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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s incredible 3-3 draw to Ajax

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Trying to process that match is almost impossible. What the hell did we witness?

Ajax v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Group E Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Kovac’s gameplan failed spectacularly

Niko Kovac clearly set up with the plan to just let Ajax have the possession, and then counter — which worked great, for about one half. Then, in the second half, Bayern Munich seemed to forget that part of the plan was to counter Ajax’s mistakes, and they just let the Dutch swarm over them like locusts. The beginning of the second half up until the first red was like watching a small animal go through a meat grinder.

Bayern looked completely pathetic in the clutches of Ajax’s possession. Stringing more than two passes together seemed impossible. There was no way to break through, and Kovac’s decision to sub Gnabry for Thiago only exacerbated the problems. A more experienced team like Manchester City probably would have put the team to the sword then and there.

Yet Bayern still could have won

While the main story will be the draw and how Bayern put in a poor performance once again, what must not be forgotten is that, especially in the first half, Bayern really did create several quality chances. Serge Gnabry squandered two of them by shooting at the keeper, while Robert Lewandowski had an easy tap-in saved by the goalkeeper.

Franck Ribery had his own chance that he blew by taking one touch too many, and later Robert Lewandowski had a shot blocked by de Ligt. Finally, you have the incredible save from Andre Onana to deny Lewandowski a goal from a header. It’s a strange situation — on the one hand, you have a stunningly poor performance. On the other, you have chances that could have won you the game comfortably.

Is that enough to build upon? It’s impossible to say, because of one simple reason.

The problems are the same

Bayern Munich are being plagued by defensive blunders, and they’re just not going away. There’s a problem with the team’s mindset when it comes to closing out games. When leading in the 95th minute against an aggressive opponent that can punish us at a moment’s notice, Bayern still choose to dribble up the field and try risky passes that might lose possession.

Basic game-management is what’s lacking. If you need to hold a one-goal lead in the dying minutes of the game, you DON’T go up and start attacking the opposition. You slow the game down, make a few backpasses, maybe try to take the ball into the corner and run down the clock.

It may not be pretty, but it’s pragmatic, and a hint of pragmatism is what’s been missing from Bayern all season. It could have saved the team some points against Augsburg, Freiburg, and Dusseldorf, but it seems like more points have to be dropped before we knowledge it as a problem.