Player of the month of November: Manuel Neuer
At the moment it often feels as if the Bayern team is on its last legs. Nevertheless, the positive balance for November reads four victories, one draw, no defeats. The fact that the team still leads the Bundesliga table and has already secured first place in their Champions League group is largely due to Manuel Neuer. Week after week, Bayern’s captain proves why he is still the best goalkeeper in the world, as the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) has just confirmed. It is already the fifth time that Neuer has received this award. Only Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon managed to do the same before him.
“I always do what I can,” Neuer succinctly stated after his outstanding match against RB Salzburg on 25 November, when he brought his opponents to despair time and again with his brilliant saves. Fortunately, Neuer can do quite a lot, and when the 34-year-old is in top form, having him in your team is almost tantamount to a distortion of the competition.
Already in the first leg in the group phase of the Champions League on 3 November, Bayern struggled against RB Salzburg, although they won the game 2-6. It was only after Jérôme Boateng scored the 2-3 in the 79th minute that Salzburg caved in and conceded three more goals. Before that, Neuer had to come to the rescue several times in moments of great need. In fact, in the end, Bayern hat 21 shots against the 18 of Salzburg, and it was only thanks to Neuer that the Austrians were only able to convert two of them.
Just four days later, Bayern had to travel to Dortmund for the top match, which offered plenty of spectacle and entertainment. Neuer had a decent game, having to make up for the mistakes of those in front of him several times, such as in the 62nd minute, when Giovanni Reyna benefited from a defensive error by Bouna Sarr, nutmegged Boateng and thus had a clean run on Neuer’s goal. A few minutes later, Marco Reus was also denied a goal by the Munich goalkeeper. Bayern eventually won the game 3-2 (but lost Joshua Kimmich in the process).
After the international break, Bayern continued in the Bundesliga with their game against Werder Bremen on 21 November. Here too, the goalkeeper made a big impression in his 400th competitive game for FC Bayern: In the 16th minute Neuer was able to save a double chance by Joshua Sargent and Ludwig Augustinsson. Neuer was powerless against the goal scored by Eggestein, who had overrun Javi Martínez and was not decisively challenged by Leon Goretzka. Shortly before the end of the game, Neuer snuffed out another great opportunity by Sargent and thus saved his team from a defeat.
The second match against RB Salzburg in the Champions League followed on 25 November, which Bayern won 3-1. But glaring mistakes in defense and a number of loose and risky back-passes in midfield put pressure on Neuer time and again – and the goalkeeper showed that he was incredibly alert and focused, in stark contrast to the sluggards ahead of him.
They knew who to thank. Even during the game, Neuer was enthusiastically hugged and applauded by his teammates, and afterwards he received extra praise from Jerome Boateng via social media. Coach Hansi Flick is of course also aware of his captain’s excellent skills and in an interview after the game he said: “I simply think he is in the form of his life.”
At the next Bundesliga match against VfB Stuttgart on 28 November, one moment in particular caused a stir shortly before the half-time break: At the score of 1-1, Neuer miscalculated, lost the ball in his penalty area, and Philipp Förster was able to bring his side in front. But the goal did not count, because Tanguy Coulibaly had touched the keeper slightly on the arm before the ball went in, and Neuer went down a little too easily. Finding of the day? You do not foul a goalkeeper of Manuel Neuer’s standing, and his famous arm waving in complaint is always correct. Bayern won the match 3-1, but Neuer’s slightly overdramatic fall should not diminish his performance throughout November.
After the last Bundesliga match in November, Bayern still occupied first place in the table, but had already conceded 13 goals after nine matchdays. By way of comparison: In the 2015/16 season, for example, FC Bayern only conceded 17 goals over the entire campaign.
This is the goalkeeper’s paradox: If the defense does its job and hardly allows the opposing team to score, a goalkeeper often has little to do. Only when mistakes are made and the danger of scoring arises, does the goalkeeper have the opportunity to excel.
After a long break due to injury in the 2017/18 season, it became clear that even a Manuel Neuer made mistakes and was quite capable of being beaten. Since then, however, he has regained his customary self-confidence which is so familiar from his best years. In combination with his sometimes unbelievable reflexes and crazy parries, such an “aura of invincibility” can sometimes make Neuer look bigger and longer-limbed to players on the opposing team than he actually is.
It is generally known that Neuer is an excellent goalkeeper who likes to join in his team’s outfield play and has a good overview and understanding of the game. In the past month, Neuer kept his cool in most tricky situations and did not let himself be put off by forwards charging down on him, even when his own defenders were still miles away. In one-on-one situations he impressed with good positional play and often ideal positioning in the six yard box. He was powerless in most of the (quite many) goals he conceded.
The only downer for Neuer in November was his 6-0 loss to Spain with the German national team – and that in the very game that made him the sole record national goalkeeper. But, that much is clear, the debacle in the Nations League is certainly not Neuer’s fault. Even the best goalkeeper in the world can do nothing if the men in front of him display a collectively desolate defensive behaviour. FC Bayern, take note.
By the way: Neuer has already kept 195 clean sheets in the Bundesliga, and with his next one he will be on a par with Oliver Kahn. But he has been trying to do that since October. We indignantly raise the Neuer complaint arm!