New Season, New Coach, New Bayern?
That said, Bayern started with a strong starting 11 with captain Manuel Neuer in goal, Josip Stanisic, Niklas Süle, Dayot Upamecano and Alphonso Davies in the defense, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in the double pivot and Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Leroy Sane just behind Robert Lewandowski in the attack. Stanisic is probably the only real surprise in this starting 11, though even he was not completely unexpected.
Early on however, it was all Borussia Monchengladbach. The opening 20 minutes saw die Fohlen take advantage of mistakes and general confusion in the middle and back of Bayern’s squad. Following several near misses Alassane Plea would finally put Gladbach ahead 1-0 in the 10th minute.
The game started to balance out a little more around the 25th minute and Bayern would gain far more control about ten minutes after that. However, it would take a corner from Kimmich to Lewandowski to finally break open the scoring for Bayern and level the score at 1-1 in the 42nd minute.
The second half provided a much better showing for the Munich side. Compared to the first half, the midfield was far more stable and consequentially Bayern were far more in control. Bayern would have several chances throughout the half but were missing their shooting boots today and couldn’t put them away. Gladbach also had several chances to sneak a goal and the game but failed to convert as well. Ultimately the 1-1 final felt like a reasonable result for both sides.
As mentioned above, the match started off very poorly for Nagelsmann’s side. The first 30 minutes in particular were painful to watch. There were countless unforced errors. Players looked as though they were not sure where they should be and where their teammates should. Passes went awry. It was a mess.
The middle of the pitch was particularly bad. Süle and Upamecano for the most part were ok, however Kimmich, Goretzka and Müller were completely invisible. It’s hard to put much on Lewandowski given the lack of service during this period, but even he fell short of his lofty standards on the few chances that came his way.
The most shocking of these performances though was Kimmich and Goretzka. I genuinely cannot think of a 30 minute stretch where Kimmich was less involved. He was there but was not driving the team the way he normally does. His passes were generally back or sideways. He never pushed forward the way we’re used to. He almost looked disinterested, though I’m quite sure that he was very interested.
Goretzka likewise was very poor. He in particular seemed to have some communication issues and problems with spacing. For portions of the game, he almost looked like a player who was new to the side as opposed to one who has been her for three plus years.
The second half however was enough to give the supporters a little more comfort. Whether it was Nagelsmann making adjustments, Kimmich and Goretzka waking up or simple inevitability, most of the issues that plagued Bayern for the first 40 minutes improved significantly in the second half.
Kimmich looked far more like the world class player that he is. Goretzka seemed to find his way. Müller was far more involved. Generally, the team simply looked far more like the Bayern side we’ve seen over the last two years. That’s not to say that there weren’t issues. There were. But nothing that is unexpected this early in the season, under a new coach and coming off another short summer with the European Championship.
The finishing was probably the biggest overall weakness. While Yann Sommer played a fine game for Gladbach, Bayern made things far too easy for him. Apart from the goal, it seemed as though every shot was either right at the Swiss keeper or easily within his reach. Lewandowski had several excellent chances that he simply put directly at the keeper, one of which, a wonderfully chipped ball from Davies, was particularly bad as he was past his defender and should have had plenty of time and space to direct it to the corner.
Despite the problems, especially in the first half, there are positives to take out of this match. First and foremost, the improvements throughout the match, especially in the second half. It would be wildly naive to expect Bayern to come out on all cylinders this early in the season given all the changes, but the fact that they managed a draw away to a team that they have struggled with in recent history after going down 1-0, is no small feat.
I was particularly happy to see the team make adjustments and improve after half time which is something that I think Hansi Flick did actually struggle with at times. While it’s far too early to say whether this was/is because of Nagelsmann, it is something that I was expecting from the new coach.
Oddly given some of the easy chances given away early, the backline overall was actually relatively decent. Süle and Upamecano both had decent days. There were a few mistakes, two or three of which might have been disastrous on another day, but overall they were relatively solid. After a slow start, Davies was one of the primary driving forces in the attack as he seemed to dribble through Gladbach’s defense at will. Only poor finishing and some decent defensive efforts stopped him from picking up an assist.
Overall, I think we can all chalk this one up as a reasonable start. Nothing special. Nothing terrible. A 1-1 against Gladbach away for Bayern never feels like the worst outcome. There is a lot of room for improvement, but if today is anything to judge by, I think we can expect them to make those improvements. Next up is Dortmund in our first chance for hardware this season in the DFL Supercup on Tuesday.