After the win versus Wolfsburg on Saturday, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the entire Bayern Munich fanbase breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was the club’s first victory since Schalke last month, which tells you what a wretched run of form the team has been through. While the likes of Real Madrid continue to wallow in their misery, a 3-1 away win seems to suggest that Bayern have put their troubles behind them.
Except, the reality isn’t anywhere near as clear-cut. While the Wolfsburg performance was encouraging, we also have to remember that the Wolves are on an awful run of their own — being winless in 5 games before even meeting Bayern. They’re not the kind of team you’d expect the us to have trouble with — it’s just that this current crisis makes any potential opponent a seem like mountain to climb. With that in mind, here are three reasons why Bayern Munich aren’t out of the woods just yet:
#1: The right flank remains an issue, both offensively and defensively
Look, I love Joshua Kimmich as much as the next guy, but even if you leave out the comparisons with Philipp Lahm, the young man leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Now, it’s not all his fault. Kimmich has played non-stop since the world cup, without missing a single minute for Bayern or Germany. I don’t care how much stamina he might have, that kind of mileage starts to affect a player — both physically and mentally.
There are moments when Kimmich is slow to react, when he zones out or gets caught out of position. Owing to Bayern’s dominance of the possession, such moments were few and far between yesterday, but they do happen. Kimmich isn’t a super-fast runner or a physical beast, so he relies on his positional sense, vision, and anticipation when defending. Right now, those skills are failing him, and it’s costing Bayern. Kimmich needs a rest soon, but can Kovac afford to give it to him?
Of course, the problems with the right flank aren’t purely defensive, they’re offensive too. Arjen Robben is less than a shadow of the man he once was, and unlike Franck Ribery he doesn’t have the support of David Alaba to paper over the cracks. Robben’s disdain for passing the ball is well documented — but these days he can’t even get the shot off before a defender steals it off him. Everything about his game has just slowed down — whether it be the physical aspect or the mental one — to the point where defenders just aren’t afraid of facing him.
Bayern’s issues on the wing are a key reason why this team remains in a tough position. At this point, I think that even Thomas Muller would be an improvement there.
#2: What will this team do without James Rodriguez and Serge Gnabry?
While it was a game against Wolfsburg — and therefore the Robert Lewandowski show — James Rodriguez and Serge Gnabry had their own parts to play in the Bavarian attack. While Gnabry didn’t score and his final ball was sometimes disappointing (to be expected of a young player) his mere presence unsettled the Wolfsburg backline to the point where it became relatively easy to score. James meanwhile did James-esque things, I don’t need to go over it here.
The problem is this — Serge Gnabry is injury prone, and he played for Germany as well. He will need a rest soon, but he has no real backup on this squad. The same thing goes for James — the man played both international games against Colombia, and he also experienced the most travel-time out of any of our squad members. Niko Kovac can’t rely on these guys to play every three days indefinitely, otherwise he runs the risk of causing injuries. When they’re inevitably rested, what are we going to do?
#3: Small errors refuse to go away
While Bayern Munich did win the game in the end, the victory was far from comfortable. Wolfsburg had their moments, and were aided by errors (both forced and unforced) from the men in red. The was a moment in the first half where Maxi Arnold just dribbled past Javi Martinez like he wasn’t there, and none of the midfielders were in a position to help him. Both Thiago and James (mainly Thiago) were occasionally dispossessed due to an over-ambitious pass, leading to a Wolfsburg counter. There was a time when Niklas Sule tried some kind of backheel pass near the goal and almost got punished for it.
These things are not new — they happen all the time with Bayern Munich. However, against better opposition, errors such things will be punished more often than not. With fixtures only getting tougher from here on out, Niko Kovac has his work cut out for him. He needs to iron out these bumps in our game. If not, then Bayern Munich’s crisis will inevitably return.