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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s comfortable 2-0 victory over AEK Athens

Well, that was easy.

Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

James Rodriguez wasn’t his usual self

It seems that fatigue may be getting to Bayern Munich’s Colombian superstar. While James’ performance certainly couldn’t be called “bad” by any stretch of the imagination, he did demonstrate an uncharacteristic lack of polish against AEK. Deployed in his preferred position at attacking midfield, supported by a dual pivot of Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez, all the ingredients were there to produce another James masterclass, like the one we saw against Wolfsburg on Saturday.

However, the Colombian was less than perfect with his passing, and his crosses, which are usually deadly accurate, rarely got near the waiting head of Robert Lewandowski in the box. Overall, his play was slower and less-crisp than what we’re used to, so he really didn’t help Bayern make the most of their chances in a barren first half. Having played regular football for over three weeks now without a rest, it would make sense for Niko Kovac to rotate James out of the lineup against Mainz.

Serge Gnabry is delightful but frustrating in equal amounts

Oh Gnabry, where to begin? His dribbles are delightful, his pace his electrifying, but his final ball makes me want to rip my hair out. The young man has talent, there’s no doubt about that, but we need to see it converted into an end-product. Gnabry has only 1 assist and zero goals this season, and it’s not for a lack of trying.

How many more times will he beat the defender or get into a good position, only to flub the final pass to his teammate? It’s similar to what Kingsley Coman used to be like, before Jupp Heynckes told him to slow it down a notch. His decision-making improved almost immediately. Maybe Serge Gnabry needs to do the same.

Has Niko Kovac found his go-to lineup?

The lineup we saw against AEK was literally the exact same one fielded against Wolfsburg, with the exception of Rafinha filling in for an injured David Alaba. Is Kovac still experimenting, or is this the lineup we should expect from now on? Certainly, there are some pretty big omissions from the current team sheet, chief among them being Thomas Muller, who was benched for the second game in a row.

Is this just temporary, as the club waits for the return of the injured Kingsley Coman? Or will Coman just slot into the lineup — probably in the place of Arjen Robben — and the team will continue to play as-is? Well, only time will tell, but if this is Kovac’s so-called Champagne XI, then there’s a chance it could ruffle some feathers in the Bayern dressing room.

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