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Five observations from Bayern Munich’s 3-0 masterclass against Eintracht Frankfurt

Dark arts, stoic defending, and counterattacking goals. Niko Kovac’s old side got a taste of the Kovac effect.

Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP / Getty Images

Cometh the hour, cometh the man

Franck Ribery may be 35 years old, a little bit slow, and nowhere near as sharp as he used to be, but he’s still a Bayern Munich legend. Against Frankfurt, he reminded us why. Following up on a match-winning performance against RB Leipzig, the Frenchman turned back the clock to put in a scintillating performance that the Eagles won’t forget any time soon.

When Ribery got the ball, it seemed glued to his feet. The man was dribbling like it was 2013, and Frankfurt had to double and triple team him just to keep it from getting ugly. David Alaba, as always, provided excellent support to his partner in crime, and together the two terrorized Frankfurt’s right flank.

Ribery took a few hard knocks throughout the game, but he battled through the pain and brought home victory. Our youngsters should take notes, because these are the performances expected of a Bayern Munich man.

Niko Kovac’s tactics neutralize Frankfurt’s offense

Coming into the game, a major part of the narrative was about how Bayern would contain the free-scoring duo of Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller. In the end, the process turned out easier than anyone could have anticipated.

Niklas Sule was the rock in the center of the defense, showing excellent anticipation and mobility to keep Haller’s runs in check. The rest of the defenders worked around him, keeping Frankfurt from targeting Sule with 2v1 situations and overloads. This allowed Sule to focus his attention on tracking runners and intercepting the ball, which he did without a hitch.

Special mention should go to David Alaba, who was excellent defensively once again. His flank was a battleground for most of the game, and to the Austrian’s credit, Frankfurt couldn’t create a single good chance from that side. In fact, Frankfurt’s chance-creation was quite poor.

The stats sheet will say that Frankfurt managed 1.10 xG to Bayern’s 2.05, but that’s misleading. As a testament to Bayern’s defensively ability, Frankfurt’s best chance from open play got an xG of 0.14. Bayern allowed Frankfurt to take low quality shots that were never going to go in. In comparison, Bayern’s best shots (from open play) had 0.53, 0.58, and 0.45 xG respectively.

The game wasn’t even close.

Masters of game management

After the 3-3 debacle against Ajax, it seems that Bayern Munich have finally learned the wondrous art of game management. Once the team went 1-0 up, great pains were taken to slow the game down and retain possession, something that the Bavarians failed to do against Ajax.

When the ball rolled toward Manuel Neuer, instead of blasting it out immediately, he waited and picked it up as a Frankfurt player closed in, wasting precious seconds. Rafinha feigned injury once, completely disrupting the rhythm of Frankfurt’s game. When Ribery went up to take on defenders, Alaba was always there to mop up if the Frenchman got dispossessed, preventing needless counterattacks.

The performance is a upgrade to what we saw against RB Leipizg, and it’s wonderful to see Bayern actually learning from their mistakes this season. Apart from one or two nervy moments, Bayern had Frankfurt under control for the whole game. However, it was a far cry from the cruise control era of the Pep Guardiola days — this Bayern control was an active, gritty performance that required peak concentration from everyone involved.

Hopefully, Bayern can replicate these games as the season wears on.

Thomas Muller must be the unluckiest man in the world

What does Thomas Muller need to do to buy a goal? What god does he have to make a sacrifice to? For all his excellent performances this season, Muller has been denied again and again by tremendously lucky blocks and saves from opposition defenders and keepers.

He could’ve had a brace on the night, but his first attempt was a point-blank header that Kevin Trapp miraculously saved, and his second attempt hit the crossbar. These indicents are what keep Thomas Muller’s stat sheet relatively empty, leading to people underrating his contribution.

At least the man got an “assist” for Rafinha’s goal, and while the stats may not show it, he was instrumental in the buildup to Ribery’s opener. Hopefully 2019 brings the Raumdeuter more luck.

Bayern Munich’s injury crisis threatens to overwhelm

If there was ever an argument against making winter transfers, one look at our bench for this game should render it pointless. It’s good that the Bundesliga doesn’t do Christmas games like the Premier League, because Bayern’s players probably wouldn’t survive.

Now with six injured players, the club’s management need to be looking at reinforcements for the winter. This team is good, the tactics are good, and there’s finally self-belief in the squad. However, with Liverpool looming over the horizon, Bayern cannot continue living on the edge like it has been this Hinrunde. Let’s not allow injuries to derail another potentially good season.

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