Bayern Munich shows the difference that rest can make
The last time Bayern faced Hoffenheim, the team got hammered 4-1. This time, it was still a hammering, but in the other direction. The difference? Rest.
Bayern weren’t exactly “healthy” coming into the game, with almost the entire starting midfield out for one reason or another. However, for the first time this season, the team is getting a spell of games with at least a week’s gap in between, and it’s done wonders for the team’s fitness and overall quality of play.
Contrast this to the Hinrunde game, which happened just 48 hours after Bayern played a grueling 120 minutes against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup. Credit to Hoffenheim, they punished us that day. But if Bayern had been given the normal amount of rest before that game (the UEFA Supercup is usually a preseason game, after all — it’s not supposed to be played after the league starts) then things would have gone very differently.
Such a shame — if not for that one blemish, Bayern could’ve gone the entire calendar year of 2020 unbeaten.
Thomas Muller is back to scoring form
With his goal on the night, Thomas Muller reaches double digits in a league season for the first time since 2015-16, when Pep Guardiola was still at the helm. While most people think that Muller deliberately reinvented himself as a provider when his goals started to dry up, the truth is that Muller was forced to change his natural style by incompetent coaches who didn’t know how to use his talents.
Under Flick, Muller has found someone who will use his talents to the fullest, and he’s rediscovered scoring form. The Raumdeuter has never just been a provider, but a killer in front of goal. He was showing signs of finding form in Jupp Heynckes’ mini-tenure and during Flick’s first season, and now he’s finally in full flow. His production this season has been nothing short of incredible — perhaps warranting further analysis (stay tuned).
Marc Roca is better depth than Tolisso
Starting for the first time in the Bundesliga, 24-year-old Marc Roca showed that he can be a valuable depth piece for Bayern Munich this season. Playing the deeper role in midfield, he allowed Joshua Kimmich to assume the role of a box-to-box or a #8, which was a pretty good setup all things considered.
The Spaniard kept his distribution fast and tidy, and he was a solid presence in front of the back four. If there’s any criticism to be had, it’s the fact that his pressing could’ve been a little bit more aggressive, and he should’ve positioned himself slightly better at times.
Regardless of those small issues, if Flick’s still trying to decide what his midfield pecking order should be, it’s clear that Roca should be ahead of Tolisso at the moment.
Bayern’s defense reveals a worrying new weakness
Let’s keep this one short — Bayern Munich were never weak to crosses, but it’s becoming a problem all of a sudden. Whenever Hoffenheim managed to beat Benjamin Pavard or Alphonso Davies on the flank, all they had to do was send it into the box and it resulted on a dangerous shot against the Bayern goal.
Manuel Neuer once again had to pull off some insane heroics to keep the scoreline down, but it wasn’t enough for a clean sheet. Take a look at the xG map — Bayern and Hoffenheim were even on chances, and the vast majority of the opponents’ xG came from the area between the center-backs.
This is not a pretty xG map if you’re a Bayern fan, and it looks like a new headache for Flick to solve. Jerome Boateng and David Alaba basically let anyone drift between them unmarked — only Kramaric managed to convert. Next time, Bayern won’t be so lucky.
Serge Gnabry breaks his goal drought, and it should better from here
Gnabry has had a tough season so far. Deprived of his annual pilgrimage to London, the poor man had failed to score a Bundesliga goal since October. However, things are looking up for the winger, as finally broke his drought, and had a great game on top.
There are times when goals can be deceptive — a lucky goal sometimes covers up a bad performance. This wasn’t one of those times. Gnabry was involved in Bayern’s offense throughout the game, pressing hard, winning the ball, and making himself a constant threat to Hoffenheim’s defenders. His passes were incisive, the runs were well timed. It was an all-round performance, with the goal being the cherry on top — and luckily for Gnabs, it’s the third time in a row he’s managed a game like this.
While Gnabry has lacked goals and assists this season, he has never been more involved than in these part few games. The goal was honestly overdue. As long as he keeps this up, he needn’t worry about his stats — goal contributions are inevitable as long he does everything else right.