If Niko Kovac knew how to use Thomas Müller, he’d still have his job
Let’s get something straight — if you’re a Bayern Munich coach and you’re benching Thomas Müller, then you are doing something wrong. Almost a decade ago, Louis van Gaal said, “Müller always plays,” and every coach at the Säbener Strasse should treat it as an unofficial club motto.
Luckily, Hansi Flick knows the value of der Raumdeuter and once again deployed him at his preferred position behind Robert Lewandowski at second striker. Müller helped Bayern’s offense bypass the BVB midfield, utilizing his clever passing and one-touch layoffs to quickly release Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry on the flanks. In addition, his positional awareness was invaluable as always, as the space-interpreter always seemed to be in the right place to receive passes and draw pressure away from his teammates.
Müller assisted two goals on the night and was heavily involved in the buildup play throughout, but that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Flick has apparently entrusted his vice-captain with a key role in the team’s defensive press, which makes full use of his positioning and stamina.
This is simply an example of good coaching and playing to your player’s strengths. Thomas Müller was invaluable to the Bavarians against Borussia Dortmund, always knowing where he had to be and working tirelessly to make sure his team stayed on the front foot. One has to wonder why Niko Kovac couldn’t see his qualities, given how much time they had to work together.
Hansi Flick’s strange lineups pay off
When Flick first started a back line consisting of Alphonso Davies, David Alaba, Javi Martinez, and Benjamin Pavard, while benching Thiago Alcantara and putting Joshua Kimmich in midfield, people were pretty skeptical. On paper, it seemed like a recipe for disaster, what with all the players playing out of position.
However, Flick proved that he knows what he’s doing, orchestrating two of the most stable defensive performances of this season. Bayern Munich have conceded ZERO shots on target over 180 minutes, an incredible statistic when you remember that they were struggling to even keep a clean sheet under Kovac.
How did the coach manage this? Well, it’s all down to a few factors:
- Passing: Under Flick, Bayern Munich have tightened up their passing game by a decent margin, to the point where it resembles some of the performances we were used to seeing under Pep Guardiola. Sure, the team is not as composed as when the Catalan was in charge, but the improvement has had an effect.
- Pressing: Bayern Munich once again have an organized defensive press, something that hasn’t been seen since Jupp Heynckes went back into retirement at the end of the 17/18 season. Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and Müller deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround, as they stepped up to make Flick’s pressing system work with very little time to prepare.
- A low defensive line: Bayern have always been vulnerable to counters, so Flick has instituted a low defensive line to keep counter-attacking threats at bay. While a higher defensive line like the one employed by Guardiola might result in more possession and more chances created, the defensive stability offered by a more conservative defensive line is a worthy trade-off.
Thus, Flick has orchestrated Bayern’s best performance of the season, even better than the 7-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League. It’s possible that he may have earned himself the head coach’s job until the end of the season.
Alphonso Davies dominated the game
Is Alphonso Davies great or what? Starting in his first ever Klassiker at the tender age of 19, the Canadian wunderkind put in a dazzling performance at left back, keeping both Achraf Hakimi and Jadon Sancho at bay with surprising ease.
He started off a bit shaky, but thanks to Flick’s system of collective pressing, Coman and Kimmich helped bail him out until he found his bearings. Then, from minute 10 to minute 90, he dominated Borussia Dortmund from end to end. Davies was instrumental in driving Bayern’s attack forward with daring runs and incisive passing, and his pace enabled him to snuff out any fast counters before they could even begin.
Davies ended the game with an excellent stats sheet — 2 key passes, 7 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3⁄4 dribbles completed. Whoscored gave him a rating of 8.5/10, the second highest on the team, even higher than Thomas Muller who managed two assists.
This kid really is something special.
Extra: Miscellaneous observations
- Robert Lewandowski is truly having a special season. It’s not just his scoring, he seems to have elevated every aspect of his game as a footballer.
- Philippe Coutinho simply hasn’t learned how to be a Bayern Munich midfielder. In his brief cameo at the end of the game, he kept looking for passes or shots through the middle, instead of the simple layoff to a wide player, which killed many attacking opportunities. This isn’t Barcelona, and the Brazilian will need to change his game if he wants to stay in Germany.
- Ivan Perisic is a madman and a perfect super-sub. His performances this season have been impressive.
- Coman was threatening on the flank and did some good defensive work, but his overall game was frustrating. Hopefully, he can work with the coach to iron out some of the issues, as he’s just missing the final touch at the moment.
- Kimmich plays on another level when he’s paired with Goretzka in midfield. It’s almost uncanny how they improve each other.