Gnabry at the double: three takeaways from FC Bayern v Werder Bremen

It was tense. It was tighter than it should have been. There was yet another injury. There were more defensive wobbles. But in the end, FC Bayern München did what they needed to do.

In more recent meetings with Werder Bremen, Die Roten have made it a habit of scoring tons of goals. This was a much tighter affair, with a brace from Serge Gnabry proving to be the difference between the two sides.

FCB v SVW

1. Gnabry the master

Playing against his former team, Bayern’s summer arrival finally looked like the complete package. After a number of hit and miss showings out on the wing, coach Niko Kovač shifted the number 22 to a more central role, giving him licence to roam behind and in support of Robert Lewandowski.

Having been repurposed as more of a finisher than a supplier, Gnabry showed just what he is capable of, and what we might have been missing up to now – which was just as well, given that Lewy had another quiet game.

The 23-year-old’s first goal came with just 20 minutes on the clock, where he found the back of the net at the second time of asking after forcing a sharp save from Bremen keeper Jiří Pavlenka. His second was a typical poacher’s effort, as he got on the end of Thomas Müller’s slightly deflected cutback.

Niko Kovač has been criticised for his team selections and tactical choices, but in shifting Gnabry away from the flank he clearly made the right call. The next step is to build on this. Gnabry has pace and strength, and clearly knows where the goal is.

2. Injuries: the endless trail

The Bavariana have struggled with injuries and illness all season, and right at the start Mats Hummels had already been ruled out with a stomach bug.

In a game where the home side were able to get away with all manner of roughhousing nonsense by the officials, another injury was almost inevitable. This time it was Franck Ribéry, who was forced out after just 38 minutes. The Frenchman’s withdrawal was particularly galling in the light of his excellent performance in midweek against Benfica.

There was, however, a silver lining. Ribéry’s premature exit meant that there was a sooner-than-expected return for his countryman Kingsley Coman, who was on the pitch for the first time since the season opener against Hoffenheim. There were plenty of bright moments for the youngster, and we can only hope that he remains fit for the remainder of the season and beyond.

There was yet more good news with ten minutes remaining, when man of the match Gnabry made way for the returning Thiago Alcântara. With Joshua Kimmich in fine form and Leon Goretzka also starting to find his feet, the Spaniard’s return means that there is a real formidable look about Die Roten’s midfield engine.

It is unclear how long Ribéry will be out for and Arjen Robben is also on the crocked list, but the signs are that things may start to get a little easier for the coach. Might the injury trail be coming to an end?

3. Yet more defensive woes

Bayern have now conceded eighteen goals in their first thirteen Bundesliga matches, and have the leakiest defence of the current top five teams. While many critics have been quick to point fingers at the coach, the harsh reality is that there have been far too many individual errors. Add to this the unpalatable fact that Manuel Neuer has been far from his usual best between the sticks.

No matter what the defensive combination is from match to match, there have been shakes and wobbles. The absence of Hummels meant that there were starts for Jérôme Boateng and Niklas Süle, and once again there it was a moment of poor coordination between the two big centre-backs that allowed Bremen’s Yuya Osako to score a pretty soft goal.

While we can call out Boateng for his mistakes in last week’s debacle against Fortuna Düsseldorf, this time it was a case of take your pick. Boa seemed to leave the ball for Neuer, who was suitably unsure. Süle, meanwhile, played the standing statue role.

Thankfully, this one defensive blunder was not too costly. But it is the sort of thing that no coach can easily fix. It is a problem that will hopefully just go away.

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