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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s 2-1 win over Freiburg

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A goal and assist by Thomas Muller dragged Bayern over the line, but the performance was a huge improvement.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Five players are carrying Bayern Munich this season

Despite almost everything going wrong at certain points this season, Bayern Munich still keep winning game after game. Normally, you’d put it down to the team’s incredible mentality, or the quality of the players at our disposal — but to be honest, it’s really down to a group of five key players.

Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Joshua Kimmich, Kingsley Coman, and Manuel Neuer. These five have been carrying Bayern on their backs this season. Unlike last year, where everyone played a key part in the wins, these days it feels like one of the aforementioned players keeps dragging Bayern over the line.

Today, Muller scored and assisted while Lewy bagged the opener. Other days, it’s Neuer saving surefire goals or Kimmich dominating the midfield (and scoring clutch goals). You get the picture. These five players have an extraordinary impact on Bayern’s system, and it’s honestly kind of scary how reliant we are on them. Last year, guys like Alphonso Davies, Leon Goretzka, David Alaba, and Serge Gnabry were regularly sharing the plaudits — not anymore.

In some ways, it feels like Bayern are less of a team right now. These five individual players are just amazing to watch, but you can’t help but miss the days when the whole team contributed as a cohesive unit. Don’t get me wrong, the contributions are still there, but they’re somewhat muted and have far less impact — which is maybe why Bayern are struggling so much lately.

Has Hansi Flick learned his lesson?

Today’s gameplan was a far more conservative one from Hansi Flick. While the backline didn’t have the changes folks were clamoring for — David Alaba and Jerome Boateng continue to start over Niklas Sule, while Benjamin Pavard reprised his role at right-back — he did drop the defensive line a few yards back, and had the forwards press much more aggressively than the last few games.

Freiburg made it through the first half with almost no attacks to their name, and it got little better for them in the second. Sure, they scored a goal, but it was from an unlucky set piece. Their biggest chance of the night came during the dying minutes of the game, when Nils Petersen hit the crossbar — but by that point, Hansi Flick had subbed off his entire starting midfield and was probably looking to see the game out.

The xG map for the game (via understat) shows that Bayern had the overwhelming edge in this one, and should’ve scored way more given the chances they had:

Overall, this was a good response by a Bayern team that’s been under fire as of late. Freiburg came into the game as the team in form, and they were soundly outplayed despite everything that’s been going on. This is a good way to build confidence for the players — hopefully, Flick can now inspire the team to a bit of momentum for the second half of the season.

The right-back position continues to cause headaches

Benjamin Pavard didn’t make any catastrophic errors in this game, but he wasn’t good either. It feels a bit reductive to keep mentioning this after every game, but Bayern’s right-back position is a source of countless issues this season. Pavard, when he plays, isn’t active enough in the offensive phase, and gets bypassed far to easily on defense. The less said about Sarr, the better.

It’s getting to the point where Chris Richards should really be getting more of a look in at right-back. The American might be green, but he has a ton of potential and can only get better with minutes. With Bayern having opened up a slim lead at the top of the table this weekend, maybe Flick will choose to take the gamble against Augsburg in midweek. Or maybe not — outside of Jamal Musiala, the coach has been very reluctant to trust his younger players with key roles in the squad.

Miscellaneous observations

  • Robert Lewandowski now holds the record for most goals scored in the Hinrunde, having managed 21 with one game still left before the halfway mark. That's incredible.
  • Joshua Kimmich looked dead tired near the end of the game there, no wonder Flick subbed him off. Could Hansi rest him in midweek? Augsburg aren't giants, but they aren't pushovers either.
  • Thomas Muller now has double digit goals and assists for Bayern this season, the only Bayern player to do so. Flick’s been the first coach in a long time to trust him this much, and it's having an effect.
  • The fact that Corentin Tolisso was subbed on for Kimmich doesn't bode well for Marc Roca. What does he need to do to get a game?
  • Lucas Hernandez will be another player who's going to be disappointed with the lineup today. Alaba and Davies did well, but the Frenchman deserves more minutes.