Bayern Munich struggled mightily in the first half behind some tough defending from Augsburg, but they came roaring into the game in the second half. An early second half goal from Serge Gnabry gave Bayern the lead and they proceeded to bury Augsburg in shots. Sadly, they were unable to decisively put the game to bed, leaving the door open for a stoppage time equalizer after Lucas Hernandez slipped during a challenge deep in the Bayern half of the field.
Serge Gnabry further proves he deserves the title “world class”
Niko Kovac effusively praised Serge Gnabry ahead of this tie against as a world class player. Gnabry repaid that statement with a performance to match, notching an assist on a difficult and perfectly placed cross before adding a goal and striking the woodwork with cut ins that would make Arjen Robben blush with pride.
For swathes of this match, Gnabry was all that Bayern Munich had working and it belies Kovac’s praise and trust prior to the match.
Invisibility, a rose by any other name would be Philippe Coutinho
For all the hubbub that has surrounded Niko Kovac over the years as a good team manager and getting his players to work as a team, it’s telling that in this match Bayern Munich only built up play as far Philippe Coutinho took them. Through the first 45 minutes Bayern was anemic and slow. Their buildup play was suspect and they had no control over the midfield despite the possession superiority.
For Coutinho, he only registered a handful of touches and almost none within 30 yards of goal. This is equal testament to the lack of support he received as well as the quality of the man marking performed by Augsburg’s defense.
In the second half, Coutinho turned on the jets. Kovac pushed the holding midfield pair of Thiago and Javi Martinez into late runs, an indicator of how much this team needs Leon Goretzka healthy. This allowed Bayern to disrupt the staunch Ausgburg defense and allowed Coutinho to get on the ball in dangerous areas with space to operate. This decisively changed the degree to which Bayern controlled the match and the plethora of shots they found.
Defensive Cohesion Matters
Niko Kovac is very fond of rotating his defense. It’s almost Guardiola-esque in it’s pervasiveness and it’s easy to see why. Modifying defenses allows coaches to bring very different offensive skillsets to the table for breaking down specific opponent’s defenses. It’s long been of of Bayern Munich’s biggest advantages but there is such a thing as too much rotation. Giving up a goal within 30 seconds of the match start highlights this.
The opener from Ausgburg’s Marco Richter came from a simple throw-in and mass confusion from Bayern’s defense as to who was positioned where, which runners were marked, and what the clearance plan was. An experienced defensive unit knows how to solve this. One that was assembled to capitalize on a single game does not.