Jerome Boateng looks done at the top level
After an already shaky performance against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, this latest showing against Werder Bremen may have sealed the fate of Jerome Boateng at Bayern Munich. The big German was all at sea in the first half, spending much of his time getting humiliated by Milot Rashica.
The solitary goal Bayern conceded was 70% his fault (with 20% going to Kimmich for the missed tackle and the rest to Manuel Neuer for not saving the shot), and they would’ve conceded far more if he hadn’t been taken off for Ivan Perisic during half time. His lack of pace was an obvious weakness, but Boateng did himself no favors with poor positioning and horrendous anticipation in 1v1 situations.
Bayern face Freiburg up next, who have looked formidable this season (although they did just lose to Hertha Berlin). There is no way Boateng should start against them, or against any other semi-decent team for that matter. Move Joshua Kimmich back to right back, and let Benjamin Pavard and David Alaba play at center back until Lucas Hernandez returns from injury. That should be the go-to setup from here on out.
Fearsome finishing hides a tepid start
Despite Pavlenka’s best efforts, Bayern managed to find the back of the net six times over the course of the 90 minutes; however, for the first 40 minutes or so, the Bavarians looked impotent in front in all areas of the pitch.
Hansi Flick chose to line the team up in a 4-3-3 with Philippe Coutinho on the left wing. Leon Goretzka took the place of Thomas Muller as an attacking midfielder, while Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara formed a pivot. The setup was poor, and Bremen soon started causing problems for Bayern up and down the pitch.
Leon Goretzka neglected his duties as an attacking midfielder and struggled to carry the ball forward, which made Thiago push up and Robert Lewandowski drop deep. The effects were two-fold — it left Lewandowski too far away from goal to influence the play, and Kimmich was the sole DM on the pitch.
Kimmich’s error is what allowed Rashica to get into a 1v1 situation with Boateng, which isn’t something that would’ve happened if a real DM was there in his place. Bayern got lucky that Bremen switched off in the 40th minute, allowing Serge Gnabry to get behind the defense and tee up Philippe Coutinho’s opener. That goal rattled them, and a suddenly invigorated Coutinho quickly capitalized with a scintillating ball to Robert Lewandowski. Unlike in previous weeks, the Poland international converted with ease.
These two moments of quick finishing allowed Bayern to head into the half with a lead, and Hansi made some much needed changes at HT. Couts was moved to attacking midfield, while Perisic was brought on for Boateng. The effects in the second half were plain to see.
Here’s the timing chart for the game:
One must note that Bayern were far more effective in front of goal after the HT shakeup. This should serve as enough evidence for the coach to abandon the 4-3-3 approach and stick with a standard 4-2-3-1 with an attacking midfielder.
Bayern’s attackers finally start converting chances, but efficiency is an issue
Bayern scored 6 goals from an xG of 5.84, a remarkable feat considering some of the performances we’ve seen as of late. Philippe Coutinho deserves most of the credit, as he was the most efficient player on the pitch — scoring 2 goals from an individual expected goals value of 1.
Thomas Muller was the next most-efficient, scoring once from an xG value of 0.58. Ever since Hansi Flick’s press conference post-Gladbach, these are the two players who have really stepped up to finish the chances laid before them. That’s always great to see.
Worryingly however, while Lewandowski scored a brace, he under-performed once again — missing a couple of 1v1 chances and a free header. The same goes for Serge Gnabry. These two were the stars of the show just a few months ago, when their clinical finishing downed Tottenham in that now-famous game in London. While this game was superb from a team perspective, Lewy and Gnabry’s chance conversion leaves a lot to be desired.
While it’s great to see certain sections of the team step up and really hammer in some goals, Bayern need Gnabry and Lewandowski to start performing up to their level. This was just a game against Bremen — when the going really gets tough, the team will depend on their main attackers to score the most. Mandzukic and Robben scored to bring Bayern the treble — that’s what the club expects from these two.