Bayern started the Rückrunde in great style with a 4-0 hammering of Hertha Berlin. After a frustrating 2-2 draw in the first half of the season, in which Bayern enjoyed numerous chances that were ultimately wasted, featured a Bayern seemed to have learnt its lesson in the return fixture. The victory sends Bayern to 2nd place, 4 points behind leaders RB Leipzig.
1. A lacklustre first half with missed chances
In what is already a recurring theme, Bayern seemed to play in second gear for the majority of the first half. Chances were there, and some screamed to be taken, but poor finishing and lackadaisical passing meant none of those chances were put to bed. One glaring example was Lewandowski’s miss when he failed to slot the ball in goal after sending Jarstein scrambling. True, we won it in the second half, but this shouldn’t be the way we start games. This approach might not deliver us the goods against higher-quality opposition.
2. An outstanding, incisive second half
The style of play was much more direct, vertical, and swift in the second half. The team looked a whole new beast with a sense of purpose and a lot of determination. Thomas Müller and Ivan Perisic in particular were more tenacious, made challenges, and initiated some great attacks. Both Perisic and the raumdeuter were rewarded with a goal each while assisting each other. The midfield press was also on point, and the whole team functioned like a well-oiled machine, exploiting the half spaces and finding teammates via some delightful vertical passes. Bayern also won more duels, which is something to applaud, because the team doesn’t normally go into challenges as often. Whatever Flick told the players in the locker room, it worked and should be used again, and again, and again.
3. Less pressing, better positioning
Bayern’s style of play in the first half of the season under Flick seemed to mirror Liverpool’s, albeit still based on possession — quick passes under possession and intense pressing whenever the ball was lost. This game however had a major change. The players ran at the opposition less frequently and instead positioned themselves better in advance, anticipating the movement of the ball. The passing sequences were also more direct and pleasing to watch, especially the fluidity with which the ball sometimes effortlessly moved from defense to attack. This minor tweak could have major implications for the Bayern players — more energy for games, less strain on the body and more efficient attacking.
4. Alaba and Davies will both be hard to displace
David Alaba, simply put, has been a revelation at center-back. Bayern was able to snuff out many counters during the game thanks to Alaba’s quick legs and intelligent positioning, something Bayern has lacked in its center-backs for years now (excepting Süle, but he’s injured). Alaba provides a great blend of speed, athleticism, vision, and positioning that is a gift to Bayern’s defense. Similarly, Davies’ pace and tenacity at left-back is working wonders for the team. The way he fights for the ball, tracks back to defend, sprints forward to exploit spaces, and wins back lost balls is a sight to behold. With a little more focus on improving his 1v1 game in defense, we could have a permanent world-class left-back for this season on our hands. As of now, Alaba and Davies would both feature in the aforementioned positions in a Bayern champagne 11.
5. Thiago is back
In the Hinrunde, with less game time after Kimmich’s move to midfield and potentially a higher workload and greater pressure to perform, Thiago seemed to have lost the golden touch. He gave away balls cheaply, made ill-timed challenges, and was caught off guard more often than not — all very uncharacteristic of him. In this game, however, Bayern fans witnessed a revitalized Thiago, looking close to his world-class self. He was everywhere on the pitch, making gorgeous passes (90.5% accuracy), great turns sending players scrambling, and vital interceptions (5 this game!) to make sure Bayern was on the front foot the whole time. He then capped it all up with a wonderful goal, sending Bayern 3-0 up. May be too soon to make the call, but the maestro is back!