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Four observations from Bayern Munich’s 3-2 friendly loss against FC Köln

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Bayern Munich start the pre-season on a disappointing note, but there were several positives to take from the game.

FC Bayern Munich - 1. FC Cologne
Mark Uth celebrates after scoring to put Köln up 2-1.
Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Nagelsball is here, and it’s exciting!

Bayern Munich’s new coach is full of ideas, and it showed, especially in the first half. Sure, pre-season games are not necessarily a good representation of a coach’s tactics and abilities because of the absence of almost all of the team’s potential starters. This game featured quite a lot of Bayern’s reserve players, some substitutes and a potential starter in Dayot Upamecano. Köln on the other hand fielded a side comprised mostly of Bundesliga starters and a few substitutes.

And guess what happened? That Bayern side held its own against a more senior and experienced squad. In fact, Bayern dominated for large periods. What caught my eye the most was the intelligent, fluid movement of the Bayern players to take up empty positions, create space for teammates and open up passing lanes. There were also quite a few dummies sending the opposition players on a pitch tour. Overall, the football was intense, attractive and aggressive, but most importantly: intelligent.

It is unfortunate that Bayern conceded three goals, but when one considers that two of them were down to individual errors, with one possibly due to communication problems, it sure feels like with some minor tweaks and the addition of the first team defenders, things will look much better. Besides, nobody expects Bouna Sarr to get much playing time in the regular season, if any at all.

Defense still looking a bit sus

Bayern started the game looking very solid and assured in defense. Upamecano and Chris Richards formed a solid partnership, with the former putting in a very solid shift. Upamecano was also involved in buildup and helped take the ball forward on several occasions with some great runs. Richards on the other hand, looked slightly off, reacting slower than usual, and not winning some of his duels. He also hesitated before making a tackle on a few occasions, giving the wingers/strikers chance to make a pass or take a shot.

Communication problems certainly seemed to play a role in all three of Bayern’s conceded goals. Omar Richards was solid for large portions of the game but was responsible for Köln’s first goal; he handed the ball to Kainz, and two passes later, the ball was in the back of the net. Richards and Upamecano could’ve done better to cover Uth for the second goal, while the third goal was a result of very poor marking from Bouna Sarr.

There were some positives to take home too, like Upamecano’s overall solid showing, a good performance from Tanguy Nianzou and some brilliant saves from Sven Ulreich, almost like he’s not missed a beat since 2019. Jamie Lawrence looked pretty good too. With the addition of Niklas Süle, Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies down the lane, things should inevitably start to look up.

Youngsters shine

Take a bow, Bayern starlets! I was pleasantly surprised by the quality some of the Bayern U-23 players and campus youngsters displayed on the pitch today. Armindo Sieb was brilliant, always active up front. He scored the opener, created numerous chances, sent defenders helter-skelter with his skillful dribbling and movement and also tracked back and defended with his life. He sure looks ready for a jump to the first team sooner rather than later.

Taylor Booth and Torben Rhein were great in midfield. Rhein’s passing looked very good... he unlocked the Köln defense multiple times with through balls that were reminiscent of Joshua Kimmich’s long range vision. Booth was very good in a box-to-box role with numerous dummies, great chances created and some really good dribbling. He assisted Bayern’s second with a great ball for Zirkzee, and is one of the brightest talents in the campus.

To top it all, Lucas Copado, who came in as a substitute in the second half gave Köln’s defense a torrid time. His dribbling was sublime, his skill moves were great to witness and he created quite a few good chances. The youngster has a bright future, and it will be exciting to watch him develop further under Nagelsmann’s tutelage.

Some senior players disappoint

Joshua Zirkzee (20) is still a very young talent, but is a senior in the sense that he’s received quite a lot of first team minutes with Bayern and Parma (not as much as he’d have liked, but still). Unfortunately, he failed to impress in the game, being silenced for last periods by the opposition defense. He regularly took a touch too many, was lacking with the final pass/shot and wasn’t very sharp with the positioning.

Michael Cuisance had a similar outing in the second half. He was caught for pace, fluffed a few passes and wasn’t very effective in an attacking midfield role. He did show some glimpses of great play, but otherwise, there wasn’t a lot to highlight. Both these youngsters haven’t shown much to indicate that they’ll contribute a lot in the coming season or that their stock may rise.

Finally, Bouna Sarr. Where do I even start? He came as a substitute in the second half and wore the captain’s armband as the senior-most player (never thought I’d ever see that happen). He looked poor offensively and was a defensive liability for the entire half. His first touch was awful, his marking was atrocious and he struggled to do anything useful, which sums up his 2020/21 season at Bayern. It is disappointing that Nagelsmann isn’t getting more backing from the club (could bring in a good depth RB option) and we can only hope that he won’t ever have to start Sarr in a game that matters.