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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s 2-3 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach

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Bayern Munich lost their first game in 2021 after a five-goal thriller at Borussia-Park.

Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Bayern Munich has lost their second game of the 2020/2021 season and their first game this year after a thrilling Friday night clash against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Die Elf vom Niederrhein (The eleven from Lower Rhine) deservedly won against a lackluster Bayern.

Marco Rose outwitted Hansi Flick

Marco Rose showed his intentions before the game even started. With both Christoph Kramer and Denis Zakaria starting, it was clear that the usual deep-lying Florian Neuhaus would have more of an offensive role while the two defensive midfielders offered stability behind him. Instead of the normal 4-2-3-1 formation, Rose set up his team in a 4-3-3 formation and a midfield trio that consisted of two defensively focused midfielders.

For Hansi Flick and his Die Roten, it was business as usual. High-defensive line, a number 6 and a number 8 in the midfield, and two tricky wingers on each respective side of Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski. Fliki-taka can on its best days win the Champions League, on an average day it can lose to a decent football team. What is interesting is that Flick seems to know the problem. As he mentioned in his press conference, it is the play without this season that is considerably worse. The constant pressing machine and the lethal offensive runs made by all eleven players is missing, and it is costing Bayern Munich points.

I believe Rose prepared for this as he set out his team to perfection. Gladbach gladly let Bayern play the ball within their backline, patiently waiting for an opening to counter. Because of Kramer and Zakaria’s presence, Gladbach had extra cover deep in their midfield and was extremely skilled at limiting any clear-cut Bayern chances. On the ball, Gladbach did not waste much time building up any-play as they played extremely direct and with purpose. Further down the pitch, they were able to play out of Bayern’s press as they had two players linking up the defense and midfield, Zakaria and Kramer.

Flick and his Bayern didn’t change their tactics from previous games. In all honesty, why should they? When it works, it works to perfection. But today it didn’t, and I credit that to Marco Rose and his excellent Gladbach side.

Lack of individual quality

Indeed, it wasn’t just because of Borussia’s set-up that Bayern lost the game. Most Bayern players had a poor game. Starting with the obvious, Bayern’s defense has not been great as of late. The last time they kept a clean sheet in the Bundesliga was in October 2020, and I would argue that today was the worst defensive performance under Hansi Flick. Everyone in the backline, except for Manuel Neuer, had a really poor game. Niklas Süle became a bully victim to the Swiss beast that is Breel Embolo while David Alaba looked out of his depth. On the wings, both Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies looked shaky defensively and uninspired offensively. The defense was extremely sloppy and gave away too many passes throughout the game, this time the offense couldn’t save them.

The midfield had a poor game as well. Joshua Kimmich was never able to dictate the play and fell short defensively throughout the game. The reason could very well be that he just got back from injury, but it doesn’t dismiss the fact that he was very poor today. Offensively, Bayern lacked the creative spark for most of the game. Yes, Thomas Müller gave a 100% effort all like he always does and yes, Robert Lewandowski is a dangerous threat every time he touches a football, but today it just wasn’t enough. Leroy Sane and Douglas Costa were woeful and offered no attacking threat on the wings.

Does the Bayern squad lack individual quality? No. Did they lack the individual quality for 90 minutes today? Yes.

Never a better time to have a dip in form

Today was a far cry from the Bayern Munich that won the Champions League final at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. I think it is fair to say that Bayern has decreased slightly this season compared to the conclusion of last season. I think this is due to three main reasons:

1. Bayern was ‘out-of-this-world’ good this summer: To expect Bayern to reach the same heights as the team who won against Barcelona with 8-2 in a Champions League quarterfinal would be an automatic way to set oneself up for disappointment (if you’re a Bayern fan of course). Today’s Bayern was always going to be slightly worse than the team who won the Champions League. Not that they have been bad by any means, but this dip in form was inevitable when you compare today’s Bayern to the Bayern in August 2020.

2. 2020/2021 schedule madness: The players are tired and currently, seem to lack the stamina to play true Fliki-Taka. Add a couple of injuries and I think it makes sense why Bayern has been worse off the ball this season. They simply don’t have the energy enough to fulfil Fliki-Taka to perfection.

3. Newcomers have not been integrated perfectly yet: Another understandable reason. It often takes time for new signings to be integrated into a new coach and new teammates. I think this is the case for the biggest signing this summer, Leroy Sane. He has the talent; he just needs the time.

I believe all three of these explanations could cover most of Bayern’s minor issues this season. However, the point of this observation is that if there was any point in the season where Bayern should lose some games due to poor form, it is now. Bayern has only played 15 games in the Bundesliga and has yet to play a single knock-out game in the Champions League. Even if the form starts to decrease for the next games, there will be plenty of time to turn things around.

Who knows? Maybe a bit of misfortune will do this team, one that hasn’t lost many games this past year, the world of good.

Extra observation: imagine the atmosphere at Borussia-Park if the fans were allowed in tonight...Let’s all hope it can happen again in 2021!