Bundesliga Matchday 27 Preview: Bayern against Frankfurt
The match against Frankfurt was the turning point for FC Bayern this season. On November 2, 2019, Eintracht battered the record champions in a 5-1 win at home and Niko Kovač lost his job at the Säbener Straße. Since then, Bayern has won 19 games, drawn one and lost only two.
One of the most important factors in this remarkable turnaround was Hansi Flick, who managed to stabilize the team in a very short time and was able to restore the key players of the last years to their old strength. Thomas Müller, Thiago, David Alaba and even Jérôme Boateng made significant progress under him.
Especially in the tactical area, Hansi Flick has changed a lot. Until the coronavirus break, Flick’s handwriting had become more and more recognizable. And even in the first game against Union Berlin after a long spell without competitive football, the team was able to indicate its newfound qualities.
After 20 minutes of settling in, Bayern increasingly managed to control their opponents and soon scored two goals in what was an ultimately uncontested victory in the first game on the home straight of the season. Efficient in pressing, courageous in moving forward and alert and awake in defending counterattacking situations – it was certainly not a bad start.
Nevertheless, a lot of the good things were so not quite. Especially the precision seems to have suffered a lot over the past weeks. A pass completion rate of 84% is a rather poor value for the league leaders. The completed passes were not always accurate, too.
Union was not able to exploit these unusual flaws of the record champions for themselves. Their attacking game proved fraught with too many limitations itself. So now it is Eintracht Frankfurt who want to have a go. They are in theory at least a team that is as unpleasant to play as Union. Compact in the center, aggressive in their tackling, and by no means an opponent who is happy to sit deep and wait. With Adi Hütter on the sidelines, Eintracht are able to play a dynamic, very vertical and passionate football on their day.
With their immensly direct game, Frankfurt regularly manage to simply overplay their opponents’ pressing attempts. But somehow their game seems to be under a curse this season. Frankfurt simply lack consistency. Even within a single game, strong phases take turns with poor phases.
One factor of the constant up and down this season might be that their attacking game has become more predictable. It did not take a prophet to predict that the triple departure of Rebić, Jović and Haller would not be so easy to absorb. And yet the dependence on Filip Kostić is simply too great. Not only his 4 goals and 8 assists, but also games like the one last weekend in Gladbach make that clear.
Gladbach managed well to take Kostić out of the game, which made Frankfurt seem quite uninspired for long stretches. Their game down the wings lacks alternatives to the typical Kostić cross. Last season Frankfurt had more efficient runs and positional changes in attack, which meant that they could choose a series of short, diagonal passes instead of a high cross to move the ball into the center.
And yet Bayern should not take this game lightly. They are the favorites, but Frankfurt should feel comfortable as the outsider. Against Gladbach, their 52% ball possession seemed to be a problem. From their 4-1-4-1 formation, one midfielder always dropped between the center-backs, but then the defensive midfield area remained empty. Frankfurt was unable to create a proper link-up between defense and offense, resulting in sometimes fatally misplaced passes.
Against Bayern, they will be less dependent on their skills in build-up play. They will be able to concentrate more on their strengths in the game against the ball and in breaking on transition. The only question is how efficiently and accurately they will be able to carry this out.
Another question will be how Bayern’s defense will present itself. Especially Benjamin Pavard and Jérôme Boateng will be in the spotlight against Kostić in counterattacking situations. A similar lack of defensive rigour as against Union could very well lead to goals for a lack of organisation after carelessly losing the ball. Flick’s team would therefore do well to start the game with more composure and focus than last week. Frankfurt’s match against Gladbach also showed that they had problems reacting to rapid switches of the play. Perhaps this is why Hütter has reverted to a back five after opting for a back four for a long time, which could possibly allow his team to more effectively cover the entire width of the pitch in defense.
On the part of Bayern, Thiago’s loss could be a sour note if he did not make the squad in time. With his resistance to pressing and ability to set the pace of the game with his space-opening passes, he is of great importance against opponents like Frankfurt.
Before the top match against Borussia Dortmund, Bayern cannot afford to lose any points. The match against Frankfurt is their last chance to pick up rythm for the match on Tuesday. At the same time, it is perhaps one of the last chances for the Bundesliga to see a change at the top of the table. But if that were the case, Frankfurt would prove to be the party poopers this time and not the team that wakes the sleeping giant.