No Muller, no party
So it turns out that Bayern Munich really is Thomas Muller FC. Without der Raumdeuter in the middle, Hansi Flick’s carefully orchestrated tactical machine fell to pieces versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The pressing — the most critical aspect of this Bayern team — was miserable, unable to hinder Adi Hutter’s men in any way.
In the first half, the Bavarians were so disjointed and passive that Frankfurt had free reign to maraud up the pitch, especially down their left hand side. Players like Kostic and Younes were never closed down like they should have been, instead being given the space and time to wreak havoc on a hapless defense that was never built to take sustained pressure. Bayern defends by pressing. If that doesn’t work, then the whole system collapses. And without Muller, the pressing doesn’t work.
Just to drive the point home further, here’s a graph made by u/JoelSanders27 on r/soccer. It illustrates that Muller is the most beastly forward in the world when it comes to pressing:
Without him, Bayern is effectively losing up to 10-15 pressures per 90. Add to that, the knock-on effect that happens when Muller’s not on the pitch to drill the other players into position, plus the loss of the team’s most creative player, and you get a catastrophic collapse in form.
Bayern have now won just once since Muller caught the coronavirus in Qatar. Tigres never attacked, and we just barely beat them. Meanwhile Bielefeld and Eintracht had a field day with the team’s midfield and defense. Der Raumdeuter can’t come back soon enough — Bayern needs him.
Hansi Flick’s questionable tactics
Of course, it’s not all just bad luck — the coach needs to take some responsibility for this loss. First was the decision to bench Jamal Musiala for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting — a decision that cost Bayern on the offensive front for most of the game. Second were the subs. While subbing on Leon Goretzka for Marc Roca helped turn the game around, Flick waited until the 80th minute to make another, which killed any hope of Bayern staging a comeback.
The Musiala sub, at the very least, should have come by the 60th minute, if not at half time. Flick will rue the chances his team missed, but questions will be asked about why he didn’t make more proactive moves when Bayern were on the ascendancy (after Lewandowski’s opening goal).
Leroy Sane’s bipolar performance
In the first half, Sane was arguably the worst player on the pitch. Heavy touches, lazy defending, and a almost no impact in the final third. In the second half, it was like someone had flipped a switch.
The German suddenly became one of the most lethal players on the pitch, dribbling past Eintracht’s defense like it wasn’t even there. His devastating dribbles in the buildup to Robert Lewandowski’s goal was Ribery esque — the defense stood no chance. Following that, he was seen sprinting back to the other end of the pitch, pressuring and dispossessing Kostic on the end of a counter.
This continued until he was subbed in the 90th minute. I have no clue which spirit possessed Sane at HT, or if he was just feeling sleepy before the break — but next time, Bayern will hope he shows that quality straight from kickoff.
Is David Alaba back?
One of the few players who can say he had a solid game on the night was David Alaba. The Austrian finally seems to be finding form these days, returning to the solid gameplay he was known for last season. Maybe, the fact that he’s clarified his situation at Bayern is helping him refocus himself on the pitch and bring the quality back to his game.
Hopefully, he continues his resurgence, because Bayern’s defense really needs it.
Lazio will be a nightmare
Bayern Munich now travel to Rome to face SS Lazio in the Champions League. Regardless of whether Thomas Muller makes the trip, this game will be a total nightmare. Bayern’s defense is in chambolic form at the moment, and conceding first almost feels like a foregone conclusion. After that, you just know that an Italian team has what it takes to frustrate Hansi Flick’s men on their turf.
If Hansi Flick wants a win on Tuesday, he needs to start making some changes. Jamal Musiala can’t be sitting on the bench when Thomas Muller is out. Bayern can’t wait until HT to show up to the game. The pressing needs a LOT of work. Defenders need to be on the same page.
Flick is out of time. If he can’t steady the ship now, Bayern Munich could go the season trophyless. It really is that kind of year.