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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund

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A good Bayern Munich first half performance was entirely subverted by the tactical acumen of Lucien Favre en route to a 3-2 Der Klassiker loss


DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 10: Paco Alcacer of Borussia Dortmund scores the winning goal to the 3:2 during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Signal Iduna Park on November 10, 2018 in Dortmund, Germany.
DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 10: Paco Alcacer of Borussia Dortmund scores the winning goal to the 3:2 during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Signal Iduna Park on November 10, 2018 in Dortmund, Germany.
Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund/Getty Images

First half, thy name was dominance

Bayern Munich came out of the tunnel on fire. They took this game straight at Borussia Dortmund for the entire first half. Borussia Dortmund had just a single shot during this time— granted it came on a Dortmund 2v0 counterattack that Marco Reus flubbed — and Bayern had them contained. Goretzka and Mueller ate up space in midfield, denied Julian Weigl the opportunity to dictate tempo and pick out his passes, allowing Javi Martinez and the Bayern centerback corps to control transition play and easily win the ball back. While Bayern struggled to get the ball in front of net — we’ll get to that in a little bit — there was nothing Dortmund did that could get them out of their own half.

Favre ruined Bayern Munich’s defense

Coming straight out of the halftime break, Dortmund took the game at Bayern Munich. Favre went to his bench and replaced Weigl with Mahmoud Dahoud. On the surface, this change isn’t large. Both are tactically intelligent players who pass well and control the tempo of the game. But Weigl is the more restrained option, suited to taking a small touch and picking out the brilliant pass, while Dahoud is the dynamic player. Coupled with Witsel, Dortmund’s midfield had a dynamism to it that suddenly Bayern could not match.

Favre doubled down 15 minutes later, adding Paco Alcacer to the mix, and the Bayern defense imploded. Alcacer ran patterns around Hummels and Boateng, testing channels and dragging the Bayern center-backs deeper. Meanwhile Martinez and Goretzka attempted to press and contain the suddenly lithe Dortmund midfield. As a result, the space between Bayern’s lines opened wide, allowing Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho to drive the game down Bayern’s throat.

Niko Kovac was slow to respond, and his solution was to introduce Renato Sanches to the right wing, adding a possession player to slow down the game. Sadly that meant taking one of Bayern’s only transitional offensive weapons off the field.

Bayern Munich need an offensive idea other than give Robert Lewandowski the ball

This was one of the more inspired offensive performances from Bayern Munich in recent memory. That is both good and damning with faint praise. Through Kimmich, Gnabry and Ribery, Bayern were electric down the wings. They attacked well, overlapped into space, and hit the Dortmund fullbacks all evening. Sadly, that was the end of any offensive brilliance. Dortmund’s low block was locked up tight with Manuel Akanji and Dan Axel Zagadou showing themselves more than up to the challenge, gobbling up crosses and passes into the box all night long. Bayern attempted 23 crosses on the night, had zero throughballs, and scored only one goal from an intentional structured attack — Lewadowski’s first.

Bayern had one attacking idea all night, zero creativity in tight spaces, and their Plan B was to add Sandro Wagner to the field and try it some more. That is a very serious problem for this team and one that I don’t know if Niko Kovac is going to be able to solve anytime soon, considering it’s taken them six weeks just to play this well.