Back to Work
The big news during the week was the extension of Leon Goretzka till 2026. While it was certainly expected, Bayern’s ability to lock up their two prized midfielders this year will stabilize the club for the foreseeable future.j
On the injury front, even more players were able to make it back into Julian Nagelsmann’s squad with Kingsley Coman coming off the bench in the 0-3 win on Tuesday. Serge Gnabry was also able too shake off his injury problems from the Leipzig match and make an appearance versus Barcelona.
Unfortunately Coman would required to miss the weekend match following heart surgery on Friday due to a slight irregularity in his heart beat. Hopefully all went well and he’ll be back soon with no further complications.
Tuesday’s match against Barcelona was obviously a huge one for Bayern. Barca, on paper at the very least, appear to be Bayern’s primary threat in their Champions League group. If Tuesday was anything to judge by, that doesn’t appear to be much of a threat.
Barcelona were a team without any teeth. Perhaps we should have expected this given the amount of turnover at the club and the financial difficulties that have led to them practically gutting the team, but still it was almost difficult to watch at times. Bayern started with what has already become their standard lineup, apart from Musiala starting in place of the recovering Gnabry. Neuer, Pavard, Süle, Upamecano, Davies, Kimmich, Goretzka, Sane, Müller and Lewandowski rounded out the starting eleven.
In some fairness to Barcelona, Bayern didn’t have the best of starts either. The first half hour was particularly poor as the squad struggled to break down Barcelona and even control the match despite the Catalan side doing their utmost to allow them as much space as possible.
Poor passes and miscommunications once again were problematic. Leon Goretzka and Benjamin Pavard were particularly susceptible to errors. Pavard of course is just coming back from a long injury spell which likely explains some of his mistakes, however Goretzka’s continued errors and poor play are starting to be come worrisome.
The German midfielder has really come down from the player that he was the last time these two sides met. His passing has become erratic and his positioning seems to be just as confusing. Maybe the switch to Nagelsmann’s tactics is hitting him particularly hard. Midfield is the most complex position on the pitch and usually has the most variability in how different tactics affect them.
In attack, they started off extremely slowly with only a few nice runs by Davies and Sané even being remotely noteworthy. It would ultimately take a LONG range shot in the 34th from Müller that was heavily deflected by a Barcelona defender to get Bayern on the board 0-1.
The teams would go into the half with that score line but the second half would prove to be a different story, and very quickly. In the 56th minute, Kimmich found Musiala on the edge of the box. The young winger took a touch and blasted it off the post. The resulting rebound found Lewandowski who buried it 0-2.
From that point on, Barcelona seemed to lose whatever life they had. Bayern dominated the match completely and really seemed as though they could have scored plenty more if they had wanted to do so. However, they would only add one more to their goal total in the 85th minute. This time Gnabry took in a pass near the 6 yard box and unluckily hit the post with his shot, however as you might expect, Robert Lewandowski was there to clean it up once again and score his second of the night to finally put the game to bed.
Saturday’s matchup with Bochum proved to be every bit the mismatch it looked like on paper. Bochum hung tough for the first 15 minutes and even forced a few dangerous moments for the Bayern defense, however that quickly changed with one moment.
Bayern, lining up in their Oktoberfest trikot, put out a pretty familiar lineup to start with a few exceptions. Josip Stanišić replaced Pavard at right back and Lucas Hernandez started in place of Upamecano. Neuer, Süle, Davies, Kimmich, Goretzka, Gnabry, Müller, Sané and Lewandowski filled out the lineup in their usual spots.
Following the relatively even first quarter of an hour, Bayern were awarded a free kick outside the box on the upper right side in the 17th minute. Leroy Sané stepped up, hit the ball over the wall and back down into the lower right corner to make it 1-0.
From there the flood gates would open. In the 27th minute, Joshua Kimmich was left free near the penalty spot and hit the ball off of a Bochum defender and into the back of the net 2-0. Five minutes later, Serge Gnabry raced in behind the Bochum defense, took in a well placed pass and coolly slotted past the keeper 3-0.
Unfortunately, the pain didn’t stop there for Bochum. Just before the end of the half Thomas Müller tried to play in a low ball to Lewandowski inside the box but Vasilios Lampropoulos intercepted and put it straight past his own keeper to make it 4-0.
The second half picked up right where the first left off. Omar Richards replaced Davies at the half in order to give the Canadian a bit of rest. Following several potent attacks, they finally managed the breakthrough they were looking for in the 61st minute. Sané dribbled into the six yard box, passed towards Gnabry who side footed it directly to Lewandowski who tapped it in 5-0. This goal marked the 19th consecutive game with a goal, 15th consecutive Bundesliga match with a goal and 13th consecutive Bundesliga home game with a goal, the last of which is a new record.
Just five minutes later, Bayern would add yet another goal as Gnabry chipped the ball to Goretzka who headed it goalward and Kimmich was there to slide it home for the 6-0. Following a lot of substitutions (Sarr, Nianzou, Choupo-Moting and Sabitzer all came on for Stanišić, Süle, Lewandowsk and Sané) Bayern would add one final goal to the tally.
In the 79th minute Goretzka would find a wide open Müller around the penalty spot. Müller’s shot was saved but fell right to the feet of Choupo-Moting. The striker would end up needing 3 attempts to finally get the ball past a very stubborn Bochum goalkeeper, but ultimately he did just that to make it 7-0.
Despite a mediocre start to the Barcelona match, Bayern dominated play this week with a 10-0 aggregate scoreline in their two matches. That is impressive especially considering that one of those matches was at the Camp Nou in what should be their toughest Champions League group stage opponent, it is a particularly impressive score differential.
What’s more encouraging however is that the players appeared to gain more confidence and comfortability throughout the week. Following the first 30 minutes against Barcelona, the Munich side utterly dominated the following 150 minutes they played.
The passing looked crisper and more sure. There were far less miscommunications and mistakes. The team appeared more comfortable with their positioning and assignments. Whether this is simply a matter of their opposition becoming deflated or a genuine improvement in all of these areas remains to be seen, but either way it was a step in the right direction after some sloppy play through the early matches in this season.
Goretzka especially looked far better against Bochum than he had in previous matches. There was a noticeable improvement in his positioning and play. Hopefully this will become a trend and he will regain the form we know he is capable of as it will be vital to Bayern’s title hopes this season.
While we all know his capabilities following an impressive rookie campaign in the 19/20 season, Alphonso Davies had a bit of a sophomore slump in 20/21. It’s hard to say if it was due to injuries, lofty expectations, fatigue or a bit of all three (maybe more), he simply was not the same player last year as he was the year before.
This season however, he has really turned things around. Especially in his offensive game, he has been a real spark down the left side of the pitch. In pretty much every match this season, he has played a pivotal role in driving the offense forward and has put in countless excellent balls in that time.
While he only has two assists to his name this season, he has been heavily involved in setting up far more than those two and is a few better finishes from several more assists. His presence on that side also allows the winger to cut in more centrally and pose a more significant goal threat as well which has seemingly been quite good for both Sané and Gnabry who are in excellent form at the moment.
Given the relative uncertainty on the other side with Pavard struggling and Stanišić untested, it has been a real boost for Nagelsmann to have such productivity out of Davies this season.
While many players had an excellent week, Robert Lewandowski is the man that stood out once again. The Polish striker simply refuses to be stopped. His two goals against Barcelona were extremely important as they really ended any doubt that Bayern would win not only that game but most likely the group (baring a massive slip up).
Then scoring at the weekend to set a new record, pull within one more game of another and making it his 19th straight game with a goal, is truly the stuff of legend. His play has become so consistent that part of me wonders if we aren’t taking for granted his excellence despite the lavish praise we seem to dish out to him on a weekly (daily?) basis.
The form he’s been in over the last two years is up there with the all time great’s. With each passing match, he is entrenching himself further into the pantheon of footballing legend. Every week seems to bring a new record and of course more goals.
So while this was a huge week for the club and so many players, (Kimmich was excellent, Neuer picked up two clean sheets, Sané was fantastic, Upamecano shut down Barcelona) it’s nearly impossible to overlook the continued excellence of Bayern’s unstoppable striker.