Bayern Munich put in a decisive display against Bundesliga giant-killer Fortuna Dusseldorf. With the victory, Niko Kovac’s men remain top of the table by a single point. The title race is heating up, but if today was any indication, the Bavarian giants are holding their nerve in the hunt for a seventh consecutive Meisterschale.
The heirs to “Robbery” have arrived
A recent training dust-up between Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman came to fisticuffs and threatened to upset the positive attitude surrounding the club. Despite this misunderstanding, Coman and his right-side counterpart, Serge Gnabry absolutely terrorized the Fortuna Dusseldorf defense.
After yet another long spell out with injury, Coman seems to have returned to top form. The 22-year-old winger put in a man of the match performance with two goals, which doesn’t even begin to describe his impact. The Frenchman was active in and around the box with and without the ball. He also demonstrated a more refined passing touch that has eluded him throughout the early stages of his career. Four dribbles, a key pass, an accurate cross and 3 accurate long balls help to demonstrate just how active he was. He was commanding in possession and constantly looking for ways to get involved on the break and in possession. If he can stay healthy, the prodigious attacker has what it takes to become a part of the world’s elite.
Although less dominating, Serge Gnabry cannot be overlooked. The German winger has arguably become Bayern’s most important player next to Thiago Alcantara and Thomas Muller. The 23-year-old may not be as explosive as his French counterpart, but his tactical acumen allows him to pull the strings of the attack and finish chances himself. On the second goal of the afternoon, Gnabry had what we Americans call a “hockey assist” or “MLS assist”, which means he had the pass before the official assist. In addition to six dribbles and two key passes, the German international scored the third as a product of his Muller-esque off-ball movement and assisted the first following a key interception in the Dusseldorf half.
These two wingers are both capable of creating and finishing off chances. Their diverse skill sets create a degree of unpredictability moving forward that should excite Bayern fans for years to come.
“Mullendowski” continues to perform
Considering their scorching form, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski had a relatively quiet afternoon. Muller bagged an assist, while Lewy could arguably be credited with one for his role in the final goal, but neither found the back of the net. The Raumdeuter’s unintentional “dummy” on Coman’s first goal probably should have be directed in by Muller, but a goal is a goal. The Polish hit man was hungry for a goal all afternoon as well, but to no avail.
With all that being said, both were vital to the attack. Lewandowski has taken the initiative in build-up play dropping deep to receive the ball, holding up play, taking on defenders and finding his teammates as he did with the chipped ball that Leon Goretzka eventually slotted home. The lethal striker is no longer taking a passive approach to the game in which he waits for service in the box. His work rate is creating opportunities and space for his teammates. Lewandowski’s near post run opened up a world of space for the French winger to fill. This is the Lewy Bayern fans know and love. Perhaps the best example of the night came on Coman’s second goal.
Muller, in a similar vein, was everywhere on the afternoon. The (former) German international is truly flourishing in this central role. He has reasserted himself as the heartbeat of the attack. His off-ball movement was brilliant per usual, in addition to contributing an assist, two key passes, four (!) dribbles, and two accurate long balls. The “Mullendowski” pairing provided time and space for the wide men and Thiago in the midfield by occupying the Dusseldorf defense and finding open teammates.
Tenacious midfield set the tone
The story of the day is obviously Bayern Munich’s wing play (and a concerning pair of injuries), but the double pivot of Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara set the tone. Javi “Machinez” was absolutely everywhere shielding the back line. For a second I thought it was 2013 again. The Spanish midfield destroyer contributed “only” contributed a tackle and two interceptions, but his presence disrupted the Dusseldorf counter-attack all afternoon. If you remember the first match between these two clubs, you’ll know Friedhelm Funkel’s men eviscerated the Bavarians on the counter. Javi made sure that did not happen today. The Renaissance of Martinez has been a joy to behold.
Not to be outdone, Martinez’s countryman, Thiago Alcantara put on a vintage performance in all facets of the game. His underrated physicality allowed him to boss the midfield with six tackles and two interceptions. The Spanish midfield maestro clearly learned from Xavi and Iniesta during his time in Catalonia because his passing and awareness in the attack are among the world’s best. A 91% pass accuracy, seven accurate long balls to go with an accurate cross shed light on the degree to which Bayern’s number six dictated the tempo of the game. He ventured into the box more than usual with support of Martinez behind him and was unlucky not to finish off one of his chances. Thiago is in a league of his own in the midfield.
The tragedy of Manuel Neuer
The large, dark and all too familiar cloud hanging over this match is the injury sustained by Manuel Neuer early in the second half. Once the world’s best goalkeeper by some distance, the German international has suffered from a horrific run of injuries that have marred his last two seasons. Although he did not re-injure his foot, Bayern fans have reason to be concerned as the title race reaches its final act. Sven Ulreich has proven a capable, albeit shaky, back-up, but you can’t help but ask whether or not it is time for Bayern Munich to identify a more immediate succession plan.
Another concerning injury occurred late in the match as Mats Hummels appeared to injure his hamstring. Jerome Boateng is a solid option in the Bundesliga, but Niklas Sule’s suspension in the DFB Pokal raises some concerns heading into the Werder Bremen match.
BFW will keep you posted on these injuries as more news emerges.
Does Bayern Munich have what it takes to finish this title race off?