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Five observations on Bayern Munich’s devastating 0-3 loss to Paris Saint-Germain

Bayern Munich looked like it was out of its league.

Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League
Money, it’s a gas.
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Flying without wings

The first semi-surprise of Carlo Ancelotti’s lineup today was the absence of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Both of Bayern’s veteran wingers played nearly the full 90 minutes against Wolfsburg on Friday, so it was not entirely shocking that they would be rested against Paris. It is partly recognition of their age, but also partly systemic: Ancelotti wanted the team to attack PSG centrally, relying entirely on David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich for service on the wings. To an extent, the formation worked: several key passes were delivered inside, but few of them led to dangerous chances.

A defense set up to fail

Ancelotti surprised most fans by benching both Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in favor of Javi Martinez and Niklas Süle. Bayern would not have much pace at the bottom of Ancelotti's Christmas tree. David Alaba also started at left-back, celebrating his comeback from injury. It turned out that all three were at fault for PSG’s goals - as they were either out of position or caught flat-footed by PSG’s pace and skill. Javi redeemed himself somewhat by presenting a threat on set-pieces and provoking a world-class save on an improbable volley, but Bayern's defense looked utterly outclassed today when Boateng and Hummels may have stood a chance.

Individual talent beats the system

In many ways, the efforts of both teams reflected a profound contrast of philosophies. Bayern Munich, despite playing behind for nearly the entire match, handily dominated PSG in terms of possession, controlling the ball from around 60% of the time at halftime to upward of 70% by the hour mark. But Bayern’s systematic approach accomplished nothing - Bayern's most dangerous shot was an improbable volley by a center-back, Javi. For PSG, in contrast, flashes of individual talent made all the difference: Neymar and Mbappé above all single-handedly (footedly?) won the game. The result only seems to vindicate PSG's devil-may-care financial approach.

Corners and dribbles

Bayern won 18 corner-kicks tonight, compared to just 1 for PSG. 18 to 1! PSG meanwhile had 12 successful dribbles compared to just 4 for Bayern. These two stats epitomize the game: Bayern followed its well-structured approach, but ultimately failed to break through PSG's defense, winning a bevy of corners instead. PSG took the scenic route, dribbling right around Bayern en route to a 3-0 shutout. The best dribblers? Neymar with 6 (!) and Dani Alves with 3 (and Mbappé with 2). No need to waste time on corners when you can beat a defense and shoot.

Bayern without answers

Ancelotti’s hands were largely tied by his own poor decision to bench both Hummels and Boateng; the defense would not improve. The substitutions he made were theoretically the right choices, but had little impact on the game. Sebastian Rudy and Kingsley Coman came on at halftime for Corentin Tolisso and James Rodriguez. James in particular had contributed almost nothing to Bayern’s offense, while Coman provided both pace and some width on the left flank. Rudy provided a stabilizing presence, in contrast to the more offensively oriented Tolisso, but even he seemed rattled in one-on-one situations with Neymar. At least he came ready to fight. Arjen Robben replaced Thomas Müller (68') but by then it was already too late. He didn’t record a single shot.

The result today is exactly the nightmare that Bayern had hoped to avoid: PSG seem to have vindicated themselves in every conceivable way: money shoots goals, and individual superstars are bigger than any team, especially when you can buy several at a stroke. All of us will now wait to see how this is addressed in the undoubtedly forthcoming statements by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeness, and of course Carlo Ancelotti in the coming hours and days.

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