#1: Squad depth is such a wonderful thing
Looking at the scoreline, you wouldn’t guess that Bayern Munich just played a game with seven starters unavailable. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara were ruled out of the game due to (hopefully) minor injuries, while Jerome Boateng and David Alaba were ruled unfit to start. Meanwhile, Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribery, and Thomas Muller continue to work on their comebacks.
The Bavarians’ quality depth shone on the night as the likes of Juan Bernat, Rafinha, and Niklas Sule stepped up to take the place of injured or rested counterparts. Bernat racked up a solid display on the left wing (not his natural position, he’s a fullback) and Rafinha put in a solid shift covering for him on the flank. Niklas Sule continues to show why he is one of the highest rated young defenders in the world with another calm and composed performance in central defence. Meanwhile, standing in for the injured Manuel Neuer, Sven Ulreich had a confident display in goal, making two saves off free kicks and picking up a deserved clean sheet.
It is performances like these that are needed if Bayern Munich want to challenge for all three trophies this season.
#2: Jupp Heynckes shook up the midfield, and it worked
When the lineups came out, it looked like Jupp Heycnkes had opted for his usual 4-2-3-1, with a two man midfield consisting of Arturo Vidal and Javi Martinez with James Rodriguez as the number ten. Before the game, it seemed like a rather risky move to put Vidal in the dual pivot, considering the fact that he has struggled to put in disciplined performances Heynckes took over.
However, Jupp clearly clearly recognized the issue with a Thiago-less midfield and took steps to rectify it. Instead of playing Vidal as part of the pivot, he sent the Chilean further forward as the #10, dropping James deep to act as a deep lying playmaker. It achieved incredible results. Arturo Vidal was back to his usual best, putting in a lung-busting box-to-box performance and ending the game with one goal, one assist, and an unlucky hit on the crossbar.
James meanwhile, to his immense credit, worked hard to make the most of the unfamiliar role assigned to him by the coach. The Colombian picked out killer passes and spread the play well from the back, dictating the tempo and getting back to defend when his team needed it to. It wasn’t a glamorous performance like we are used to seeing from James, but it was an important one. With this game, James has proven his versatility and ability to play different roles in Bayern’s midfield and attack. With good games at left wing, attacking midfield, and central midfield under his belt, the Colombian has put his name in serious contention for a starting spot at his new club.
#3: Bayern look like a threat on set pieces again
Maybe its because of James Rodriguez’s sublime deliveries or Niklas Sule’s titanic frame, but Bayern Munich seem to love set pieces these days. While they didn’t score directly from one this time, the first Vidal goal was an indirect result of a free kick won by Arjen Robben. James’ subsequent delivery created chaos in the Augsburg box, giving the Chilean a opportunity to open the scoring. Vidal himself won headers all match long, demonstrating an uncanny ability to leap several feet into the air no matter what. Every single corner felt like a scoring opportunity for the Bavarians, with both Sule and Mats Hummels missing free headers that could’ve made the scoreline 5-0. This makes for a refreshing change from the last four years, where set pieces were one of Bayern’s main weaknesses.
All in all, it was an assured performance from the German champions. With a six point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, the Bavarians head into the midweek clash with Anderlecht brimming with confidence.