The 2013 formation continues to get results
Despite Werder Bremen’s best efforts, Niko Kovac’s remix of the 2013 treble winning Bayern Munich once again pulled out a victory. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t clean, and it certainly wasn’t dominant — but that doesn’t change the fact that Bayern Munich are still on course for a domestic double, something that hasn’t been won since Pep Guardiola was at the helm.
It just goes to show how good Jupp’s setup really was. The fact that a relatively simple 4-2-3-1 with fast inverted wingers is still competitive at this level shows how efficient Jupp was at maximizing the talent on the roster. It was inevitable that Kovac would eventually settle on the same formation — what else would you play when you have a strong target man, a raumdeuter, two inverted wingers, a dynamic holding midfielder, a strong defensive midfielder, and two technically and tactically gifted fullbacks? The 4-2-3-1 is the only answer.
Hopefully, Bayern will be successful in making significant reinforcements on the wings this summer, so we can play the formation all the time and not have to rely on shifting Thomas Müller out wide. That way, Bayern Munich can play its optimal formation all the time.
Bayern was almost overrun by Werder’s press
That being said, it wasn’t a dominant performance by any means. Niko Kovac will be concerned by his side’s inability to deal with Werder’s press, something that caused the Bavarians a lot of problems and even directly led to the second goal.
Manuel Neuer’s absence was really felt, as Sven Ulreich’s relative inability to play out from the back put Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels under pressure the entire game. Thiago Alcantara was also unusually poor, making bad passes and disappearing for large chunks of the game — eventually, Kovac was forced to sub the Spaniard for James Rodriguez.
With crucial games against RB Leipzig coming up, the coach had better solve this issue fast. A weakness against pressing is like a death sentence against a Ralf Rangnik team.
Thomas Müller put in a captain’s performance
Donning the captain’s armband in lieu of Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller really stood up and dragged the Bavarians to a win. Werder were unable to decode Müller’s movement, so the raumdeuter literally ran circles around them and was crucial to the entire offense. Let’s do a quick recap of the performance.
Müller got his first chance early from a cross by David Alaba, but headed it wide. That was the first warning. A few minutes later, a low cross from Kingsley Coman found him but Müller’s shot was deflected out for a corner. Then, finally, he got on the end of a long pass from Jerome Boateng. It deflected off the post and into the path of Robert Lewandowski for the first goal.
That’s not all. Soon after, Müller sent a cross in to Kingsley Coman, and the resulting shot was somehow saved by Pavlenka at point-blank range. Later, Müller took a shot that Lewandowski touched into the goal, but it was from an offside position and so it was disallowed. If Lewy had left it alone, the ball would have gone in. Müller’s breakthrough came in the second half. Scoring in typical Müller fashion, he put the game to bed (or so it seemed at the time).
A worthy MotM for a crazy game.
Niko Kovac channeled his inner Lord Voldemort
The Ministry of Magic has probably sent aurors after Niko Kovac by now, such was his extensive use of the dark arts against Bremen. It started early in the first half, where he pulled a Simeone-esque stunt by kicking a ball back onto the field to stop Werder from taking a quick throw and starting a counter.
That was just the beginning. Bayern Munich did everything in their power to psyche out and frustrate Bremen, even going so far as to engage in some unsportsmanlike conduct. When Thomas Müller was called off as a sub, he took his sweet time and was almost started a fight with Max Kruse in the process. Sven Ulreich took his sweet time with goal kicks, and Bayern players stayed on the ground after being fouled just to waste time and give the team a short breather.
Such cynical football might leave fans with a bad taste in their mouths, but it was definitely what was needed to get past Werder Bremen on the night.
Bayern’s defenders seem determined to make every Pokal game a tight affair
We’re almost at the end of the season and Bayern’s defense is still as shambolic as before. Hummels and Boateng had a good game for roughly 80-90 minutes, but in that short stretch from minute 73’ to minute 76’, they completely dropped the ball and allowed Werder back into the game.
These horrendous defensive mistakes show why Bayern just splurged €115m on center-backs for the new season, but personnel is only half the issue. Yes, Hummels looks determined to keep his “one brainfart per Pokal game” streak going, but the bigger issue is that Bayern just cannot maintain defensive composure, and the team’s counter-press is terribly ineffective.
One of Kovac’s main selling points was his attention to defending. He has so far managed a great result against Liverpool at Anfield, masterminding one of the best defensive performances since the treble year, but it’s not enough. We want to see more tactical improvements to Bayern’s defense, and they need to come soon. The team can’t keep getting this lucky all the time.
Niko Kovac still has a lot of work to do.