Brazzo and the board and decide what direction this club is heading in from formation standpoint. If they want to play a back four, they need more depth, especially at fullback. If they want to play a back three, then they may need to consider moving Gnabry and/or Sané and bringing in another option on the wing.
While Nagelsmann has received the vast majority of the blame this week, there was in my opinion far too little criticism of the actual form of the players. While Nagelsmann does affect this as well, I tend to think that this was more just a slump from certain players rather than anything that the coach did.
Kimmich and Müller in particular had/have been off for a while now. The backline apart from Pavard has been struggling, both to stay healthy and in their performance. The midfield as a whole has struggled to connect that struggling backline with the frontline that in turn started to suffer.
Far too many players seemed to take a dip in form at the same time. Sunday in a way proved that this isn’t all just Nagelsmann either as Kimmich played very well despite very little difference in formational changes, albeit against a weaker opponent.
I am always of the mind in circumstances like the one Bayern faced on Tuesday that there is plenty of blame to go around. Focusing on just one individual component is narrow minded and doesn’t address the larger underlying problems.
As supporters, all we can do is hope that lessons have been learned. That everyone involved grows from the experience. That the club recognizes things need improving. That Nagelsmann recognizes the areas he needs to work on. That the players recognize that they have to play better and do more, regardless of the circumstances. If they do, this team will be set up for future successes, if not, we may well be in for more pain in upcoming seasons.