It’s official: FC Bayern have won their eighth successive Bundesliga title after a thrilling 1-0 win over Werder Bremen. It wasn’t a walk in the park, as the Bavarians had to work extremely hard in the Weserstadion before pulling out their celebratory T-shirts, but they got the job done. Here are some observations.
Let the ball fly, kick it, if you have to (this Star Wars reference working for anyone?)
Bayern’s main game plan today revolved around long balls. Bremen’s defense was very compact all game, and it was pretty clear early on that Bayern’s normal passing play would not be able to make a dent in it. So the team took a more direct approach by playing long passes all around the pitch, be it back, forth, sideways. The reasoning behind this was to stretch Bremen’s defense apart as much as possible, thus finding the necessary space in the penalty area.
It was through a long ball from Jerome Boateng that Robert Lewandowski scored the only goal of the game, and most of Bayern’s clear cut chances after that were similar: launch the ball behind the defense, find someone in the middle, and get the ball to him. Lewandowski almost scored a brace this way, but Thomas Muller was caught offside. Nevertheless, it was a tactic that Bayern normally do not use, but it proved to be quite effective. With a little fine-tuning, it might be a worthy plan B.
Jerome Boateng has still got it
If you were one of the few people reading my personal player ratings in the Match Awards comment sections, you’ll have noticed that Jerome Boateng has been my Man of the Match for two games in a row. Well, he just might make it three in a row.
The World Cup winning center-back was an absolute beast in defense, putting in clean and effective challenges all game. He was always in the right place at the right time and was a huge reason why Bayern was able to keep a clean sheet today. His presence was especially felt after Alphonso Davies got sent off, when the defense started shaking. With three clearances, one tackle, two interceptions, and one blocked shot, Boateng was everywhere he needed to be. Plus, his passing accuracy was also quite high, successfully completing 90 out of the 103 passes he attempted all game. Most importantly, his long ball to Lewandowski set the Pole up for the game-winning goal.
Boateng had been linked with a move away from Munich almost all season, even before it kicked off. However, he has proved himself as a valuable asset to the team, and could be awarded with a new contract. He’s earned one, for sure.
...and so has Manuel Neuer
There was one crucial moment when Boateng lost his man, and that was in the 90th minute when he failed to catch Yuya Osako as he rose for a header. The ball glanced off Osako’s head, and seemed destined to find the bottom corner of the net, but Manuel Neuer somehow kept it out with arguably his best save of the season so far.
Not only did he literally save Bayern’s lead, but his sweeping was also on point. He made two charges outside the box when the ball fell loose behind his defense, and even stayed out to block a rebound when his initial clearance went awry. His passing accuracy was even higher than Boateng’s, with 22 out of 25 passes completed for a total of 88%. Although this was not Neuer’s busiest game of the season, he did his job outstandingly well when he needed to.
After raising a few eyebrows last season, Neuer has silenced his doubters by pulling his form back up to world-class levels. He has been an indispensable part of Bayern’s league-winning squad, having played every second of every game. Bayern will be thankful to have secured the services of the best goalkeeper in the world for another three years this time last month.
Hansi Flick is something special
I cannot possibly discuss this league win without bringing up the man, the myth, the Flick. Hansi Flick took over from Niko Kovac following the latter’s resignation last November, and things seemed to be in a more dire state. Reeling from a 1-5 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, his team would have to face none other than Borussia Dortmund in his very first game. However, Flick took that challenge and raised it by blowing the Schwarzgelben out of the water. More convincing wins followed, and although Flick hit a little snag by losing two games in a row, but he picked up the pieces and won Bayern’s last four games of the decade.
Since then, it has been smooth sailing. Flick has led his side to victory in every game in 2020 so far, bar a 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig. He and his team have been breaking records left and right, and as a result, a Bayern side once placed as low as seventh in the league ultimately found themselves four points clear at the top of the table in March. Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop the Flick train in its tracks, as it just kept chugging along as soon as the season restarted, winning every single game and securing the Meisterschale with two games to spare.
Of course, not every game has been a piece of cake, but Flick has proven that he has what it takes to navigate the hardships of being Bayern’s coach, and he was rewarded with a three year contract along with his captain and vice-captain. Long may he reign.