Bayern Munich dismantled Dynamo Kyiv in style on their second Champions League matchday of the season. The game showed impressive offense by Leroy Sané, Robert Lewandowski, and company, but it also revealed a fascinating and meticulous strategic approach on the part of head coach Julian Nagelsmann. Here are four observations on this impressive victory.
Leroy Sané! Leroy Sané!
Leroy Sané has arrived! His first year at Bayern after his injury was underwhelming, but it is safe to say that he has hit his stride. After a handful of starts on the right flank, Sané moved to the left, had an assist against Hertha, and has not looked back. Since that game, he now has 7 assists and 4 goals, and was on fire against Dynamo Kyiv. In fact, after torching two defenders and uncorking a rocket on target, the fans in the Allianz Arena could be heard chanting his name: “Leroy Sané! Leroy Sané!” A far cry from the boos he heard early this same season.
Sané played like a man on fire, and he was finally rewarded for his outstanding effort tonight with an assist on Serge Gnabry’s breakaway goal and a screamer of a goal of his own. What a shot:
LEROY SANE.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 29, 2021
Cross or shot? pic.twitter.com/0yZkUoEeQJ
Of course it was a shot!
Sané is finally living up to his billing as a superstar. Long may he continue!
Nagelsmann’s devastating offensive plan
When the starting lineup featured no Benjamin Pavard but all three of Lucas Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano, and Niklas Süle, many of us anticipated a back-three defensive line. Süle would presumably play as the right center-back, while Alphonso Davies would drive up the field to help the attack. But we got more than that.
While Davies drifted upfield wide as expected, it soon became clear that Nagelsmann intended Süle to play more as a right-back than as a center-back. But with a twist: just as Davies held the left flank outside of Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry held the right outside flank while Süle played in the right half-space.
In other words, When Bayern was on the ball, this was how they looked:
Yes, essentially a 2-2-4-1-1 in which Müller had the freedom to roam anywhere he liked.
This top-heavy formation entailed some risk, of course. Upamecano was often lingering beyond the halfway line as the forwards searched for an opening. But Nagelsmann’s calculated risk paid off: Manuel Neuer single-handedly shut down the few chances that eluded Bayern’s defenders, and the effect on offense was indeed suffocating. Dynamo Kyiv’s midfielders tried their hardest to bring the ball forward, but after about half an hour, the writing was on the wall.
And Niklas Süle bodied his way forward as part of the offense, winning a key pass and two shots off-target.
Nagelsmann’s clever subs
With solid 4-0 lead by the 69th minute, Nagelsmann was ready to begin resting his fragile forwards. Jamal Musiala came on for Gnabry, playing inside on the right. Then Benjamin Pavard came on at right-back, but replaced Davies. That set off a cascade of dominos on the field: Nagelsmann simply moved Süle from his hybrid attacking position to center-back alongside Upamecano, pushed Lucas Hernandez to left-back, and thus effectively replaced everyone like for like. After Sané duly scored and was ready to be subbed, Nagelsmann put Buona Sarr on for him: with Sarr on the right, Musiala took Sané’s place on the left. And the stage was set for another twenty minutes of Bayern control. Choupo-Moting’s goal off a lovely cross by Pavard was the icing on the cake.
Not to toot my own horn—ok, totally to toot my own horn—but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has an incredible tally of 7 goals and 3 assists in just 187 minutes of game time this season.
Read that again: 7 goals, 3 assists, 187 minutes.
Nagelsmann has used Choupo sparingly to relieve Lewandowski when Bayern can afford to sit him for a game or after he has already effectively secured victory. The amazing thing is that Choupo has constantly produced in almost all his appearances. And on top of that, he is by all accounts a locker-room favorite. Bayern does not normally offer more than a one-year extension to players over thirty. Lewandowski is one exception. Choupo is another (signed for two years until 2023). It’s easy to see why.