September and October are not easy months for a Bayern Munich manager — just ask Carlo Ancelotti. Niko Kovac is heading into the toughest stretch of games that the Hinrunde has to offer. Starting with Bayer Leverkusen on the weekend, the Bavarians will play seven games in 22 days until October 7. With that in mind, why don’t we look back on the games we’ve already played so far, and take note of what’s been learned?
Without further ado, here are three observations from Bayern Munich’s stellar start to the season:
Niko Kovac will not change the way Bayern plays its football
This was confirmed by the man himself pretty early on, but just to reiterate — Niko Kovac isn’t going to rewrite the book here at Bayern. While the preseason had pundits and fans speculating about Kovac switching the Bavarians over to a more counterattack-heavy, less possession-based style, they perhaps forgot about one small detail. People based their assumptions on what Kovac did with Eintracht Frankfurt. However, Bayern Munich is not like Eintracht Frankfurt.
If I had to describe “Kovacball” to you, I’d use the term “Guardiola-esque”. Yes, Niko Kovac’s system most closely resembles the one implemented by Pep Guardiola all those years ago. All the hallmarks are there. The swift passing, the aggressive gegenpressing, inverted wingers, overlapping fullbacks — it’s all there.
However, instead of just cribbing from the Book of Pep, Kovac has made his own adjustments to the tactics. Gone is the suicidal high defensive line, that plagued Bayern for years and years. Gegenpressing is there, but it’s a low-to-medium press, not a high press, making it less vulnerable to counterattack , albeit at the (negligible) cost of allowing opponents more time on the ball.
It hasn’t been a very long time, so Kovac hasn’t had time to perfect his tactics yet, but this current Bayern Munich is playing some of the most solid football we’ve seen since the Hinrunde of 2015.
Thiago Alcantara is going to own that defensive midfield role
Forget Javi Martinez. Forget Sebastian Rudy. Forget everyone else. Thiago Alcantara is Bayern Munich’s defenvie midfielder, and he is here to stay. Playing as the #6 against Stuttgart, our Spanish maestro was so good that he made our opponents look like they were playing without a midfield. Thiago has been unplayable so far this season, and all of his best performances have come from playing in a deeper role. Maybe this is the season that we finally regain the defensive mojo we had in 2013, courtesy of a young Javi Martinez.
Or not. Considering the fact that this is Thiago we’re talking about, maybe another injury is just around the corner. Isn’t it fun being a Bayern Munich fan?
Thomas Muller is back in his old position, and he’s loving every minute
Let’s be clear about this for the millionth time. Thomas Muller is NOT a Bayern quality right winger. It keeps him away from the goal, it isolates Robert Lewandowski, and it puts too much onus on Joshua Kimmich to provide the width. While he’s still a great player on the wing (the numbers back it up), Muller shouldn’t be playing there if other options are available, and Kovac knows it.
Now that he’s back behind the striker, Thomas Muller has been in blistering form this season. Let’s recap:
Game 1: DFL Supercup - 1 assist.
Game 2: DFB Pokal - 1 goal ruled offside.
Game 3: Bundesliga - 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 goal ruled offside.
Game 4: Bundesliga - 1 goal, 1 assist.
Overall, Muller is far more involved in the attack these days, and the scoring statistics reflect that. Maybe this is the year that Muller finally leaves the specter of Ancelotti behind and goes back to being the old Tommy we know and love.
Extra: Miscellaneous observations
Don’t we all love extras? Here are some miscellaneous observations from the start of the season that we couldn’t work into an entire individual section:
- Bundesliga teams have been playing very recklessly against Bayern, and the referees have been letting them. If this doesn’t stop, our entire squad could be out of commission soon.
- David Alaba’s performances seem to have gone unnoticed these past few months. He’s been excellent both offensively and defensively, pretty much like the Alaba we used to know.
- Someday, Serge Gnabry will actually be healthy.
- Leon Goretzka really did click with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in the Stuttgart game. However, while his offense is good, a Bayern Munich midfielder needs to be more disciplined.
- Niklas Sule is playing like a beast. Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels should watch out — they may soon find themselves competing with each other for the remaining center back spot.