This ended up being a double-edged sword for Bayern. At the end of the first half, Niko Kovac’s men were able to spring forward after a Hoffenheim corner and find Leon Goretzka in the box for his second goal. This kind of attack is definitely not what Bayern is known for. Instead of the usual working of the ball from side to side for what seems like an eternity in hope of an opening, the players went directly down the field and took what they wanted. It looks as if the team is turning a corner from their old tactics and getting behind Niko Kovac and his philosophies. Unfortunately, after a sluggish start to the second half, Hoffenheim came out and gave Bayern a taste of their own medicine. Rather than keeping their foot on the gas, the Bavarians allowed the opposition to get back into the game. That cutting of the lead was a reminder that the team must cut out all complacency if they want any chance of catching up to Dortmund at the top of the table.
Rejuvenation of creativity and energy
Getting a win in their first game back has to be a huge confidence boost in the Bayern camp. After starting the Bundesliga campaign the way they did (always looking a step slow and out of sync), it was critical that the same thing didn’t happen coming out of the winter break. It actually looks as though this break did the team a great amount of good. It supplied the players with a chance not only to regain some energy but also to focus on what needed improving. With this new found confidence, it was evident early on that Bayern smelt blood in the water. Just consider Joshua Kimmich’s 58 touches in the first half, many of them while he was going right at other players. That’s confidence. Too often Bayern have found themselves being too dependent on one particular person for inspiration in attack. More often than not, that man has been Thiago, but as evidenced by this game, Bayern were able to create threats from every single player out on the field: Alaba with pinpoint crosses; Coman with his burning speed; Müller with his Raumdeuter instincts; and of course Goretzka with his two finishes. All of these potential focal points of attacks is what can make Bayern unpredictable, unguardable, and potentially unbeatable.
When it was reported that Niko Kovac spent the majority of the training camp in Doha working on defensive tactics, I was skeptical. I preemptively thought that what Bayern needed was a better strategy going forward in the final third. As it turns out, I was wrong. The quality in attack has been there, but it’s been overshadowed by defensive lapses that have struck way too often. A major point that I’d imagine Kovac addressed during the break was crosses. How many times would Bayern be doing well only to switch off for a split second in the final minutes of the game and allow a man to slip behind unmarked to finish a cross? Well, for this game the answer is zero. Javi Martinez, Niklas Süle, and Mats Hummels were all successful at one point or another in getting rid of the danger that was coming from out wide and heading toward the center. As of right now, Kovac has dealt with one of the main problems facing his club. If it holds up, he deserves credit for fixing what was a leaky defense and turning it back into a formidable, protective unit.
Look out, Borussia Dortmund. The record champions are just getting back on track.