Jersey Swap: Gladbach’s Defensive line
Bayern were unable to penetrate the Gladbach defense all game long and couldn’t create any real, notable chances, in large part due to their back line. Coming into the game, it looked as though Bayern were trying to overload the middle and get numbers in front of the Gladbach box. Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka, when in possession, played almost at the height of Robert Lewandowski at the edge of the box to and attempted to convert passes from the likes of Thiago and Mats Hummers into dangerous chances. Whether this was the right tactic is a discussion best served for a different article, but nonetheless, Gladbach did well to stifle Bayern’s attempts to create chances through the middle.
When Bayern moved the balls to the wings to try and create chances through crosses, Gladbach’s defensive line did well to clear everything that came flying their way. Crosses, though usually lacking in accuracy, were still diverted away by the visitor’s back line, and they remained mistake free for the entirety of the match.
Tip of the Cap: Franck Ribery
Ribery took the place of Thomas Müller at the half and brought a little more pace and activity into the game. Müller really didn’t do much of anything in the first half, and his touch let him down a number of times while trying to keep offensive movements going. While Müller was deployed in his favorite position behind the strikers today, him and Goretzka playing essentially the same position really hindered both of them, and the overcrowded nature of Bayern’s attack really did him no favors.
Ribery was able to put pressure on Gladbach’s defense in a way James Rodriguez wasn’t able to in the first half, and it allowed James to occupy a more central position, one he drifted to anyway, even while playing out on the wing.
Golf Clap: Thiago
While most will remember Thiago’s performance today for the error he made leading to the first goal, he did put in an otherwise solid shift as a number 6. He had the thankless job of playing as Bayern’s lone midfielder at times with how high Leon Goretzka and Thomas Müller were deployed in the first half, and he did it well. His passing was crisp, and his first touches into space to beat oncoming defenders are always a sight to behold. Like always, he did well recycling possession, keeping the ball moving, and getting Bayern into the final third.
Standing Ovation: Serge Gnabry
Gnabry was introduced at half time and took Arjen Robben’s spot out on the left wing. The pace and creativity he brought on the ball added a level of danger to the attack that was missing when Robben was on the pitch. While his end product was off on the day, he got himself into numerous dangerous positions to either get off a shot on goal or pick someone out with a cross. At this point, with Bayern looking so void of ideas in the final third, they need individual class to get into goal scoring situations, and Gnabry is one of the few individuals capable on the team capable of making a man miss or beat a defender near the penalty area. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be starting against Wolfsburg in Bayern’s first game after the international break.
Meister of the Match: Renato Sanches
The introduction of Renato Sanches changed the way Bayern moved the ball through midfield. It gave Thiago a partner in the center of the field that he had been lacking throughout the game. Thiago - as well as the fullbacks - had been struggling to advance the ball forward, especially in the first half due to the advanced positions of Leon Goretzka and Thomas Müller. Too often when the ball was moved out to the wing, the only viable passing options all involved the ball eventually finding it’s way back to the center backs as there was a gigantic hole in midfield being filled by neither of the two attacking midfielders. Unfortunately, Thiago can only do so much.
Bringing Sanches on gave Bayern another presence in the midfield, and he made Thiago’s job much easier. Bayern had numbers in the midfield again. His ability to dribble past defenders was also a welcomed addition to the game, and a nice run late in the second half almost led to a great opportunity, though miscommunication between Robert Lewandowski and Sanches led to a turnover in the Gladbach 18-yard box.