FC SCHALKE – ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI 0:3
Bayern have had a turbulent week. In Couthino and Cuisance, two new players for midfield arrived, while the discontent Renato Sanches was allowed to depart to France.
Niko Kovač could not include Thiago in his plans who was ruled out by injury, which instigated a major shuffle of his starting eleven. Lucas Hernández was given his Bundesliga debut in central defence alongside Niklas Süle. Pavard was moved out to the right full-back position, while Kimmich moved up into the holding midfielder position. The 4-3-3 formation remained the same. New arrivals Couthino, Perišić, and Cuisance all started from the bench. Due to numerous players unavailable because of injury, Bayern started with a 17 players strong squad. 20 players are permitted since the start of the season.
David Wagner recalled the same eleven that started the game against Gladbach. He also relied on a 4-2-3-1 formation again. Against the ball, his side switched to a very tight 4-4-2.
Thiago’s absence gave the responsibility to build up the game to Kimmich. Bayern tried to compensate for his resulting lack of defensive availability by moving Alaba slightly inside, th result vaguely resembling a back three.
Little happened until the 19th minute. Coman received the ball in Schalke’s penalty area. From a standing start he easily overtook his marker Kenny, whose challenge came to late. The duel was ruled a clear penalty, which Lewandowski calmly converted for the opening goal.
The rest of the half was pretty much devoid of anything noteworthy. Bayern had a lot of control but lacked nearly any creative spark in the final third. Their players were too far apart and their combinational play lacked directness and swiftness. However, Müller’s, Tolisso’s, and Kimmich’s competent pressing nipped any of Schalke’s offensive enterprise in the bud. Yet Bayern’s game was not entirely without fault. David Wagner’s eleven used the half spaces cleverly and managed to circumvent the Bayern press every now and then. Hernández played high up the pitch in these situations, but Schalke only got the odd half chance out of this.
Both teams rejoined the pitch unchanged.
A marvellous free kick allowed Bayern to score their second goal. Tolisso was fouled in a central position roughly 20 meters out. After a brief conversation, Lewandowski took charge and caressed the ball over the wall into Nübel’s right hand corner, leaving the goalkeeper no chance. A breathtaking goal which made it 2-0 (50th minute).
Shortly thereafter, the first substitutions followed on both sides. David Wagner brought on Kutucu for Raman and Niko Kovač Couthino for Müller and Perišić for Gnabry (57th minute).
As if the second goal had been a rallying cry for Schalke, they suddenly started to play football. Bayern increasingly dropped deeper and deeper and had troubles to withstand Schalke’s now intensifying pressing. Several critical scenes in their penalty area followed suit. Only after Tolisso was moved back significantly, Bayern regained some measure of safety at the back.
A counter attack in the 75th minute finally settled the game for Bayern. Via Tolisso and Coman the ball reached Lewandowski who easily managed to sidestep Sané and pass the ball into the net at his short post, making it 3-0. This marked his fifth goal in only the second league match. Incredible.
And so Bayern Munich defeats FC Schalke 04 with 3-0. Two set pieces ensured Bayern’s likely victory early on. Apart from the result, Bayern’s performance left a lot to be desired on Saturday evening. For long stretches of the match, there were not any creativity or sparkling ideas what to do with the ball in the final third. In the second half, Bayern was fortunate to survive a spell of sustained pressure by Schalke without conceding.
It is hard to imagine a 4-3-3 without Thiago considering how the Bayern squad is presently composed. But it had to work against Schalke because Thiago was out of sorts. Kimmich got a cold start as a holding midfielder and gave a decent performance. Despite the offensive players being fairly stretched for most parts of the game, he rarely lost the overview of proceedings.
Yet he failed at properly involving the two number eights Müller and Tolisso because he often kept the ball to himself for too long, making his game predictable and forcing him to switch play to the wings early. This was easy for Schalke to defend with their 4-4-2 flat in defence.
€80 million was his price tag for Bayern. Thus, he has been the most expensive Bundesliga transfer by far to date – as a defender. The match gave us an inkling why Bayern was prepared to pay so much money for him. Hernández was constantly vigilant and his resolute defensive work made up for Bayern’s mistakes in pressing. In good part due to his efforts, Schalke did not have any chance from inside the penalty area in the first 60 minutes of the game. He left the pitch in the 75th minute having had a good start to his Bundesliga career.
Coach Niko Kovač wanted to give Couthino and Perišić game time and a chance to settle in. Both will be necessary. Both players tried to make an impact on Bayern’s game. Their early efforts showed that they both have a lot to offer for Bayern in the coming weeks and months. Coutinho impressed with his ball control. Given time, he will most likely become an important factor in creating dangerous situations out of tight areas or man-to-man duels. At the moment, there is still a lot of room left for fine tuning and intuitive understanding.