Coutinho’s game didn’t go quite as planned
Philippe Coutinho, playing his fourth consecutive start for Bayern, cut a lonesome figure in the center of the pitch, rarely finding space to use his skill and finesse. The Brazilian was often boxed out by Tottenham’s physicality-laden midfield and had to drop back just to receive the ball at times. His issues were exacerbated by the dysfunction behind him — neither Joshua Kimmich nor Corentin Tolisso looked particularly comfortable playing together in Bayern’s double-pivot.
Coutinho’s issues are best illustrated with the help of his touch map. In the first half, a lot of his touches out on the left side of the pitch, away from the central position where he has been thriving as of late:
In the second half, we see a remarkable shift up the field for the Brazilian and more touches near the center. It’s no coincidence that this coincided with Thiago Alcantara’s addition to the lineup:
Philippe Coutinho is a great player, but this wasn’t really a game for him. He didn’t show any of the flair or confidence that he had against Paderborn and Köln, and the “new dimension” he was supposed to bring to the simple simply wasn’t there. Given that these were the games he was brought in to play, Coutinho failed to make a strong case for his inclusion.
Thiago Alcantara is a one-man midfield
It’s official — Bayern Munich don’t have a midfield, they have one Thiago and that’s it. When the team sheet was revealed, everyone was baffled when it showed that the Spaniard had been benched in favor of a dual pivot of Tolisso and Kimmich. There’s a reason why Thiago is usually considered the first name on the team sheet, and it was readily apparent in that first half against Spurs.
Kimmich and Tolisso were woefully unprepared for the trio of Harry Winks, Tanguy Ndombélé, and Moussa Sissoko put out by Pochettino. The duo was ruthlessly bullied in all aspects by the Londoners, and that was the main reason for Tottenham’s strong performance in the first half. Once Thiago came on, things immediately changed for the better. Bayern settled down, began to play around the Spurs’ press, and eventually the goals started flowing.
If there was ever any doubt as to how valuable Thiago is to this team, let this game serve as a reminder. Only Robert Lewandowski can claim to be more important than the Spaniard, and even then it’s pretty close.
No seriously, who the hell is Leroy Sane? Did he ever score FOUR goals against Tottenham Hotspur? I don’t think so.
Once Thiago came on and stabilized things, Serge Gnabry had a field day with the Spurs’ defense. Serge Aurier will spend many a night battling nightmares of Gnabry dribbling past him to score a goal — it was carnage out there.
It was a rather amusing outing for a player once considered not good enough for West Brom.