New signings deliver great performances
Four new members of the Bayern squad started against FC Köln — Phillipe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic, Benjamin Pavard, and Lucas Hernandez. Although there were question marks over Bayern’s transfer business during the summer, any doubts have long since been put to rest.
Throughout the game, Coutinho created havoc for opposition defenders. His “samba” style, flair, vision, and dribbling skills constantly contributed to counter-attacks and goal-scoring chances. It was only because of Coutinho’s flick to Joshua Kimmich that Robert Lewandowski scored Bayern’s first goal, and Coutinho was also integral to Bayern’s third goal, scoring a penalty that he himself won. The Brazilian adds a whole new dimension and look to the Bayern attack and if Coutinho can keep up this form, there is every chance he will join Bayern permanently next year.
Many wrote Perisic off as a “has-been” or a player “past his prime.” However, the Croatian proved all his critics wrong with yet another dominant display. The direct running, physicality, and crosses he offers have given Bayern another quality wing option — whether from the bench or in the starting XI (a proposition that is becoming increasingly likely). His finish on Bayern’s fourth goal was the icing on the cake of a superb performance.
Finally, Hernandez and Pavard both gave the same strong performances we have become accustomed to. Deployed as fullbacks, the pair was equally solid in defense and in attack. Their constant marauding runs put pressure on Köln’s defense while their grit and tackling technique added strength to the Bayern back line.
A dominant performance
In the first half, Bayern controlled the match but concede Köln some chances that the guests failed to convert. However, bar these couple of half-chances, (one of which originated from a poor Kimmich pass in midfield, an all-too common occurrence) Bayern exerted their dominance. Attacking moves were swift, counter-attacks became commonplace, and the defense was never truly tested.
This great display coincides with Niko Kovac’s recent formation-switch to a 4-2-3-1 shape. In this system, the 10 is able to make a larger impact in the attacking phase which significantly helps Robert Lewandowski and the wingers in their quest to score goals. If results keep up, there will be no reason for Kovac to contemplate a transition back to a 4-3-3 setup.
Lewandowski and the veterans perform
Bayern’s number 9, Lewandowski, scored the side’s first 2 goals. His first was a sumptuous finish which chipped the goal-keeper. His second was a sublime header from a Kimmich corner where the Pole leapt like a salmon before smashing his shot towards the net. In addition to his goals, Lewy offered his usual buildup play and ball progression. This was on display especially during the first half, where he had to drop deep to help the (briefly) non-existent midfield move the ball goalwards. But Lewandowski’s class wasn’t demonstrated only by his play but also by his selflessness and leadership, exemplified when he let Coutinho take a penalty to score his first goal for the club.
In terms of other older players, Jerome Boateng had a reasonable game and completed a few trademark long-distance passes. And the captain himself, Manuel Neuer, solidified his reputation as Germany’s best with a great demonstration of shot stopping, making a few crucial saves and helping the side to another clean sheet.
Coutinho and Müller share the pitch
Kovac’s recent comments seemed to put an end to speculation that Coutinho and Thomas Müller would line up together any time soon. However, given that Bayern were already up by 3 goals, the manager decided to play both play-makers together as Müller came on at the expense of Lewandowski. Although only on the field with each other for a short amount of time, the pair showed potential with Coutinho’s vision complementing Müller’s attacking awareness and smart runs. Seeing both of them on the pitch at the same time will hopefully become a more regular occurrence.
Müller’s substitution also served another purpose for Kovac. When the raumdeuter came on, the Bayern attacking system became more interchangeable — Müller, mainly deployed as a false 9, still had license to roam around the park and was often caught on the right while players like Perisic, Coutinho and Gnabry were found occupying other spaces. This looks a good potential solution for a scenario where talisman Lewandowski gets injured and it was valuable and smart of Kovac to try it out.
Joshua Kimmich’s performance not all that it seemed
On the stats sheet, Kimmich’s performance looks exemplary since he recorded 2 assists while playing a holding midfield position. However, it should be noted that Kimmich did not play very well in his new center-midfield spot. The German international constantly got bypassed in midfield, where his defensive contributions are limited, and his passing was fairly average. Kimmich also displayed the weaker side of his game, literally, as he went down on the turf a few times on very light contact.
Kovac seems intent on playing Bayern’s “pitbull” in the center away from where Kimmich is most effective, on the right side of the defense. Performances like this in reality should catalyze a move back to his best position.