Many things are new in the German top flight, not only is the Hamburger SV not there for the first time, but there have also been some coaching changes. Niko Kovac started his tenure at FC Bayern seven weeks ago. With Julian Nagelsmann, he faced a great challenge in his first game.
In the end, Bayern won 3-1 in a hard-fought match, but Kingsley Coman’s injury tarnished the victory a little.
In case you missed it
Somewhat surprisingly, Kovac dropped Mats Hummels and Arjen Robben from the starting formation against Hoffenheim. The coach, who continues to bet on a 4-1-4-1, chose Jerome Boateng and Kingsley Coman instead.
The change-willing Boateng together with Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba formed the back four in front of the finally fit captain Manuel Neuer.
As expected, Javi Martinez played as the six. The Basque was supported in the centre by Thomas Müller and Thiago. Together with Kingsley Coman and Franck Ribery, they formed the row of four in midfield behind Robert Lewandowski.
TSG played 3-5-2, not surprisingly. The system has become standard since Julian Nagelsmann took office. In recent years, the Hoffenheim-based team has always been an unpleasant opponent for the Munich-based team, but this time they have had to do without a number of key players such as Kramaric, Demirbay, Hübner and Amiri.
The first five minutes went as expected. Last year’s third from Hoffenheim let the Munich team build up from the back and only started their pressing just before the midfield. In their 5-3-2 against the ball, the Kraichgau team focused on closing the middle and wanted to prevent the Munich team’s build-up game through the centre with their two strikers.
Compared to the Supercup against Frankfurt, however, FC Bayern managed to gain more speed. Due to the Hoffenheimer’s midfield of three, the Bayern found a little more space on the wings and laterally in the half space. In some cases Bayern also managed to cross the first pressing line and then either to the left through Alabas crosses or to the right through Comans dribblings. In the 12th minute Boateng came to the first chance after a corner.
As a result, the game was a battle in midfield. Both teams tried to stop the opponent’s build-up. Hoffenheim, for example, had Thiago constantly attacked by Bittencourt to take the Munich midfield commander out of play, which worked well for long periods of time.
FC Bayern seldom managed to exploit their superiority in midfield, because Hoffenheim’s pressing actually gave the Munich team an advantage in the centre. Grifo often pressed Joshua Kimmich on the flank, Bittencourt guarded Thiago, while Grillitsch had to take care of Martinez and Müller at the same time. Neither Munich player, however, are among the strongest playmakers in the record champion’s squad.
Under Niko Kovac, standard situations are to become a weapon again. A free-kick after a foul on Coman earned the Munich-based team a corner. After Kimmich’s corner kick, Müller stood best and scored the FCB 1:0 in the 23rd minute.
After the lead, Niko Kovac’s team was actually the more agile team. It moved very well, overloaded the half spaces again and again and was able to play its way through the centre above all through the agile Thiago and the inmoving Ribery.
Out of nowhere Hoffenheim had their best chance in the 33rd minute. After Bayern were not compact in the center, Joelinton had the big chance to equalize from a few meters. However, the Brazilian could not get the ball in the back of the net.
FC Bayern, however, responded promptly with a great chance in the 37th minute. Once again, Bayern took advantage of the lack of compactness in the centre with a longer ball and quickly combined forwards. Coman made the defense look old with a body feint, but then failed against Baumann.
The big shock came just before the break. Nico Schulz injured Kingsley Coman in a foul and two people had to support him. The Frenchman was replaced by Robben.
The first minutes of the second half were marked by many duels, some too hard. Out of this chaotic phase, the equaliser was scored. Although Bayern attacked very intensively, it still left large gaps in the six-room. After a mistake by Martinez, Boateng looked very bad against Szalai. The Hungarian scored the equaliser with his right.
After the first change was due to injury, Kovac reacted to the altered game for the first time in the 67th minute and brought Goretzka for Martinez. Thiago moved into the six position as a result of the substitution. But this did not change anything in the now wild and partly chaotic game.
In the 78th minute, the Bayern took the lead again through Arjen Robben. Lewandowski could not convert a more than questionable penalty kick, but Robben reacted the fastest. At least everyone thought so, because suddenly the VAR intervened and the penalty kick was repeated. However, Lewandowski safely converted that one.
Hoffenheim did not recover from this shock. At Müller’s goal they were lucky that the international touched the ball with his elbow and therefore the goal did not count. A little later Arjen Robben put the lid on it after a good set up by the strong Thomas Müller.
After that, everything was clear and Bayern had a few smaller chances to score the fourth goal. In the end it remained at 3:1 for the record champion.
3 things we noticed
1. Flexible Bayern
At the beginning, Bayern tried to outsmart TSG’s pressing. Julian Nagelsmann had the plan to take Thiago out of play. Quite surprisingly, Grillitsch often played against Müller and Martinez, as Grifo pressed Kimmich.
After the lead, the Munich-based team was much more flexible. Along with Thiago, Ribery and Alaba drove FC Bayern’s game. Lewandowski, Coman and Müller moved a lot between the lines and offered themselves behind the TSG midfield line. Due to quick play and the flexible Thiago and Ribery, the Kraichgau team had hardly any more access to the build-up game of the record champion. The team of Niko Kovac could crack the not always compact pressing of TSG Hoffenheim more often.
In this game there were not only crosses, but also short vertical combinations, long balls or 1v1 duels from Kingsley Coman. Thomas Müller also flourished. The Munich native had to hold the position less frequently and was able to move a lot between the lines. This presented Hoffenheim with problems.
Furthermore, the movements are not yet perfectly coordinated. In other phases of the game, Hoffenheim was able to easily stop FC Bayern’s build-up game and force Boateng and Süle to play long balls. Even in the last third, the coordination was still missing several times to become really dangerous.
Especially in the second half Bayern more and more lost their order. Some of them attacked faster, but then they were usually badly staggered. So they were neither dangerous nor were they able to constantly secure the second ball.
2. Kingsley Coman
The Frenchman was preferred to Arjen Robben and was convincing with a strong performance. On the right side Coman kept picking up speed, confronting Adams and Schulz with big problems with his dribblings. His movements in the centre also seemed clever. Because of him the game on the right side was lively and compensated the left focus a bit.
His absolute highlight was his great body feint in the middle of the first half, where he left Kevin Vogt aside. Ultimately, it failed because of Oliver Baumann. In the 44th minute everything was tragically over. When Nico Schulz committed a foul, Coman hurt his left foot again and immediately signalled that he could not go on. He was taken off the field in tears. Should Coman be out of action in the long term, it would be a serious loss for Niko Kovac’s team.
3. Bayern’s defense
The use of the VAR could be viewed critically during the game, but the improvement of the defensive game of FC Bayern should not be ignored. Bayern usually pressed very hard: In the first half the TSG back three was always attacked by three people, behind them one of the sixes covered Florian Grillitsch. As a result, one of the six had to defend against two Hoffenheim eights, but TSG seldom ever came into these zones.
Bayern defended very man-oriented, but always had access to the player with the ball and knew how to convince with high intensity and willingness to run over long distances of the game. In the second half, however, the Reds lacked some of the compactness in the centre. After the TSG was able to pass the first pressing line, they often found a lot of space. This became particularly clear when conceding the goal.
Last season the defence was still the big problem. Pressing often didn’t seem well rehearsed and the players weren’t fit enough. Under Kovac this seems to have changed. Nevertheless, the Croatian must continue to work on the coordination between midfield and defense, so that there are not too big gaps. If this succeeds, pressing could develop into one of the greatest strengths.