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Three observations from Bayern Munich’s troubling 1-1 draw vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

This same team got annihilated 6-1 at the start of the season. What changed?

FC Bayern München v 1. FC Köln - Bundesliga Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Is it the coach or the players?

Six points gone in three games. Three goals scored, three conceded. Bayern Munich have not had a run this bad in a very long time. Yes, the team is still on top of the Bundesliga table, but just barely.

Second half syndrome is hitting this team hard. Not just in the context of the second half of the season, but in the second half of games as well. Is the World Cup to blame? The slippery pitch? The atrocious refereeing? Or is it something between the players and the coach?

Julian Nagelsmann doesn’t seem to know his best XI. His first two lineups (versus Leipzig and Koln) were unable to break down the opponent, so he switched to a hyper-offensive 4-1-4-1 with Serge Gnabry dropped to the bench in order to find some semblance of attacking concept. It didn’t work either. Now he moves onto a literal must-win against Mainz, and there’s no clear idea of who should start and where. It feels like the coach himself doesn’t know how to fix the problem.

The players themselves have not been good either. Alphonso Davies and Kingsley Coman bumbled around aimlessly on Frankfurt’s flank as they failed to find a decent shot or pass over 90 minutes. That left only the right to create anything, which did result in the only goal of the game. Passing has been an issue all season — long passes, short passes, crosses, and even corners are woefully inaccurate, even from the usually immaculate Joshua Kimmich. Defenders switch off at just the worst times, leading to opposition equalizers from nowhere.

It would be easy to blame this on one key factor. Unfortunately this doesn’t look that simple. In fact, simplicity seems to be what’s missing.

Overcomplicated and underdelivering

FC Bayern München v Eintracht Frankfurt - Bundesliga
Julian Nagelsmann has been a frustrated figure in 2023 so far.
Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Julian Nagelsmann started Kingsley Coman on the left, and instructed him to stay wide. Then, curiously, he had Alphonso Davies regularly make runs into the midfield, like an inverted fullback. Jamal Musiala was made an offensive No. 8 and asked to support Coman out wide, but the Frenchman often kept the ball too long to allow Musiala to have an impact.

Then, after subs, Ryan Gravenberch took up the No. 8 role while Musiala moved wide, though the tactics didn’t change. It was still a lone-midfielder setup, with the aim being to break down Frankfurt with intricate passing and movement. It just didn’t work. The moves were poorly executed, and the half chances came too sporadically to trouble the Frankfurt defense.

Things were more functional on the right, where Leroy Sané, Thomas Müller, and Josip Stanisic all carved together a partnership that occasionally knocked on the Eagles’ doors. However, with this weirdly lopsided attack and weak midfield, Bayern never really got to grips with the game and stamped their control on proceedings.

Let’s talk about some easy things. There was a distinct lack of overlapping runs, and very few crosses. How many times did Bayern even try to service Choupo in the box? Only Müller ever tried to find him, and those led to some very good chances. Those plays, however, were not repeated. It didn’t seem to even be in the game plan — more like a spur of the moment thing.

If the team is out of form, then why not revert to more simplistic tactics? It feels like every Bayern attack needs to be overly clever. Ten passes where one would do. Just send the ball in! Force 1v1 and 2v1’s on the wings! Just shoot! What we have instead simply isn’t working right now.

Thomas Müller remains key

Yes, we drew again today. However, at least in the first half, the attack showed some life signs. The right hand side was especially lively, with Josip Stanisic, Leroy Sané, and Müller all creating havoc through clever linkup and solid movement.

Outside of the goal, there were chances created by the interplay between Choupo and Müller, and Müller and Sané, and others. Corners were forced where they weren’t in other games due to pressure off the ball, and around the 60th minute Müller not just prevented a sure shot on goal, but used it to launch a counterattack (that broke down because why not).

This is a template to build on. Let’s not go straight back to square one after this. If Brazzo wasn’t lying and the performance principle exists, then Müller should be in the starting XI versus Mainz, in his standard attacking midfield position.

Miscellaneous observations

  • The turf at the Allianz Arena has been so poor since the restart. Did the NFL game mess it up? Players slipping may have cost Bayern today.
  • Does anyone think the quality of refereeing in the Bundesliga has been especially poor this season? Frankfurt got away with fouls in the vast majority of their ball recoveries. It was a bloodbath.
  • Dayot Upamecano shouldn’t be blamed for the result — Randal Kolo Muani got the better of him on the goal, but was otherwise kept at bay 4/5 times. It’s not ideal that one lapse led to a goal, but Upa did his job well.
  • Josip Stanisic had a great game despite the conceded goal. Leroy Sané benefitted from his presence.
  • Yann Sommer saves that Muani goal if he were in a Gladbach shirt.
  • The PSG game is going to be a massacre at this rate. This start to 2023 isn’t what anyone expected.

Want to hear more about the game? Why not check out our postgame podcast? Listen to it below or directly on Spotify.

As always, we appreciate all your support!

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