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Five observations from Bayern Munich’s nervy 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund

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A tense and aggressive game ends with Bayern going 7 points clear at the top of the table.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
Nope.
Photo by Federico Gambarini/Pool via Getty Images

Alphonso Davies is a force of nature

If people are getting bored of reading about how good Davies is, that’s too bad because I’m not tired of it yet. Bayern Munich have uncovered an absolute gem of a player, and teams all over the world will be kicking themselves for not noticing him sooner.

Deployed on the left side of the defense, Davies was once again at his imperious best, using his pace and physicality to shut down all hope on Dortmund’s right. Achraf Hakimi and Thorgan Hazard stood no chance against the Canadian, and even the physically gifted Erling Haaland struggled to go toe-to-toe with his fellow 19-year-old.

Alphonso Davies is an absolute monster. He’s definitely the best left back in the world right now, and don’t let Liverpool fans tell you otherwise. A player that puts up stunning performances like these is rare indeed.

Bayern’s midfield missed Thiago

While Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka held their own against Dortmund, you get the feeling that Hansi Flick would have preferred to have Thiago out there. There were spells when Bayern really struggled to get the ball up-field, and the Spaniard’s signature pivot-turn would have helped bypass BVB’s press and make more things happen in attack.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Bayern’s midfield was bad. There were a few errant passes, but that’s to be expected given the high-intensity press employed by Lucien Favre. This game was a far cry from the last meeting between these two sides, in which BVB were too passive and basically rolled over and died. Speaking of which ...

Dortmund have improved by leaps and bounds

Maybe it’s because of the new signings or maybe it’s because of how they’ve matured in the last six months, but this BVB team has come a long way since losing 4-0 at the Allianz Arena last year. There’s more grit, more power, more organization, and more overall sharpness to this Dortmund side than the one we saw in the Hinrunde.

Hopefully, this is a sign that Dortmund are building towards something good. Even without the advantage of the Yellow Wall and with a plethora of injuries holding them back, they played Bayern to a virtual standstill. With a little bit more maturity (and some luck with injuries), this team can do great things in the league and in Europe. Bayern have a serious contender on their hands.

Hansi Flick’s defense is playing a dangerous game

Bayern’s defense looked competent in this game, and it’s all down to how Hansi Flick has set them up. The idea is to deny the attackers space around the box in order to force low-quality shots and passes that are easy for the defense to deal with. This is in direct contrast to the ethos of our previous manager, Niko Kovac, who preferred a more rigid and passive defensive style that could stay organized under pressure.

Flick’s defensive game plan is tremendous fun to watch, and it has an uncanny ability to suffocate the opposition offense even when they have numbers up front. I bet those Dortmund players felt like Bayern had 22 men on the pitch at times. However, there are moments where it all goes wrong, and Bayern give the opposition a chance to get back into the game. Flick’s high-octane active pressing game still needs some fine tuning to really be able to clamp down on opponents, but it’s shaping up quite nicely.

You just can’t shut EVERYONE down

That’s Bayern’s attacking philosophy summed up in one sentence. Borussia Dortmund did a commendable job keeping 99% of Bayern’s attackers subdued for 99% of the game, but it’s just impossible to get a proper 100% against this team.

If Robert Lewandowski doesn’t kill you, Thomas Müller will. If Müller doesn’t kill you, it’s going to be Serge Gnabry. If not Gnabry, then it’s Kingsley Coman. Or Leon Goretzka. Or Joshua Kimmich. And so on. Bayern’s attack is an overwhelming force, capable of pressuring even the most compact defense into errors.

In the attacking phase, Gnabry moves inside allowing Davies to go up the field as a left winger, while David Alaba takes his place at left back. Meanwhile Goretzka prepares for a late run into the box while Benjamin Pavard and Coman double-team the right flank to put more pressure on the opposition defense. In this situation, the club effectively has up to eight players all focusing on the attack — only Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, and Manuel Neuer aren’t involved (unless they are — see the goal).

Needless to say, committing such numbers forward is risky, but it pays off given the sheer amount of pressure the team can generate. Bayern had a very low xG value of only 0.77 during the game, but that hides the fact that Dortmund were under tremendous pressure while fending off those 0.77 expected goals. It’s no wonder they eventually cracked — anyone would under such circumstances.