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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s 2-1 win over Mainz

Bayern Munich extended their streak to three wins on the bounce, but questions still remain.

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Offense remains without an identity

Bayern Munich are a possession-based side and have been since the Van Gaal days, but as of late possession has been the only defining factor of their attacking identity. Is Bayern a pressing team who looks to win the ball high up the pitch and strike on the break? Do they prefer a tiki-taka approach? Or do they prefer pumping balls into the box from the flanks? It really isn’t clear.

Although being unpredictable and having a multi-faceted attack is important, Niko Kovac’s men seem more disjointed going forward, relying heavily on the quality of the squad and pumping balls into the box and shots from deep to carry the load. When you have players like Thiago, Robert Lewandowski, Leon Goretzka and two of the best full backs in world soccer at your disposal, relying on quality is not a bad approach, but it can be frustrated against low-block sides as we have seen in the past few months.

With 66% possession to go along with 23 shots and a few poor refereeing decisions that cost them goals in the first half the Bavarian giants were anything but impudent in attack, but they were inefficient. Just over 20% of their shots were on target and the Bayern attack settled for 43% of shots from distance and a reliance on service from the flanks throughout.

Although Kimmich and Alaba are both accomplished at crossing the ball, this approach allowed Mainz to sit deep, block nine shots and clear the balls coming in from the flanks. The sheer volume of opportunities allowed the record champions to make a breakthrough, but this approach will not be well suited against better opponents.

Looking at Bayern’s expected goals from tonight and the last few matches helps to paint the same picture of volume over efficiency. Against Mainz, Bayern met their expected goals projection of 2.06. They did not under-perform per se, but one would expect a higher xg considering their dominant statistical performance. Against AEK Athens in the Champions League Bayern had an xg of 2.0 and scored two from 19 total shots.

These performances coupled with failing to meet their expected goals projection against Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin and Augsburg paint a stark picture in regards to the state of the attack. Die Roten’s quality is undeniable and places them in the top five teams in world football, it is about time their talents were maximized.

At the end of the day, Kimmich’s cross was a beauty and Goretzka finished it off with poise. The second goal to finish off the game came from aggressive pressing from Renato Sanches who continues to make the case for more minutes, and a sublime ball from Lewandowski. Bayern are quality and quality reigns supreme. Add an offensive identity though and they can maximize their offensive efficiency.

Defensive lapses are becoming the norm

It has gotten to the point where defensive mistakes have become the norm. Bayern Munich’s back line is among the best in the game, but mental lapses and vulnerability to counterattacks is inexcusable.

Mainz’s goal that made the game much more uncomfortable than it ever needed to be came most obviously from Kimmich letting Jean-Paul Boëtius come across his face and get onto the end of a well hit cross. It also came from laziness on the left flank which allowed Brosinski to receive the ball off of a simple one-two from a throw in and put in an uncontested ball. Both David Alaba and Thiago followed Brosinski’s throw leaving him wide open on the left flank. Manuel Neuer’s visible frustration after the goal could have been directed at any of his defenders and midfielders who preferred a stationary approach to defending.

The goal was not a piece of counterattacking art, or an incredible individual effort, it was avoidable just like so many others this campaign. Statistically, Bayern’s opponents in each of their losses have substantially outperformed their xg projections, which would indicate that their opponents did not create a wealth of quality opportunities, but capitalized on sub par chances. This squad is too talented for this to continue.

A win is a win

A win is a win. Borussia Dortmund dropped points in a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin and Bayern currently sit in second place just two points behind the Black and Yellows. With Der Klassiker looming on the horizon, closing the gap is of paramount importance.

Three wins on the bounce also shows a resiliency among this Bayern squad following a run of form that saw them subjected to relentless criticism. Despite shortcomings in squad planning and a lack of identity, they are good enough to right this ship and get back on the right track. Winning builds confidence and confidence improves play. The title race is in full effect. This is going to be a fun ride.

(All statistics via Whoscored and Understat)

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