Bayern's midfield looked too compact and congested in the first half
On paper, it may be quite the luxury for Jupp Heynckes to have so many central midfielders to choose from, but Bayern's lack of a wide attakcing threat in the first half against Borussia Monchengladbach was painfully noticeable. With Javi Martinez starting in his preferred defensive midfield role, Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rudy, and Corentin Tolisso were deployed just in front of him in the center of midfield. Without Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben available, Heynckes' only real wide attacking options were James Rodriguez and Kingsley Coman.
The midfield pivots between Tolisso, Rudy, and Vidal have shown signs of promise on a number of occasions this season, but in the first half today, they looked flat and struggled to cope with the pace of Lars Stindl, Thorgan Hazard, and Raffael when 'Gladbach launced their counter attacks. At times, it looked like Vidal, Tolisso, and Rudy didn't know who should do what when 'Gladbach were coming forward and utilizing the flanks.
Jupp's forced substitutions made a big difference
After Heynckes was forced to bring on Kingsley Coman just before halftime and Marco Friedl at the break, Bayern looked a completely different side, posing far more of an attacking threat. James Rodriguez and Juan Bernat were both brought off for respective injury problems; Bernat suffered a muscular problem in his thigh, while James suffered a possible concussion as a result of his collision with 'Gladbach's Tony Jantschke.
Coman made an immediate impact in Bayern's attack, prompting Dieter Hecking to bring on Fabian Johnson to help cope with Coman's blistering pace. Coman, though, proved to be quite the handful for Johnson and was the chief architect of a reinvigorated Bayern side going forward. He was almost rewarded for his positive attacking prowess midway through the second half but his low, driven shot struck the woodwork and fell right into the hands of a relieved Yann Sommer.
Friedl, who had a relatively decent outing against Anderlecht in the midweek Champions League, looked to be the more stable option in the second half after coming on for Bernat. In the first half, Bernat got caught out a handful of times when 'Gladbach would turn attack into defense with pace and he was arguably at fault for reacting too slow to try and close down a wide open Matthias Ginter at the far post.
Lewandowski looked less isolated with Wriedt on the pitch
Robert Lewandwoski spent the majority of the first half completely isolated and forced to check back rather deep to receive possession of the ball, mostly with his back to goal; not exactly where he's at his best. When Kwasi Okyere Wriedt came on, it gave 'Gladbach's back line another body to worry about, freeing up some space for Lewandowski. His frustration, particulalry in the first half, was clearly evident and he spent a lot of time on the ground as a result of getting hounded by double-teams.
Lewandowski’s isolation for most of the match highlighted the need for a quality striking partner/replacement. When Lewandowski has to drop deeper the receive possession, as such was the case versus 'Gladbach, that leaves empty space further forward when Bayern's wide players are looking to provide service into the penalty area. When Lewandowski is spending the majority of his shift on the ground a few yards away from the center circle, you know that something's not quite right. Credit to 'Gladbach for keeping him quiet for most of the opening 60 minutes or so — other than the back heel attempt before the halftime interval.
Bonus: Vidal's fitness showing improvements
After a frustrating loss, it is quite difficult to focus on the positives, but it was refreshing to see Vidal covering all sorts of ground, especially when Bayern were really chasing the match in the second half. He did exceptionally well to track back and provide cover for either Friedl or Kimmich when they would make forward runs to try and get involved in the attack and he made a handful of significant tackles when Bayern were on their heels in retreat. His sublime volley goal came 15 minutes before the final whistle, though it only proved to be a consolation, it was a justifiable award for his work rate on the pitch.
It really appears as if the stern talking to a few weeks back from Heynckes has gotten Vidal's head back in the right place, at least for now.