Guess who’s Back
Whether any of this had to do with Julian Nagelsmann making his way back to the bench, we may never know, but it certainly coincided with an uptick in their performances. The first match of the week against Benfica saw a few interesting lineup changes
Nagelsmann was forced to bring in Tanguy Nianzou to start next to Dayot Upamecano in central defense. Benjamin Pavard took his turn playing right back, as that position is a revolving door these days. Alphonso Davies of course played right back with Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich in midfield. The last notable change was that Serge Gnabry filled the ten instead of Thomas Müller as Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane finished off the attack right behind Robert Lewandowski.
This match would prove to be one of the most complete matches since Nagelsmann took the reins. Coman had an absolutely masterful day as he pretty much singlehandedly destroyed the left side of Benfica’s defense. The first goal would come in the 26th minute as Coman dribbled through three Benfica defenders and lofted a perfect pass to Lewandowski for an easy tap in header 1-0.
Just five minutes later Bayern would add another as this time Kimmich would play a very nice pass over the top to Lewandowski who set up Gnabry for a back healed finish to make it 2-0. However another five minutes after that Benfica would score off a set piece design that resulted in an open header to make it 2-1.
Just before the end of the half, a penalty was given for a handball in the box, but uncharacteristically Lewandowski hit a terrible penalty that seemed to slowly roll directly at the keeper.
The second half would start with a bang as Kimmich found Davies in the box and the left back headed neatly down to Sane who volleyed it to the far corner to make it 3-1 (49). Twelve minutes later Kimmich would play a ball over the Benfica defense to Leroy sane who took a few touches and found Lewandowski rushing forward and chipped the keeper for his second 4-1.
The Munich side had several more fantastic opportunities to increase their lead however Benfica would get the next goal following some poor defensive play in the 73rd minute to make it 4-2. Finally in the 84th minute, Lewandowski would get his hattrick and Neuer would get an assist as he hit a long ball to the striker would again lofted over the helpless keeper 5-2.
The lineup for Saturday’s match was much more straight forward. Both Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez were available and started next to Upamecano and Davies in defense, while Müller also returned to replace Gnabry in the center behind Lewandowski.
This match would start off rather slowly as Freiburg pressed high and extremely well. Their pressure not only kept Bayern off their game but also made them look like the team more likely to score out of the two. However, that effort came at a cost.
Freiburg became noticeably more fatigued as the match moved on. By the time 25 minutes had passed, Bayern were increasingly looking more confident and comfortable and in the 30th minute they got their goal as Goretzka took in a Müller pass at the edge of the box took a touch and blasted it past the keeper 1-0.
While it would take an additional 45 minutes to get a second, Bayern was in complete control of the match and had several chances to increase their lead. In the 75th minute Davies would dribble into the box, pick out a pass for Sane who guided onto the feet of Lewandowski for an easy tap in 2-0.
Freiburg would ultimately get one back in the 93rd minute, much to Neuer’s annoyance and while they lost their clean sheet, the result was never in much danger as the score finished 2-1.
Once again the Munich offensive was on full display in these two matches. While we’ve come to expect this, the numbers this unit is putting up are truly incredible. They are already to 40 goals this season through eleven matches, a record. They also hit 100 goals in this calendar year with plenty of time to add to that total.
However it’s the way they get them that might be the most impressive. Unlike last season when everything seemed to come through or by Lewandowski, the entire unit is getting involved on a regular basis. Against Benfica, it was Coman who really shined. Freiburg saw Müller have a stand out performance.
And while maybe those two deserved some special acknowledgement Sane, Gnabry and Davies were all fantastic this week, not to mention Lewandowski who scored four goals and added an assist.
The diversity in how Bayern are able to attack their opposition is truly terrifying. Especially when they start getting contributions from the likes of Goretzka who had a much better week. In both matches he ventured a little more forward and hit some excellent shots which finally resulted in the opening goal Saturday.
While it seemed hard to imagine or nearly impossible, Bayern might actually end up being even more dangerous this season under Nagelsmann than they were last season under Hansi Flick. That is in no way a shot at the former manager, but says quite a bit for the new one who has this team firing on all cylinders very early in his tenure.
However, it’s not all rainbows and lollypops. The first 25 minutes Saturday once again provided a glimpse of problems within this Bayern side. Through this part of the season, every team that has pressed Bayern effectively has caused real issues.
Luckily, only a few teams have had the ability and/or luck to make them pay, but at some point they will face teams that are far more capable than some of the Bundesliga sides that have been less successful.
Nagelsmann seemingly needs to focus more time on pressure passing and movement off the ball to create space in the press. Also, while I wouldn’t like to see it over used, long balls over the defense with the speed that they often have up top might be a pretty solid tactic as well.
Just a few of those in the match against Freiburg showed me as much. Once Sane and Coman were set free a few times on their defenders, the Schwartzwald team were forced to back off just a little bit and that was all Munich needed to take back control.
However, better teams with quicker defenders may not be so scared or susceptible to this tactic so there is a real need to work on dealing with high pressure while in possession. While this has been worrying to date, I do suspect that it will ultimately be addressed. The players have the ability and Nagelsmann is far too good a coach not to fix it. Hopefully they get things under control prior to the knockout stages of the Champions League and we don’t face another embarrassment like we did in DFB Pokal.
Speaking of which, I think this week proved one final thing, that 5-0 loss to Mönchengladbach was in fact just a blip. The turnaround was quick. The results and performances have improved with nearly every match.
Gladbach and Adi Hütter have a history of making Bayern uncomfortable and playing them extremely tough. While I do consider that result a fluke, I also expect that Die Fohlen will play Bayern tough when they meet again in the Rückrunde. They have a good team that appear to have a bit of a psychological edge and play a tough uncomfortable style for the record champions.
Honestly though, there are several teams that can and will push Bayern this season. However, I don’t think there are many that are capable of beating them in that fashion, if any, unless the same odd circumstances repeat themselves.
For the time being however, I think we can rest relatively at ease. Bayern are back! Back again! Bayern’s back, tell a…well you know. (either that or I’m dating myself terribly)