Müller and Lewandowski move Bayern past Bielefeld
Just two days after fielding a squad with several debutants, amongst them the new arrivals Nübel, Sarr, Roca, Costa and Choupo-Moting, Flick went with his best possible squad given the injury to Sané and the absence of Kimmich. In central midfield Goretzka and Tolisso were given the reigns to Bayern’s build-up play. The backfour again did not feature everybody’s darling from last season Davies. The young Canadian was replaced by this season’s much improved Lucas.
Remember when Zirkzee filled in for Lewandowski versus Hoffenheim in the first half. The Dutchman did a fine job, but lacked the so-called presence of the Polish striker. Today Lewandowski gave him a perfect lesson of what this presence ist. Hopefully Zirkzee was watching from the couch after his third league match with Bayern’s second team.
Lewandowski’s moving pattern mirrored that of the mighty monarch butterfly during its migration season. At one point you could see Europe’s footballer of the year bringing the ball up in central midfield. Other than that he was spotted on either wings, passing along balls as with the assist for Müller’s early goal and obviously being omni-present in the box. On this Saturday evening he proved to be too much to handle for a timid Arminia defense. Lewandowski was involved in all four goals, scoring two and assisting the other two.
I can’t be the only one who was worried by the first glance at the starting line-up. Goretzka and Tolisso together in central midfield had been the troubles of too many of my rainy Saturday afternoons. After months and years of getting accustomed to Kimmich and Thiago in midfield, the French-German-duo seemed like quite the let down.
However, tonight the two of them had one of their best outings together. They interpret their roles way differently from Kimmich and Thiago. With Tolisso and Goretzka, the Bayern play was even more direct and seemed more wing focussed as well. When Tolisso was bringing the ball up the pitch Goretzka pushed way higher up the pitch and vice versa. Against the ball, especially Goretzka had some fine tackles, some of them made me reminisce about Lahm.
But tonight’s opponent Bielefeld was not really a challenge for Bayern’s build up play. There will be other times this season with opponents who either press the Reds way more aggressively or decide to build a fortress around their own box. That’s when we’ll need Tolisso and Goretzka to show they have taken the next step.
The late red card against Tolisso doesn’t really influence my take on his game. He was put in a rough spot by a horrible pass from Martínez and then decided to go for the challenge. This turned out to be a bad idea and surely could have been avoided, but you can hardly blame the Frenchman.
By now this point feels like a broken record: Bayern need to improve their defense of counter attacks. For the third consecutive Bundesliga match the reigning champ conceded a goal, bringing the season total up to eight. Feels like a small eternity since that happened.
What’s even more frustrating is that it’s the same pattern over and over again which seems to work against this Munich team. In the Champions League knockout stages no team seemed to be able to exploit this weak spot in Bayern’s defense even though several teams tried. It was up to the former coach of Bayern’s amateur side Sebastian Hoeneß to take advantage of the apparent flaw. Long balls behind the back four and counter situations keep posing problems Alaba and company just seem unable to solve. There will be other opponents just like Hoffenheim, who will be able to use these chances better than Arminia was.
In the end the goal conceded is merely a stain on an otherwise handsome prom suit. Especially the first half was a strong and dominant showing of Bayern, with the Reds keeping possession for at one point 80 percent of the time. The early canopener of Müller surely helped the team a lot, but we’ve seen Bayern struggle in the past to build on that. Not tonight though as they meticulously played the weaknesses of Bielefeld until the opposition cracked.
For long stretches we also got to witness the comeback of the ferocious counter pressure that was the nightmare of Barcelona, Lyon and Paris in August. Due to fatigue this exhausting playing style had lacked its special touch in the last few weeks, but directed by Müller and fueled by the national team break the squad pressured Arminia deep in their own half and created a few chances this way.
After going to cruise control for most of the second half, the team will now face Atletico in the first match of the Champions League group stage mid-week. Despite the two good wins against Düren and Bielefeld, the triple champ will need to step it up one notch for that game.