After the US-Tour, but still before the competitive start in the DFL-Supercup on Saturday, the record champion hosted an international get-together. Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspurs and Fenerbahçe SK followed the call for the sixth edition of the Audi Cup. In the opening match on Tuesday evening, Tottenham won 1-0 against Real.
In the subsequent match between the Munich team and the 19-time Turkish champion, Kovač sent out eleven players to the pitch that were able to convince in the pre-season. For example, the reinvigorated Boateng next to Süle, Alaba and Kimmich defended in the chain of four before Neuer.
In midfield, the Croatian also stayed with the USA-tested 4-3-3 with Thiago as the lone six and Goretzka as well as Sanches on the high eights. Gnabry, Coman and Lewandowski were allowed to start in the attack. Both Tolisso and Müller can thus be seen as the first small losers in the preparation.
The visitors from Istanbul started in 4-1-4-1, with former German international Max Kruse and former Munich player Mehmet Ekici two familiar faces on the starting line-up.
The first actions of the hosts were accompanied by clearly audible whistles of the numerous Fenerbahce fans. The Reds started with more notable scenes. However, short passes lacked accuracy and coordination again and again, which is why Istanbul was always able to provide dangerous counter-attacks.
After twenty minutes Kovač had to change for the first time. Müller came in for Gnabry. The national team player was accompanied into the cabin by the medical staff.
A few seconds later Sanches was able to take the lead for the Munich team. Thiago split the Turkish team with a pass and Lewandowski appeared free behind the four-man chain. The Pole then serviced the better positioned Sanches in perfect manner, who only had to push in (22nd).
In the 28th minute, the other eight, Leon Goretzka, increased to 2:0. Coman won a dribble on the left side against two defenders. Instead of a quick cross, Coman surprised with a thoughtful pass into the back. Goretzka had entered the back and the German international converted sovereignly.
Now the Munich team succeeded in almost everything, while Fenerbahçe fell apart. Cunning Müller took the ball from the freshly substituted Dirar right in front of the goal and only had to push it in. 3:0. The guests from Istanbul were clearly overwhelmed with the speed of the Reds.
Bayern then controlled the game and again benefited from a mistake by the team in blue-yellow. A pass from Alaba was deflected, so that Coman appeared free before Harun and could choose the corner. The 4:0 in the 40th minute.
After Fenerbahçe had the first good shot, Brych gave a penalty on the other side. Lewandowski had been brought down from behind after Kimmich had conquered and passed the ball while sitting. Müller converted the penalty kick to 5-0 (43.).
With this result the sides were changed. The second half began with Sven Ulreich in goal. Otherwise Kovač did not make any changes. Somewhat surprising in view of tomorrow’s final.
The Munich team had now visibly shifted back a few gears and did not push with last consequence to the 6:0. Again and again mental lapses crept into the defensive performance.
It then became curious again with Müller. Through a long pass from Süle, the original Bavarian stood about forty meters free in front of the goal. Since Harun had come towards him to intercept the long ball, Müller shot straight away and scored the 6:0 (59.).
After the goal Kovač now actively substituted. Davies, Singh, Tolisso, Martínez and Pavard got their assignment. For the quintet the striking Sanches as well as Süle, Alaba, Coman and Boateng left the pitch. Davies returned to the left-back position.
But even in the fourth test match, Bayern did not manage entirely without a horrendous missplaced pass. This time Goretzka set up Kruse. The hobby poker star showed his qualities, bullied his opponents like on the green table and scored the 1:6 (64th).
As the game then – apart from a curious scene in which Dirar, who had been booed out by his own fans, wanted to leave the pitch – continued to flatten out, Kovač substituted his last two bench players with Arp and Zaiser.
Until the final whistle there were hardly any structured actions. A classic game of the category “don’t want against can’t”. Referee Brych understood and whistled on time.
Tomorrow’s final will be against the Tottenham Hotspurs. The second game will be a real yardstick for the Bayern team in comparison to today. Only then will it be possible to classify today’s performance correctly.
In the first quarter of an hour, the Munich players were very aggressive after their own ball losses. Especially in the opponent’s third Bayern pushed up very high. Partly the record champion went in these situations with six, seven players in the counter-pressing. This resulted in some ball wins, which immediately led to dangerous actions.
These intensive phases are probably something like the ideal vision of Kovač. All offensive players switch over in a flash and work against the ball in a coordinated manner. With the midfielders moving up, the free space is compressed even further. If the ball is now won, you stand with a concentrated offensive in the most dangerous zone of the playing field.
But there was also the danger of this high pressing. If the opponent manages to overcome the pressing wave, only a few defenders stand in his way. Istanbul did so twice in the first ten minutes. While the actions culminated in a Kruse shot to the side net on Tuesday evening, this could become a problem against stronger opponents.
For the new season Kovač has finally returned to his favourite 4-3-3, as the previous pre-season matches have shown clearly. In comparison to the 4-2-3-1 system, which the Croatian introduced again after the turbulent autumn, the Munich team plays with two eights. These must compensate for the defense of the missing second six as well as the offensive of the missing ten.
In the early days under Kovač the eights were often positioned too high, which made it more difficult in the build up game. Now the Croatian together with his coaching staff has made some adjustments to the role in the pre-season, which are now bearing fruit.
One of the eights always falls back in the game structure in order to act as an additional starting point alongside Thiago. This will allow the full-backs to continue to move up high. The latter is typical for the system of the Croat.
The strengths of the 4-3-3 with two eights are shown in the occupation of the penalty area. Sanches as well as Goretzka know how to move up very well and act as an additional passing option in the box. Especially Istanbul was often overwhelmed with the allocation. Tolisso, too, is a player who has similarly good routes.
Due to Gnabry’s absence Müller got his chance as a right-winger. The role he had to accompany again and again in the national team. In the 4-3-3 of Kovač Müller was often a stranger with the eight role in the past. The requirement profile of the position differed too much from the qualities of the space interpreter.
But now Müller was allowed to show his abilities on the wing. At first glance, he succeeded with three goals. However, a more detailed analysis shows that these are only conditionally meaningful. None of his three goals were really scored in his role as right-winger. Rather, it was once again typical Müller goals with which he could play out his cunning.
As a right wing forward, however, Müller showed, as in the past, that he interprets this role very differently from Gnabry, for example. Instead of dribbling and tempo, the 29-year-old relies on runs and surprising moments. What worked against an unsettled opponent like Istanbul, can take away Bayern’s confidence in the offensive against more compact opponents.
It will be exciting to see whether and how Kovač can integrate Müller into his system. At least he seems to have found his goal scorer again.