Direct football breaks through Augsburg’s defense
With both Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman missing from the lineup, Bayern Munich found themselves frustrated for the entirety of the first half against Augsburg. Donning a re-creation of a classic kit to mark the club’s 120th year anniversary, the Bavarians faced a very dogged opponent that might’ve played spoilsport in the proceedings, if not for goals by Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka.
Martin Schmidt had his team set up in a very defensive 4-4-2 shape, with an organized pressing plan that put pressure on Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara and limited their time on the ball. The midfield thus disrupted, Bayern struggled to get the ball up-field in any meaningful way, as the players resorted to using long balls to make up for the lack of vertical passing.
Players such as Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry also had a very lackluster first half, full of errors and missed touches, which only added to the team’s general inability to muster any good attacks. However, the players didn’t panic. Augsburg’s game plan was good, but it wasn’t insurmountable — just a bit of extra sharpness was needed. That extra sharpness came in the second half, as a long pass from Jerome Boateng found the run of Thomas Müller, who slotted it home. It was a classic goal, one that we’re all used to, and Boa congratulated his colleague on Twitter after the game:
After scoring, Bayern were able to create many more chances as Augsburg were forced to come out of their shell. Luthe denied both Coutinho and Zirkzee two surefire goals, which is what prevents the scoreline from reflecting Bayern’s dominance. The xG map gives a clearer picture, as Bayern dominate with 4.02 expected goals to Augsburg’s 0.94.
Bayern’s midfield is clicking at the right time
While fans may want to see Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka get more time out in the middle, Hansi Flick’s current setup is probably the one Bayern will stick with for the rest of the season. Thiago and Kimmich had a very challenging task against Augsburg’s deep 4-4-2, but they still showed great composure while being alert to deny Martin Schmidt’s men any chance at a real counterattack.
It’s hard to maintain a stranglehold on the midfield with just two players, but Bayern currently have a setup that works wonders. Unfortunately, Thiago took a bad blow to his head during a challenge late in the game, and was subbed off. Hopefully he’s okay, because it would be a shame if this partnership had to be broken due to injury.
Philippe Coutinho is finally looking settled
Almost seven months since he arrived on loan from Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho is finally showing glimpses of fitting in at Bayern Munich. While he’s had some good games (and a lot of bad ones), until recently you’d get the impression that the Brazilian just didn’t “get” his role in the team’s setup.
The basic problem was that he kept trying to play too much like he did at Barca — too many attempted tricks, meaningless shots from outside the box, and ignoring overlaps in favor of a one-two with central players. When deployed as a winger, he would often drift far infield into the attacking midfield position, causing problems for his teammates as he was essentially out of position.
Now however, Coutinho is finally looking more and more like someone who understands the “Bayern way,” if such a thing exists. While we saw glimpses of it against both Hoffenheim and Schalke, this game against Augsburg confirms the change in his playstyle — Coutinho often looks for the overlap with Alphonso Davies to his left, he prefers to hold his position out wide instead of marauding inside, and the random long-range goal attempts have been replaced by more incisive passing to his teammates (who are often in better scoring positions).
While he didn’t score or get an assist, in terms of general effectiveness Coutinho had a great performance. While it may not be enough to justify his €120m purchase option, the Brazilian can use these games as building blocks to end his season at Bayern on a high note.