Bayern End Week With Strong Performance
Julian Nagelsmann made only one change to the side that dispatched Augsburg as Sadio Mané earned a rare day of rest with Kingsley Coman starting in his place.
Three Things We Noticed
Left Side Strong Side
It was a very good week for the left side of the pitch. Alphonso Davies in particular dominated Augsburg and had another good showing in Hoffenheim.
Both Coman and Mane worked well with the left back to apply a lot of pressure through their speed and passing generally wrecking havoc on the outside.
I have said it many times in the past, but when Davies is in this type of form, Bayern are at their best. Not only did he provide those dynamic runs forward but he made several key defensive plays to prevent goal scoring opportunities.
A lot has been said about our midfield this year. While most were very happy with Sabitzers performance early on, Kimmich was again a divisive topic amongst some of the fan base. There will always be a contingent that sees his best position at right back.
However he and Goretzka have once again proved to form a formidable midfield duo. Their strengths compliment each other in a way that, when they are playing well, allows Bayern to hit their peek form. In particular, Goretzka’s physical presence and strength allow Bayern to not get bossed around so much by physical opponents.
This past week is a perfect example as Augsburg played a particularly aggressive and physical match and Bayern were able to control things, after a shaky early ten minutes.
Again against Hoffenheim, the pair coupled with another strong performance from Musiala and performed very well to play a significant role in Bayern’s comfortable win.
Return to Form
The previous two points played no small role in Bayerns apparent return to form. Those are perhaps the two biggest keys to how well Bayern ultimately does in all competitions this season.
Who scores and the health of our backline are probably the next biggest factors. However, Bayern’s performance in the midfield and ability to create opportunities with their speed on the outside feel like the determining factors this season.
This past week has seen Bayern with very good performances overall and in both of those areas. If they can keep that up, I don’t think there is any real reason to worry for the remainder of the season. However, injuries and/or lack of form could easily derail things.
It still feels as though Nagelsmann will need to work on finding a way for Sabitzer and Gravenberch to provide useful minutes over the remainder of the season. Particuarly, Gravenberch providing some of the physical presence that Goretzka brings could be a huge factor if the German is forced to miss time.
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Indeed a very satisfying week as a Bayern fan and satisfying matches to watch. Aside from point of improvements you pointed out Marc, I must say one important difference maker after the international break is, the ball now actually wants to go in the net. And a lot of time it decides to get it at very good moments (early in the match – Leverkusen, Plzen, Hoffenheim) or when the nerve starts to increase – Augsburg in the cup. I hope this trend keeps up.
In term of personnel, aside from finding place for Sabitzer and Gravenberch, I think another important task of Nagelsmann is also making Mane work. To my eyes he has not been bad, but also not great either, and considering his status, being (one of) the most expensive player of the squad, coming to Bayern as a world class star who is supposed to lead this team in the post-Lewandowski era, it’s fair to expect much more from him. I’m not blaming Mane the player just yet, but Nagelsmann must find a way to improve Mane’s contribution. At the moment, aside from usual workload rotation and integration, I honestly don’t see a clear reason why he should play ahead of the others.
Or, there is also a possibility that he does not really fit with this team/system, and the board made a mistake of signing him just for the sake of having a statement. But that’s a conclusion I would like to not see happen.
On to Barcelona.
That is very true. Their finishing was signfiicantly better than it had been for the previous month or more. I also agree that getting Mane going is one of the challenges facing Nagelsmann but I think a big factor in Mane’s performances is simply time. As frustrating as it is for us as fans, it’s not as easy as simply throwing a player on the field and it immediately working. Every player takes time to adjust to all the new aspects of a new club. The good news is that he seems to at least get along with and have a decent understanding with the other players. But regardless of who they brought in to replace Lewandowksi, if it wasn’t a traditional striker of the same mold there were going to be issues in front of goal. Because it’s not just an adjustment for Mane, it’s also an adjustment for the entire team. Every one of our attacking players and midfielders are adjusting to the new system. They’re all trying to figure out how to work without that central figure up top. So while Mane is adjusting to all the usual things that come with moving to a new club, he’s also facing the issue of the rest of the players also not being ingrained and used to the positions and play that they are attempting.
However, I think he’s also getting a bit too much criticism in terms of actual performance. His finishing is I think the one thing where people can legitimately be disappointed and point fingers. However, I do think that he has clearly provided a lot of opportunities and dangerous moments in nearly every match he plays. In a sense, I don’t disagree with you regarding him being an unquestioned starter, but for me that’s simply a result of the talent around him and what I mentioned before. Without a true striker and in the system they are playing, I suspect that there will (and should) continue to be a lot of rotation.
I don’t see Mane as a mistake. The only mistake I can see is if the experiment of not having a true striker doesn’t work. That is possible. In some ways I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Choupo’s presence has seen a better run of form for Bayern. He is providing skills and attributes that literally no other player in the squad can at this point and it’s something they are all comfortable with. However, even if they are forced to find a true striker to replace Lewy in the end, Mane can absoultely still be a good and productive player for Bayern on the wings or in any variety of attacking positions. I thought he and Davies for instance terrorized Augsburg in the Cup last week and had a very good rapport.
You’re right Mark, a lot of times the fact that this year the team is trying to play with a new system, finding a way to compensate for the loss of Lewandowski, is being underestimated. Again I blame the brilliant start in August that created ridiculous expectation and made people thought this transition is nothing.
It’s also true that the frustration about Mane is mostly about his finishing, or more precise, his final ball. Either a shot, a final pass, or an acceleration, his final ball often lets me scratching my head. On the other hand one needs to appreciate the man’s work rate, movement and defensive contribution, a lot of his good pressing moments stand out in my mind.
Still I think Nagelsmann approach to replacing Lewandowski is very bold, and at the same time quite risky. His flexible 4-attackers system requires an extremely high level of synchronisation, understanding, or automatism, on top of technical capability, speed, concentration everything. When clicks it’s unbelievable to watch but consistency will be an issue, especially when rotation is an inevitable part. In the past, with Lewandowski’ consistency in health and outputs, the attack was more reliant on him but also saw less fluctuation.
Of course I wish to see nothing more than a big success of Nagelsmann’s vision, let’s see.
I completely agree with nearly every thing you say. The only caviat I have here is the implication that it is completely on Nagelsmann that Lewandowski wasn’t replaced 1 to 1. While I do think he absolutely has culpability here, I also think that the lack of availabile strikers and the prices of those strikers was a massive factor for why Bayern entered this season without one.
Gnabry and Sane, coupled with Mane provided 3 players who profile as guys who are capable of potentially playing in a system where they are center forwards at the least and playing in this type of system. Therefore I see it as a gamble from the entire organization. They chose to spend money in other places and gamble that the front line would figure it out. I have to be honest, I think with Nagelsmann as the coach and the greater needs in other positions, this wasn’t a bad gamble.
However, I expected that this season would start exactly as it has. It’s such a massive change that there is no question it will take time to fully implement, even if it works exactly as they hope/expect. Those first few weeks really set things up for a massive let down. We were never going to score goals at that rate. But the past month also is unrealistic on the other side. I don’t expect that they’ll miss that many chances on a regular basis either. Somewhere in the middle, and probably closer to where they’ve been in the last few weeks is a much more realistic base line for this team. Yesterday especially proved to me that they are starting to hit their stride a bit. It’s unfortunate that the WC is about to break that stride. I sincerely hope that most of the squad comes back healthy from the WC and they can keep their rhythm because that was the most complete Bayern performance I’ve seen in quite some time.