No party against Paderborn! Bayern gets a scrappy 3:2 win
Jérôme Boateng and Benjamin Pavard received their fifth yellow in Cologne forcing Flick to change his backline in two positions. Additionally, Leon Goretzka was revealed to be injured on matchday, though he should be fit again against Chelsea. Thus two debuts were due against Paderborn: Álvaro Odriozola got the call to start and show himself beyond a seven minute cameo against Hoffenheim and a left-foot-dominated backline started a game for the first time this season. Flick, however, refused to play Alaba, Hernández and Davies in a back four, preferring to try out a back three for the first time in his tenure as Bayern-coach. The central defender Alaba was flanked by half-backs Hernández and Kimmich, with Odriozola and Davies playing wing-back. So as not to get exposed on the right side with the attacking Odriozola, Tolisso was to cover for him as a right central midfielder. Hansi Flick’s predecessors used similar tactics to cover for Joshua Kimmich’s attacking drive. On top of that, Philippe Coutinho could once more show himself, coming into the team for Coman, while Gnabry remained in the team after his goals against Cologne. With Chelsea on Tuesday undoubtedly already on his mind, Flick also gave Thomas Müller a break, putting him on the bench alongside talent Oliver Batista-Meier, who snuck into the squad for the first time this year. With the new back three, Bayern’s formation was a pretty standard 3-4-3.
Just as predicted in the preview, Paderborn played in 4-2-3-1 formation with quick attackers surrounding the nimble Streli Mamba. Paderborn was defending in a 4-4-2 without the ball.
In contrast to the lightning starts against Cologne or Mainz, this game started slow. Bayern absolutely was the dominating force, yet they failed to create real chances en masse. All the while Paderborn was constantly lurking at the offside-line, forcing Neuer to multiple sweeper-keeper saves outside his goal. Still, Bayern managed to score the opening goal in the 25th minute. Lewandowski and Davies pressed their opponent at the edge of Paderborn’s box, passed it to the middle for Tolisso, whose first touch let him down initially, but managed to pass it onward to Gnabry. Surrounded by defenders, the young German dribbled inside the box, waited to get his scoring opportunity and then finished it in the bottom right corner.
The game still did not pick up the pace with Bayern getting a few more chances without really troubling Paderborn’s goalkeeper Zingerle. When everything looked like a 1:0 half-time lead, Paderborn equalised out of virtually nothing. Manuel Neuer attempted to get to another long ball but wrongfully decided to not go for the sliding tackle. His timing was good and probably would have reached the ball, but without the tackle Srbeny managed to get past Neuer and was now aiming for an empty net. The resulting equaliser was the half-time result.
The teams came out as unchanged as the game itself was. Lewandowski almost scored from an identical position as he did against Cologne but the keeper denied him, Zingerle then immediately repeated his impressive save after Bayern’s subsequent corner (52’). In the meantime, Michel came on for Mamba. Flick also made his first changes, taking off Odriozola and Coutinho for Coman and Müller, changing the formation back to a back four. Kimmich was now right-back and Gnabry switched to left wing. These changes not only lead to an immediate half-chance, but also resulted in Bayern taking the lead once more. Paderborn gave away the ball in build-up to Gnabry, who sprinted to the goal line and then gave it back to Lewandowski who effortlessly scored (70’).
Nevertheless, this second lead did not last for even five minutes because with one single vertical ball, Bayern’s defensive line was cut open. Jastrzembski ran towards Neuer, who saved his shot but was powerless with Michel scoring a poacher’s goal (75’). Bayern was not exactly brimming with ideas, so Flick put on super-sub Zirkzee in the 87th minute for Tolisso. He himself was not successful this evening, but he passed his last-minute-mojo over to his partner Lewandowski. From the left half-space Davies gave the ball to Gnabry on the wing who put in a sharp cross to the stranded Lewandowski. The defenders seemingly only had eyes for one striker, Zirkzee, so Lewandowski had no problems putting the ball in the net (88’).
Gnabry got another chance but the end-result was unchanged, after a tough fight, Bayern won 3:2. With this in hand, they could relax the remaining weekend and watch only Leipzig and Dortmund match their wins with Mönchengladbach floundering against Hoffenheim. On Tuesday the tough away game in London at Stamford Bridge awaits them.
Hansi Flick surprised everyone with playing a back three for the first time. Looking at the personal and the opponent, this was making sense. For the first time in a long while, Bayern was playing with a decidedly attacking player on the right defensive wing with Odriozola, plus the pair of Alaba and Hernández had yet to find the right balance. On top of that they were playing against a side, who while being bottom of the table, always attacks whoever they play, always runs at the defence. A back four would have likely meant more critical duels in defence, a loss of which would immediately endanger their own goal. The back three meant Bayern always had a comfortable numerical superiority in defence.
However, if you play an additional defender, someone is automatically missing up front and that was very noticeable for the opening 60 minutes. Losing an additional attacking player puts a limelight on the other attacking player’s shortcomings. The more Coutinho had to take part in the game, the more he revealed in just how bad a shape he is in right now. How low on confidence this great technician is, yet he also does not do himself any favours by constantly trying to do the special when the easy thing would be required. You would think Coutinho would thrive in a 3-4-3 formation, because more than ever he can occupy his beloved left half-space but he disappointed once more. In all likelihood he will not be an option for the starting lineup against Chelsea, Flick might even get second thoughts as to subbing him in during the game. Right now the Brazilian seems to be more of a threat for his own team than the opponent’s.
All in all the problems against Paderborn seemed to come down more to a lack in performance and willpower than choice of the wrong tactics. Bayern had a solid defence with the back three with the goal coming from an individual goalkeeping mistake and attacking wise things could have been better if many players had a better game. Tolisso was a mixed bag, Thiago made more mistakes than usual and despite his goals, Gnabry notably has not yet reached his peak fitness level. Tactically, while the back three did largely succeed, Bayern’s failure to successfully abandon it in the second half was indeed problematic. Jastrzembski was granted so much space before Paderborn’s second goal, it felt as if the Bayern players collectively thought they were still playing with an additional wing-back.
After a series of excellent first half and disappointing second half performances, Bayern wanted a return to a more consistent performance against Paderborn. And that is exactly what they did with repeating the lackluster second half showings of the previous weeks for the entire 90 minutes. Admittedly, things got only spongy in the second half defensively, but in possession, Bayern was too lethargic for the entire game. The creative energy Bayern was oozing from the very start against Cologne, Hoffenheim or Schalke, that suffocated their opponents at times, was completely gone. Players wavered too long, that is not enough to create chances. In the end, Bayern did score three times but only the third goal really was the result of Bayern’s creative spirit, the other goals were more down to mistakes committed by Paderborn. Bayern is in a rather peculiar situation right now, members of the board constantly praise the coach in various interviews so a contract extension seems inevitable. Yet for the full 90 minutes, Bayern really only played well against Schalke 04 since the winter break. You could file the game against Paderborn under “scrappy win” in a different context without overthinking it, but as things stand, this looks like a game that really put a big limelight on all the bad stuff from the previous weeks. In the end only the win counts and Bayern got said win, the Champions League will have to show where things stand for the club.
For weeks it more and more felt like the experiment Odriozola failed without him even getting a starting opportunity and while he did not fully satisfy, you could not knock his eagerness to try. He had four dribbling attempts, succeeding twice, this statistic alone shows the benefit an attacking-minded wing-back can bring you. Defensively, he was hardly tested and while that was exactly what the coach had envisioned with the newly formed back three, it also shows the benefits of Pavard: With him as right-back, Bayern has a stable defense without sacrificing an attacking player. Odriozola’s crosses on the other hand, were a mixed bag, some good, some bad. All things considered, while he hardly played himself into the team against Chelsea, he did show enough to be given further opportunities after that big match. Only then, he really should stop throwing himself on the ground with every little push.
Sadly all of these joyful football things were overshadowed by the horrible news in Hanau. The Miasanrot-staff says no to racism. We remember the victims Ferhat Ünver, Mercedes Kierpacz, Sedat Gürbüz, Gökhan Gültekin, Hamza Kurtović, Kalojan W., Vili Viorel Păun, Said Nesar Hashemi and Bilal Gökçe and wish their families all the strength in the world to overcome their terrible loss.
Additionally, a day after this game it was revealed that a young 1-year old girl had suffered a fatal incident in the stadium. We express our deepest condolences to her family’s tragic loss.