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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s disappointing 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig

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A disappointing but deserved draw means Hansi Flick must go back to the drawing board and reevaluate his tactics.

RB Leipzig v Bayern Muenchen - DFB Cup Final 2019 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images

Hansi Flick’s 4-3-3 exposed

Everyone knows that Bayern Munich will need a new coach this summer, and Hansi Flick once again squandered an opportunity to show that he is the man for the job. Flick once again opted for the ill-advised 4-3-3 setup, with a dual-pivot of Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller on the wings, and Leon Goretzka at attacking midfield.

While this is a setup that worked wonders against Schalke, Nagelsmann proved that it comes up short against better teams. Leipzig were set up to sit deep and completely stonewall the flanks, making Muller and Gnabry especially useless. What little service that made it to the feet of Robert Lewandowski was easily dealt with by the Lawnballers, as the Polish striker was isolated and lacked any support inside the box.

This goes to show that, even though Goretzka can have a good performance at attacking midfield from time to time, he isn’t cut out for the role. Pushing him up so high squanders his ability to protect the defense, and he’s not good enough to be a real strike partner for someone like Lewandowski — leading to an imbalanced midfield and an ineffective attack.

Given the problems up front, Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard had to push up very high to provide some width in offense. This allowed Leipzig plenty of space to counter on the flanks, and only poor finishing from Timo Werner prevented them from walking away with a crucial away win at the Allianz Arena.

The xG map for the game is damning:

Leipzig were the better team. A 0-0 draw flattered Bayern.

We need to talk about Serge Gnabry

Does anyone think Serge Gnabry has had a good season so far? The 24-year-old has enjoyed some amazing highlights for sure, but his overall quality of play has been deeply worrying. These days, Gnabry usually feels like a passenger on the pitch — his defending is poor, he doesn’t dribble much, his shooting has been erratic, and his passing is mediocre. He may have a good tally of goals and assists, but his overall quality of play deserves more scrutiny.

Let me ask a simple question: What makes Philippe Coutinho the target of such harsh criticism, when Gnabry is out there doing even worse? Even Kingsley Coman, who has been the subject of much frustration for Bayern fans, usually puts up a better overall performance than Gnabry even when he lacks the final ball or fails to get a goal/assist. Coman never had a game as good as Tottenham, but he’s also never had a game as bad as the one Gnabry just had against Leipzig.

With Chelsea coming up, Hansi Flick needs Gnabry to shape up. Otherwise, he may lose his starting position to Coman and Perisic. Or even Coutinho, if it comes down to it.

Game management is missing at Bayern Munich

Once again, Bayern showed a disappointing lack of game management, and Nagelsmann was able to exploit this weakness with ease. In the beginning of the game, Leipzig set up in a deep 5-3-2 with players like Konrad Laimer and Tyler Adams tasked with overloading the wings and keeping the Bavarians from creating clear-cut scoring chances.

While Bayern dominated in the early stages, a familiar sense of complacency soon fell over the team around the 30-minute mark. Soon, Leipzig began to get more adventurous with their play. The five man backline switched to a three, and Leipzig’s mids and forwards moved further up the pitch to press Bayern. By the end of the first half, all momentum the Bavarians had was gone — Nagelsmann had successfully weathered the storm and turned the tables.

In the second half, the team was immediately on the back foot, with Leipzig winning the ball easily and launching quick counters. Nagelsmann allowed his team to open up far more than before, but even so Bayern were unable to capitalize on the increased space between Leipzig’s lines.

The fact that Leipzig opened up while Bayern’s offense still flat-lined is a pretty damning indictment of the team’s game management abilities. Bayern over-committed to the first 30 mins and ran out of steam for the rest of the game. Nagelsmann, being clever, predicted this would happen and devised a gameplan that would hard-counter Bayern’s front heavy offensive style. If Leipzig had played such open and expansive football in the first half hour, they’d have been ripped to shreds. By holding his team back, Nagelsmann outfoxed Flick.

Such naivete cannot continue if Bayern want to be serious challengers in Europe. A 90 minute performance is needed, not a 30 minute one.

Miscellaneous observations:

  • Alphonso Davies was still excellent.
  • Hansi Flick should’ve subbed on Coman much sooner than he did. The Frenchman revitalized Bayern’s offense for the few minutes he was on.
  • Someone needs to stop Bayern coaches from playing Thomas Muller on the wing. You can only watch Muller make a backpass to Pavard so many times before you lose your mind.
  • Philippe Coutinho was a better winger than Gnabry for the short time he was on. Tells you how bad Gnabry was.
  • Timo Werner did Bayern a solid by missing that sitter. It’s clear: he really wants to play for Bayern.