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Six Observations from Bayern Munich’s dominating 3-1 win over Leverkusen

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After a slow start, the Bavarian giants flexed their muscles putting on a dominant display en route to a victory over a talented Bayer Leverkusen side.

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Corentin Tolisso (R) of FC Bayern Muenchen celebrates his first goal with teammate Thomas Mueller during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Corentin Tolisso (R) of FC Bayern Muenchen celebrates his first goal with teammate Thomas Mueller during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
(Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern)

Serge Gnabry has much more to offer

In what was Gnabry’s first Bundesliga start for the Bavarian giants, an exciting day yielded an underwhelming display. The young German has recently returned to the squad after recovering from a thigh injury and a mix of rust and timidity led to a difficult afternoon for the winger. He didn’t necessarily make any glaring mistakes, but he also did not grab the game by the scruff of the neck as he tends to do when he is at his best. In fairness, he has yet to play in a side with this much quality and he may be trying to feel it out. He didn’t exude confidence on the ball and seemed reluctant to attack. Gnabry is at his best when he is aggressive and looking to create. If he hopes to usurp Franck Ribery on the left he needs to get back to trusting his own abilities and take the game to the opposition.

Joshua Kimmich belongs at right back

Despite speculation that Kimmich may move back into the midfield as he did for Germany during the international break, Kimmich lined up at right back and put in his typical, consistent display. He was sound in defense and was constantly a threat moving forward. His overlapping runs helped to free Arjen Robben up and his service was solid per usual. Although some may consider the midfield a more glamorous or even important role, the desire to move Kimmich there is misguided. Fullbacks are arguably the most important position in modern football as they are asked to play as both wingers and defenders. They are expected to both press and create, while any mistake made is punished by the opposition. The young defender is one of the best all-around players in the world and his talents best serve Bayern on defense.

Arjen Robben looked like he was 24 again

Arjen Robben had his best game in a while creating and finishing chances. The Dutchman gave Wendell, who is a solid left back for Bayer Leverkusen, fits all day down the right and he was constantly a threat. The grizzled veteran also helped to lead the charge in the pressing game, which allowed him to fashion a chance for himself, which he masterfully took. Robben also demonstrated a willingness to play his teammates in, as he played a decisive ball to Thiago that led to the third and final goal of the day. The legendary winger seemed to have a fire lit under him today and if he can keep putting in performances like this one, the absence of Kingsley Coman will be easier to stomach.

Thiago might be the best midfielder on the planet

Despite giving up the penalty to Kevin Volland early in the match, Thiago showed why he may be the best midfielder in the game today. As the number six, the Spaniard dictated tempo, squashed counter-attacks, positioned himself perfectly and allowed his center backs to carry the ball forward while also charging ahead with the ball himself on a few occasions. Die Roten’s regista has usurped Javi Martinez in the holding midfield role and his intelligence and technical ability will be vita to Bayern’s success this campaign.

Although Javi finds himself on the outside looking in, he has the opportunity to serve as Niko Kovac’s closer as he did today. When the Bavarians wanted to shut down Die Werkself, Martinez entered the game to provide a little more steel in the midfield. This allowed Thiago to take on a more playmaking role and freed up James to play in a more attacking role. Being able to use him to shut down games gives Bayern a vital option against bigger teams.

Muller and Lewy are a dynamic duo

Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski had a quiet game statistically by their standards, but their role cannot be understated. Both seem to have synced up on the same wave length and their movement and creativity opened spaces for their teammates. Muller’s hold up play and Lewy’s tap to Tolisso set up the first goal, while a Lewandowski dummy set up the Ramdeuter for a long-range effort that was only just denied by Lukáš Hrádecký. These guys will be impossible to stop moving forward, and if, like today, the opposition focuses their attention on the two of them lanes will be opened up for midfielders and wide men alike.

So it begins... injuries will test squad depth

Finally, after a promising start to the season the injury list is growing. With both Corentin Tolisso and Rafinha picking up knocks today, they join Coman on the Bayern Munich injury report. Although our midfield depth is a strength, an injury to Rafinha leaves Kovac with only two pure fullbacks, which is a dangerous place to be. With poor injury records across the pitch, here’s to hoping preseason training prepared them for a physically taxing campaign. For now, we will await the prognosis on the injuries to Tolisso and Rafinha.