Chris Richards has a promising start at right-back
Starting for the first time ever, American youngster Chris Richard put in a solid display for Bayern Munich at right-back. Following up on an impressive cameo against Borussia Dortmund in midweek, the 20-year-old started slow but grew in confidence as the game wore on.
Compared to Bayern’s other North American youngster, Richards’ game could be described as “passive”. He didn’t make the bombing forward runs that Alphonso Davies is known for, instead sticking to a more conservative approach by staying back and supporting Serge Gnabry out wide with overlapping runs when needed. This seemed like an attempt by the youngster to familiarize to the tempo of his teammates and the match in general. As the game grew on, Richards grew bolder, becoming more aggressive with his forward runs. This is where his real qualities began to shine.
Richards is really amazing at crossing the ball. His first real contribution to the game was in the 36th minute, where he lobbed a beautiful ball into Thomas Muller, which the latter duly converted. The pass was exceptional, and despite being ruled out for offside, Muller went to congratulate Richards for his tremendous service.
Bayern’s opening goal of the game was also the direct result of a Richards cross, as his pinpoint cross found Lewandowski in space inside the Hertha box. Schwolow saved the resultant header, but the Polish hitman scored from the resulting rebounds. Richards ended his debut with an assist for Lewy’s second — a beautiful cut-back from the sideline that found the striker in a perfect position to turn and shoot.
Richards eventually went off due to cramp, and Bayern’s defense proceeded to collapse like a house of cards. Let’s talk about that next.
David Alaba — the leader of a dysfunctional defense
Bayern Munich have already conceded 10 goals in 5 games this season, with only a single clean sheet against Schalke (who are terrible in every conceivable way). This is a far cry from last season, where the Bavarians conceded only eight goals in the entirety of their Champions League winning campaign. This is a worse defensive record than the team had under Niko Kovac, who eventually got fired.
At the heart of the problem is David Alaba, Bayern’s erstwhile defensive leader. The Austrian’s form has fallen off a cliff lately, as he seems to be distracted by off-field issues. Last year, Bayern relied on him to keep things solid at the back, and he delivered — but that player seems nowhere to be found at the moment. Whether it be positioning, anticipation, distribution, or leadership, Alaba is letting Bayern down right now.
This is not to say that he’s the only one. Benjamin Pavard was terrible after coming on, and has not been the same reliable player he was last season. The Frenchman is in a rut. Jerome Boateng, meanwhile, is finding himself exposed more and more often by the mistakes of his colleagues, leading to bad results all-round.
Only Lucas Hernandez can say he had a decent game, and even he was at fault for a free kick that lead to a Hertha Berlin goal. However, like Richards, he wasn’t part of the following defensive collapse. Hansi Flick needs to find a new solution in defense, and fast. What we have right now isn’t working.
Thomas Muller remains the creative heart of the team
Notching up a staggering SEVEN key passes including an assist, Thomas Muller was once again at the heart of Bayern’s offense against Hertha. When Bayern were under the hammer, the Raumdeuter was often the only one moving the ball quickly and with purpose. It’s no wonder that Hansi Flick keeps praising him every chance he gets — without Muller, this team doesn’t tick.
So what happens if Flick is ever forced to rest him? Or god forbid, an injury? Let’s hope we never have to find out.
Hansi Flick was forced to make risky subs
Bayern Munich’s precarious squad depth was on full display as Hansi Flick was forced to make sub-optimal changes to keep his team going. At the 65th minute, the coach took off a trio of players — Chris Richards, Lucas Hernandez, and Joshua Kimmich, replacing them with Benjamin Pavard, Jamal Musiala, and Corentin Tolisso. Alphonso Davies moved to left-back in Lucas’ place.
Hertha quickly capitalized on the subs, as with Kimmich’s absent, the Bavarians quickly lost control of the midfield. David Alaba and Jerome Boateng couldn’t keep it together at the back without support from Lucas and Richards, and Pavard was simply poor after coming on. Cordoba and Cunha quickly started bullying Bayern off the ball, and it was a free-for-all at the back.
This is why Bayern needed new signings. The acquisition of Marc Roca is especially important, as he can take over Kimmich’s role of controlling the midfield and keep a collapse like this from happening. Buona Sarr, meanwhile, could have hardly done worse than Pavard after his substitution. Hopefully, the bosses get the necessary deals over the line quick — the team badly needs reinforcements.
Bayern need a rethink after the international break
Zero stability, a party at the back, and no established XI — Bayern Munich are almost unrecognizable from the team that won the treble a month ago. There’s too much chopping and changing going on with the team at the moment, from tactics to selection. Hansi Flick really needs to sit down and figure out a best XI, and take it from there.
The defense needs a shift — we need more of Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule starting together. David Alaba and Jerome Boateng may have won us the treble last season, but they are clearly not up for it at the moment. Alphonso Davies isn’t a real option at left winger — he’s wasted when he can’t bomb up and down the pitch at his leisure. If there are no other options, Jamal Musiala should play there instead. There needs to be a plan B for Kimmich — Roca needs integrating ASAP.
The international “break” will be anything but for Hansi Flick. There is a malaise in this team, and he needs to eradicate it before Bayern suffer any further humiliation. It’s a tough ask, but he can pull it off — the man won the treble, after all.