Whose heir is Kingsley Coman, Robben's or perhaps Ribery's?
We’ve become used to seeing Douglas Costa play in Ribery’s position on the left wing when the Frenchman is resting, but today, with Robben on the bench, Costa switched to the right. That gave Kingsley Coman an uncommon chance to boss the left together with Juan Bernat at left back. Coman put in an outstanding performance and thoroughly outpaced and outdribbled Leverkusen’s defense. For long stretches of the game, it was Coman who created Bayern's best chances from the left, consistently beating the odds to provide key passes for Müller, Thiago, or Vidal - if only they could have finished. With questions being asked about Douglas Costa's future with the club, Coman seems perfectly suited to stepping in. He presents the same high-level of energy, but none of the ego.
The worst shots were those not taken
Bayern completely choked today on offense. It happens: crosses drop in slightly ahead or behind, long balls are intercepted, shots are blocked or missed. Philipp Lahm had the game-winner on his foot and swept it just past the far post. Soccer is a weighted game of chance, and sometimes you lose. What truly hurt Bayern today - even with 21 total shots! - were the shots not taken. Some blame, of course, falls on our would-be striker, Thomas Müller, who truly seems to be in the midst of a scoring crisis of confidence. Even when he found himself one on one with Leno, Müller could not pull the trigger, but inopportunely looked to pass. Müller is not the only one to blame, though: none of Bayern's attackers took more than two shots, with the exception of trigger-happy Vidal (4). The gap was filled by Bayern's defenders. That odd distribution of 21 shots reflects Leverkusen's organization and solid offense, but it also reflects a lack of creative vision in the midfield and finishing up front.
Juan Bernat and Rafinha put on a show
We remind ourselves again and again that Bayern's bench players would be starters almost anywhere else. The performance given by Juan Bernat and Rafinha today lends truth to that boast. Giving valuable rest to Philipp Lahm and allowing David Alaba to play center-back in the absence of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, Rafinha and Bernat were equally brilliant, while playing distinct roles: Bernat far more aggressive up front, Rafinha far more defensive falling back. Bernat consistently pressed forward in the wake left by Kinglsey Coman, playing the Alaba to Coman's Ribery. Both Bernat and Coman registered game-high four dribbles for their efforts. Rafinha, in contrast, was stalwart on the right, warding off Bayer's dangerous right-side duo in Kevin Volland and Julian Brandt - and logging a game-high 8 tackles in the process (next highest: Kimmich with 5). With Bernat and Rafinha bringing their A-game, Bayern's sleepy center-backs - Alaba and Martínez - were covered.
Lackadaisical but lucky
Bayern's central defense and midfield - and Manuel Neuer in particular - at times seemed downright careless and asleep at the wheel. Passes fired straight at Leverkusen's attackers, poor clearances, misplayed through balls and the list goes on. Vidal in particular had a poor day at the office, setting up several counterattacks with sloppy passes on his way to an 86% success rate from (relatively) defensive midfield. Manuel Neuer takes the cake though. At one point he threw the ball right to Karim Bellarabi who inexplicably - and fortunately for Bayern - wasted no time in blasting it far off target into the seats. While Bayern's second-choice players seemed to give it their all, the regulars often put in no more than a half-hearted effort, grinding out a result marginally better than a loss. That mentality, while understandable, is nonetheless dangerous: with slightly better finishing from Leverkusen, Bayern would have been punished with a loss.
Bayern a headless monster without Robert Lewandowski
No one doubts the importance of Robert Lewandowski as Bayern's goal-scoring totem. But he is not just the brawn of Bayern's offense. He is also the brains. With Lewandowski sidelined a second time for collecting his fifth yellow card, Bayern's offense seemed directionless, and even creative players like Thiago seemed unable to find the right timing and space to break through Leverkusen's defense. There was a palpable lack of threat and coordination between Bayern's attackers with Lewandowski off the pitch. That enabled Leverkusen to stifle them individually, even after going a man down. Having an irreplaceably good striker is a fine dilemma to have, but thrusting a struggling Thomas Müller into his place is a poor plan B. Bayern absolutely must find or develop a talented young backup willing to come off the bench in games like these. The drop-off without Lewandowski right now is too steep.