Many Bayern Munich supporters have been discouraged by what is being seen as a lackluster performance against inferior opposition today in the Champions League. However, I am in jovial spirits as the part of the world I am writing in has finally started cooling off (no more 100º Fahrenheit days on the forecast) for the fall and winter. With that in mind, here are three reasons (plus a bonus) to be optimistic about Bayern's 3–1 win away to Galatasaray:
Bayern found a way:
In the past few years, we have watched Bayern start slow and concede an opener or come under pressure and give up an equalizer to opposition perceived to be inferior time and time again. Think the 3–3 against Fortuna Düsseldorf (when Dodi Lukébakio scored a hat-trick, joining the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Cristano Ronaldo (allegedly), and Sergio Agüero), the matches against Villareal in the UCL quarterfinals, or or the 5–0 Pokal catastrophe away to Borussia Mönchengladbach. In each of these and many more, Bayern succumbed to the pressure of an objectively inferior team fighting back against the supposedly more dominant side. Today's win over Galatasaray, however, joins a growing list of recent matches where Bayern have found a way to win. Against Köln in the title game last season, it was a moment of individual brilliance from Jamal Musiala. Against København the other week, it was the entrance of the precocious Mathys Tel. Today, it was the combination of a little good fortune and a lot of good defending. The performances will come (see reason 3); the most important thing today was getting all three points — and Bayern accomplished this task.
Bayern showed they can survive more than one form of defense
If I had to describe Galatasaray's off-ball game plan in one phrase, I would say "Flicki-Flacka" (cue pitchforks). Manager Okan Buruk clearly decided that the best way to defeat the Bavarian Giants was to take the game to them at all times, with a constant pressure across the pitch. This led to a few developments as the match wore on. First, Bayern turned the ball over way more often than usual. Bayern had less of the ball, less total passes, and a lower pass accuracy than the game against Mainz, who opted for the opposite off-ball approach this past weekend. Second, the vast majority of Bayern's chances were created on counter attacks when they played through the constant pressure — again, think back to the times Sané was through on goal. Third, by keeping the game level, they were able to get Galatasaray to run out of energy, which has often been cited as the main weakness to the style of play they sought in this match. Ultimately, this ability to survive was what led them to win the match.
Bayern's very own Raumdeuter did not make it off of the bench tonight, but that's OK. It is true that Bayern would have benefitted greatly from his unique interpretation of the attacking midfield role, especially early on against the Galatasaray press. Even without him, however, we saw glimpses of how the looming post-Müller future will take shape. The way that Harry Kane and Musiala linked up for the second and third was indicative of a growing chemistry, even if the goals came against an exhausted opposition. We will see more of these types of goals against more structured opposition in the coming weeks and months, as they continue to mesh on the pitch and in training. Remember, Kane has already scored 13 times and assisted 6 for Bayern in all competitions so far, while Lewandowski had only scored and assisted five times each in all competitions by UCL Matchday 3 in his first season at the club (and would not reach 13 goals until February). It will be a sad day for Bayern fans worldwide when the Raumdeuter retires, but our attack might just be figuring itself out for when that day comes.
Bouna Sarr did not put a foot wrong today in his late cameo. He completed 100% of his passes, did not turn the ball over, played a part in some chance creation, and made an excellent sliding tackle. Maybe the years of training at Säbener Straße have actually rubbed off on him in a good way (besides getting him a nice paycheck)!