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Four observations from Bayern Munich’s 3-0 win against Schalke

Bayern Munich beat Schalke 3-0 in a game that was, for the most part, rather drab. Are Niko Kovac’s tactics sustainable? Here are four observations from today’s game.

FC Schalke 04 v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Lewandowski is a goal-scoring machine

Robert Lewandowski was the man of the match. It’s that simple. He scored 3 goals, all of which came in different ways.

Lewandowski first converted from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, which means that he has now scored 41 out of his last 43 penalty attempts. That’s good for a 95.3% conversion rate.

He then scored a free kick from 30 yards out in the 50th minute. And when I say no one could have stopped that, I mean it. It was perfectly taken and perfectly placed.

Lewy’s third goal came in the 75th minute after he collected a pass from Kingsley Coman and slotted it right past Alexander Nübel after dribbling past a defender.

All in all, it was a masterful performance from one of the world’s premier strikers, who now has 5 goals in the first 2 games of the new Bundesliga season. He’s also scored every single one of Bayern’s goals so far, so there’s that.

Good defensive performance

Bayern looked very solid defensively, with Schalke rarely threatening Manuel Neuer’s goal. They took 11 shot attempts to Bayern’s 10, but most of those shot attempts weren’t threatening. Only 2 were on target while 4 of them were blocked. The other 5 were off-target.

Lucas Hernandez looked very good in his first start as a Bayern player, both defensively and on the ball. He was mostly at the right place at the right time and snuffed out several Schalke attacks. He also completed 89.3% of his 84 passing attempts, which was a testament to his good ball playing skills.

Niklas Süle also looked a lot more like himself, completing 92.1% of his 89 passes. He won all 4 of his aerial duels and functioned really well alongside Hernandez. I really like them as a center-back tandem. They’re both very good on the ball, relatively quick, and good in the air. They also impose their will on opposing attackers and aren’t afraid to go at them.

Today’s performance from the duo was very good. Hopefully we can see more performances like that from them in the future.

Open-play woes and one-dimensional tactics

Let’s not be fooled by the result — Bayern’s attack was, for the most part, very uninspired. It was also very predictable. Take a look at Bayern’s first half heatmap:

Just about NOTHING was going through the middle of the park. Bayern always played down the flanks and crossed the ball hoping someone would get to it. That was rarely ever the case. Unsurprisingly, Bayern’s only goal of the half came from Robert Lewandowski’s spot kick.

That improved in the second half, but it was generally more of the same. Here’s Bayern’s heatmap over the course of the game:

There was some action on the left side of the box, but the middle part of the field in the final third didn’t feature much action for Bayern. Müller was anonymous in today’s game and Tolisso didn’t really contribute much. Part of that was a result of the fact that they were not integrated properly in the attacking phase of play.

Kingsley Coman, David Alaba, and Serge Gnabry constantly went up and down the wings with little success in one-on-one take-ons. Barely any of their crosses reached their intended targets and outside of Lewy’s third goal, Bayern rarely attacked Schalke directly today.

Kimmich was quick and made some clever passes today, but he also took too much time with the ball. That, to an extent, stagnated Bayern’s attacks.

And in spite of a good defensive performance, Bayern had fewer expected goals from open play than Schalke:

It was a testament to how bad Bayern was when they were on the attack.

All in all, Bayern really played a predictable brand of football. There wasn’t much space being created, which really didn’t help. This meant that there was little to no room for Coman or Gnabry to operate. It also meant Robert Lewandowski was isolated for the majority of the game.

Early cause for concern?

The result today was a repeat of the Hertha game in terms of offense. Bayern lacked variety and versatility on the attack, and that led to a rather woeful performance from open play.

Both games featured a goal from open play, but neither goal was really the product of inspiring attacking play. Both games also featured Robert Lewandowski doing what he does best — scoring goals. However, it must be said that this pattern is simply not sustainable.

Of Bayern’s 5 goals so far, two came in open play, two came from penalties, and one came from a direct free kick. All of them came courtesy of Lewy. It is apparent that Kovac’s one-dimensional tactics are limiting the players. That hurts their ability to contribute. Bayern’s ability to win consistently over the course of the season depends on Kovac changing up his tactics and moving away from his cross-and-hope brand of football.

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