A good setup marred by individual mistakes
Bayern Munich really did have a good game against RB Leipzig. Starting up in the usual 4-2-3-1, Niko Kovac made the bold decision to put Joshua Kimmich in midfield, supplementing the right-back position with Benjamin Pavard. David Alaba suffered a muscular injury during warmups and had to be replaced by Jerome Boateng, while Lucas Hernandez made his first outing at left-back.
The first half was a masterclass from the Bavarians. Julian Nagelsmann’s side had clearly not done their homework, because Bayern were tearing them apart. Thomas Muller dispossessed Lukas Klostermann to assist an easy goal for Robert Lewandowski, and Leipzig began to capitulate.
In the following 45 minutes, Bayern dominated the proceedings, creating chance after chance but lacking a finishing touch. Things looked comfortable for the Bavarians heading into the second half, until Thiago misplaced a pass in front of his own box. The errant pass fell to the feet of a Leipzig player which led to a quick counter. Lucas Hernandez made a rash challenge leading to a penalty.
This gave RB Leipzig the lifeline that they needed. Reinvigorated by the goal, they were able to adjust tactically and come out guns-blazing in the second half. If Bayern Munich had only capitalized when they had the momentum, Leipzig never would’ve been able to get back into the game.
More baffling substitutions from Niko Kovac
Once again, with his team under pressure, Niko Kovac made the most baffling substitutions possible. First, he subbed off Serge Gnabry for Alphonso Davies — which wasn’t a bad idea, because Gnabry clearly looked out of sorts in the game and needed to be subbed. However, instead of leaving it there, Kovac went a step further and subbed off Thomas Muller.
This is one of those Kovac-isms that gets more annoying the more it happens. Once again, when chasing a game, Kovac subs off one of his most creative players for seemingly no reason. It’s not even like Muller was having a bad game; he was helping Lewandowski slice through Leipzig like a knife through butter. Unfortunately, this is just something Kovac likes to do for no reason, and probably costing Bayern points.
Finally, there was the extremely late substitution of Philippe Coutinho. Bayern really struggled to create chances after Thomas Muller was subbed off, having to rely on Davies and Coman trying to get behind the Leipzig defense with their pace. All creativity through the middle was essentially shut down, which did not do any favors to Robert Lewandowski, who looked like he was playing in no-man’s land.
Muller should not have been subbed, but since he was, Kovac should have brought on Coutinho far earlier than he did. Coming on after the 80th minute, there was literally nothing the Brazilian could do to impact the game. It was far too late. Perhaps, if the substitution had been made a little earlier, things could have been different. Instead, Kovac opted to have all four of Bayern’s center-backs on the pitch for the entire 90 while chasing a goal.
Kingsley Coman gets no protection from the referees
What does Kingsley Coman have to do to get a foul? Once again, faced with extreme pace of the young Frenchman, Julian Nagelsmann instructed his defenders to get physical, and that’s exactly what they did. Willi Orban and Marcel Halstenberg were the chief offenders, often making reckless challenges or going for Coman’s ankles with careless abandon.
The problem is — the ref let them play that way. Instead of awarding yellow cards and handing out warnings after the third or fourth time Coman was fouled, he allowed things to get worse. This have Leipzig the courage to get more and more physical with Bayern, and it surely disrupted the team’s rhythm as the game went on.
There’s really no way to solve this, for whatever reason Bundesliga referees seem perfectly fine with a Bayern player getting unfairly hacked at all game. And yes, it’s unfair, because when Timo Werner experienced a similar challenge from Joshua Kimmich, it resulted in a yellow card for the Bayern man. If this continues, Coman may legitimately have to cut his career short — his body won’t stand up to this abuse.