Some Bayern Munich fans and pundits throughout the world of European football have lauded Niko Kovac for his ability to set up his team to defend, but criticized him for an underdeveloped offensive identity. Considering the circumstances over the campaign, including a rash of injuries and key suspensions, Kovac has done very well setting up the side to succeed. With a full arsenal at his disposal and the title on the line, the former Bayern player flexed his attacking bona fides.
A front four of Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski was absolutely relentless from the jump, interchanging and confusing the Frankfurt backline. If it were not for Kevin Trapp’s 8 saves on the night, the Bavarian giants could have been up by three or four by the half.
The coach allowed Thiago and the center-backs to dictate tempo from deep, while employing a fluid front four that capitalized on overlapping runs by the fullbacks and narrow inverted wingers. The two-man interplay between Lewandowski and Müller opened up space for Coman and Gnabry. The record-champions dominated possession but were wary of counters. It was truly a masterful performance that played to the strengths of the attack, without sacrificing defensive stability (minus a single set piece).
The central combo of Müller and Lewandowski facilitated the attack with artful movement and intelligent passing. Eight key passes between the two of them and an assist for Müller doesn’t do their performance justice. Their build-up on the first goal showed a degree of patience and awareness that was absolutely brilliant.
Is this the title clinching goal?— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 18, 2019
Kingsley Coman scores after just 4 minutes give Bayern the all-important lead against Frankfurt! pic.twitter.com/EEBBTdGQEv
Although they should continue to make up the spine of the team, the excitement lies on the wings. The young duo of Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman have officially taken the mantle from Robbery and the pairing showed what they can do together when fully fit. Coman kicked off the scoring and added an assist, while Gnabry had a rocket of a shot ruled out. They are truly unplayable on their day, and it seems as though the attack will be in good and youthful hands moving forward, with reinforcements expected in the summer.
A clear offensive identity was on full display.
Building for the future
Although David Alaba, Thomas Müller and others bagged their 8th (!) Bundesliga title in their illustrious careers, the core of the team continues to trend younger. Niko Kovac, Leon Goretzka, and Serge Gnabry all walk away with their first Bundesliga crown, and this is the first campaign in which Nicklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich, Gnabry, and Coman can be considered key cogs in the Die Roten juggernaut. Both Coman and the unlikely hero Renato Sanches ensured the victory with cool finishing and a calm touch in a high stakes match.
The mantle has been passed and the transition is almost complete with the Pokal final and impending squad overhaul in the Summer. It was not outside the realm of possibility to fall short of the typical standard in Munich with such a thin squad, but the youthful contingent gained valuable experience and learned what it would take to bring home the title against a formidable Borussia Dortmund. The future continues to look bright.
A fitting end for Robbery
An ending to this chapter of Bayern Munich history could not have been written better (take notes, Game of Thrones writers!). Following a season ravaged by injuries and European frustrations, the stage was set for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery to potentially miss out on a trophy and a meaningful send off. Fate had different plans.
Ribery goal ✅— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 18, 2019
Robben goal ✅
A fairytale ending in Munich. pic.twitter.com/7ovzMeJFL0
Ribery subbed on with a comfortable 3-1 lead and turned back the clock with a world class run and goal to finish off Adi Hütter’s men. His emotional, shirtless celebration showed just how much it meant to our brilliant Frenchman. Not to be outdone, Robben made it five with a cool finish (with his left foot, of course) at the back post and an equally emotional celebration. This is the sendoff these two legends of Bayern Munich and world football deserved.
FRANCK RIBERY!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 18, 2019
In his final game for Bayern, Ribery does what he's done best in the Bundesliga: put the ball in the back of the net pic.twitter.com/NVMjoY33M1
A double awaits
As euphoric as this victory and title is considering the roller-coaster season, the DFB Pokal final against a strong RB Leipzig awaits. A domestic double could make this one of the most satisfying finishes to a season since Jupp Heynckes’ treble. Niko Kovac and company are one win away from turning a transitional year into an unequivocal success.
We’ll see you on May 25 for one last go at it. Auf Gehts!!!!