Bayern Munich's 1-0 victory against 1. FC Köln was not impressive, but none of their road performances have been. What is probably more important is they got three points after a strenuous European week, and they head into the national break with the same margin they have had for the entire month of March. Here are five observations from Bayern's 22nd win of the season:
1. Sebastian Rode does not fit in this team
Rode is definitely the hardest-working player Bayern have, but his movement and style do not fit what Bayern are trying to do. Perhaps in previous years, when Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos were playing in midfield, Rode's willingness and ability to combine and make runs would better suit Bayern's needs. This current squad has a lot of players who create chances with one-on-one situations, and Rode is often waiting to receive the ball rather than getting in a position to score. His movement just isn't right for his teammates, which is why his distance statistics are through the roof but he doesn't receive very many touches.
2. Squad rotation is still an issue for Pep Guardiola
When a squad is as big as the one Bayern has, it is hard for any coach to keep pieces in form and continuity with the squad. Guardiola did what he should have done after an emotional midweek test: give some of his squad players a chance to play. However, since those squad players – namely Rode and Rafinha – have not developed a rapport with the regulars in the squad, Bayern's interplay suffered and did not pick apart Cologne in a way they probably should have. Bayern got the three points, which is what matters most, but Guardiola has still not developed a rotation system in two and a half years at Bayern.
3. Bayern's skill is good, but not at a level that can deceive better teams
Bayern had a lot of success getting into the penalty area based on the individual skill of a lot of players. Juan Bernat was able to easily shake Frederick Sorensen, but that is because Sorensen is a lanky defender who is not very agile. The moves he and Kingsley Coman have are based a lot on their quickness, something the better teams in the Champions League have as well. Bayern have a lot of skill in their squad, but whether that skill can take them to the level they want to be at is still not clear.
4. Thiago is a really good No. 10, but Guardiola wants his wingers to combine
Thiago Alcantara has played deep several times for Bayern, but with Sebastian Rode and Xabi Alonso on the field, he was playing as the No. 10. Robert Lewandowski combines with Thiago better than any other player, and Thiago's navigation of the penalty area remarkable for a midfielder. He was not in central midfield alone though, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman also combining several times. In Guardiola's time at Bayern, he has always wanted his wingers to do more than just isolate themselves on a wing, and having skill players combine tends to lead to someone getting in a good position to score. However, it takes away opportunities for Thiago who needs touches to do what he does best.
5. Bayern's center back pairings is a big burden on their fullbacks
As one would expect, Cologne had a few counterattacks that were pretty effective. Juan Bernat is usually a player who tends to stop them with his ability to catch up with and close down players. He is unable to do that though because David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich need help with their positions. This negates how effective Bernat can be, or replicating some of the performances he had last season. Bayern therefore not only need center backs to return for Alaba and Kimmich's sake, but also for the sake of the edge of their defense.