Disaster and Relief
But first off this week started with a bizarre distraction in the form of Joshua Kimmich and his vaccination stance. The media attention and backlash this received was certainly not something that I think either he or the club were prepared for. Coupled with Lucas Hernandez’s off field issues and the continued absence of Julian Nagelsmann and there was certainly more turmoil than normal within the Bayern team.
Whether any of this had a real impact on the performance Wednesday is certainly debatable and only the players and those within the club will ever truly know the answer to that. However the results in their Pokal match certainly suggests that there was something going on.
Gladbach would score their first goal in just the second minute as the floodgates opened. It would end up being 3-0 in favor of Borussia by just the 21st minute following massive mistakes and a penalty. Given that we’ve seen things of this nature happen before, I think most of us expected a response in the second half from Bayern.
However, the second half was maybe worse than the first depending on your perspective. Not only did they not respond, they allowed two more goals in the first 12 minutes and never once looked at all threatening. It was truly a day where nearly everything went right for Mönchengladbach and nearly everything went wrong for Bayern.
While you can certainly point your finger certain players, Upamecano in particular, the reality is that the entire team was awful. Kimmich was about as bad as we’ve ever seen him. The back line was a disaster. The attack never really produced anything. I have not seen a worse performance from Bayern since at least DFB Pokal exit last season to Holstein Kiel, and more likely the last match Niko Kovac was in charge of.
Bounce Back in Berlin
Wednesday’s disaster required a Saturday response. We knew it. The club knew it. The players knew it. And we sort of almost got it.
The match started off with Bayern controlling affairs. Lewandowski would score two goals in the first 25 minutes, one of which was a beautiful free kick, to put the Munich side in control. Leroy Sané would add another after two excellent opportunities that he squandered, to make it 0-3. Everything was looking good.
Then Union flipped a switch and Bayern were not prepared. In the 43rd minute, a quick counter saw Neuer beat on a shot that you would normally expect the keeper to save. Just a few minutes later, Berlin would appear to add a second goal right before the half, but it was fortunately called back for offsides.
The second half would continue just as the first half ended with the two sides going back and forth in end to end action. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting game if you were watching as a neutral, however for Bayern fans following that thrashing on Wednesday, it was nerve wracking.
Coman would add a fourth Bayern goal in the 60th minute, which was quickly cancelled out by another Union goal in the 65th. Finally in the 80th minute, the Munich supporters were allowed to breath a little as Dayot Upamecano dribbled the length of the field and found a last second pass to Müller who smashed it home for the final 2-5.
It was not a good week for the FC Bayern defense. Seven goals against in two matches is abysmal. While they were bad as a collective, a few individuals stood out as the main culprits. Upamecano probably had the worst overall performance of anyone, however it feels more like an anomaly and therefore less overall concerning.
Hernández was overall…ok. While he was responsible for the penalty against Gladbach and was not great in general, he was pretty good against Union. Davies was similarly middle of the road. His poor pass opened up Gladbach for their first goal, however he did also provide his usual offensive runs and was generally serviceable for most of the rest of the 180 minutes he played. Süle probably had the best week, though he was not involved with the midweek debacle.
However, right back is becoming a truly concerning position. Both Pavard and Stanišić had weeks to forget. Unfortunately, Pavard has struggled to find the form he showed two seasons ago when Hansi Flick had him playing like one of the better right backs in the world. Whether it’s the injury problems, system or something else, Pavard has struggled to perform consistently on both ends of the ball, providing very little to the attack and worse, making far too many errors in defense.
It’s therefore not hard to understand the calls for Stanišić to replace the Frenchman and while the Croatian had performed well this season, today certainly left me scratching my head as to whether he is actually capable of playing at this level on a consistent basis.
Time and again, he was beat or out of position. It was his man that was left wide open for the first goal. While he was not directly responsible for the second, it came down his side and his positioning was very questionable. Moreover, there were several golden opportunities he allowed in which he was bailed out by Neuer, Süle or Hernández. The hope obviously is that it was just a bad day. We all have them, however given the questions surrounding that position and his inexperience, I think we will have to wait and see how he performs in the coming matches to truly decide.
Most importantly, Brazzo and the board are going to have to look for a real solution to this problem. They can no longer sit idly by and patch it over with makeshift options. With Pavard’s ability to play centrally, where I would argue he is more suited anyways, there is plenty of space for a starting right back without needing to change the squad much at all. At the moment, Süle has been our most consistent performer at that position this season. While he has done an ok job, that is not a tenable solution long term.
As I mentioned in the summary of the Gladbach match, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of that 5-0 defeat is the lack of response. We have grown so used to the mental toughness and never die spirit at Bayern that to see them completely acquiesce to their opponents was for me the hardest thing to watch.
You expect the likes of Kimmich, Müller and Neuer to bring some fire and/or stability to the squad. However, none of them seemed all that interested. While we can only speculate as to why this might be, it was noticeable to every single person who watched this match, including the opposition.
That is particularly why a response on Saturday was required. And in a way, I think we got one. The first 40 minutes were excellent. Bayern controlled everything. However, from that point on Berlin put the world on notice again. Bayern might just be vulnerable. If you’re daring enough. If you believe enough. If you’re in good enough shape and willing to make things physical. Bayern can be had.
This could be (probably is) temporary. Most likely they will get over whatever is currently impacting their play. Nagelsmann will likely be back soon. They’ll probably start to stabilize again. However, until we see them dominate. Until we see them come back from a few goals down to win. There might just be a little nagging doubt in there. “Will we see this team collapse again?“
Having spent the majority of this article being primarily negative, for good reason, I think there ultimately is not all that much to worry about long term. Most likely Wednesday was a fluke. Let’s be honest, Bayern have made mistakes in a lot of matches this season. They have made poor passes, bad tackles, lost their men…etc on countless occasions, especially early on. However the real difference between those games and the on on Wednesday is that Gladbach seemed to capitalize on all of them.
The match really appeared to be a perfect storm of awful from a Bayern perspective. The efficiency in which Gladbach destroyed Munich is something that is very rarely going to happen. The combination of high quantity mistakes by Bayern with opposition teams making the most of them every time, is very rarely going to happen.
While the response Saturday might have been a little stronger if they had maintained control the way the did for the majority of the first half, I think they did enough overall to let everyone else know that they aren’t the prey just yet. You can come at them if you like, but you’re probably going to pay. And likely a big price at that.
Tuesday will provide another opportunity for this side to show the world they’re not to be trifled with. Being back at the Allianz should help and I would expect the atmosphere to be very good. Hopefully this will result in a 90 minute performance that we can all point to and say to ourselves: “See. They’re fine. There’s nothing to worry about.“