The anatomy of Bayern Munich
Maybe it’s because my final MBBS exams start from next week, but the way Bayern Munich were set up to dispatch Paris Saint-Germain and secure progression to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League reminded me of a perfectly functioning organism.
Joshua Kimmich is the beating heart of this team. He dictates the tempo and makes it so Bayern Munich can recirculate possession like a finely tuned assembly line. Yet far from being robotic, he is a dynamic player who adds flair and intensity to the game by speeding it up and slowing it down when needed. His forward passes are directed where the ball needs to be, reacting to the flow of the game to pressure the opponents’ weakest links. Positioning-wise, he doesn't just know how to protect the defense, but he's also looking to spring a counter from a missed opportunity or sloppy play.
Ostensibly, I’ve described the duties of a true #6, but it’s the execution that puts Kimmich a level above everyone else. There are no footballers who bring the complete package like he does.
Leon Goretkza, meanwhile, is the lungs of the team. He completes the midfield next to Kimmich. Without his energy, PSG would’ve had an easy time targeting passing channels between the #6 and the two central defenders. Goretzka kept Messi at bay — sometimes with pure muscle, other times with a finely timed interception. His partnership with Kimmich is looking unshakeable at the moment.
The forwards are the limbs. Jamal Musiala and Alphonso Davies, Choupo-Moting and Kingsley Coman. Constantly pouring forward and getting back. Probing for any signs of weakness. Adding speed and strength and making it all happen up top.
The backline is the spine, doing the heavy lifting and keeping everything in check. They provide the foundation for the rest of the team to go forward, and keep a solid platform that acts as a foundation for everything else.
Finally, you have Thomas Muller. This man is the brain. He is the one who dictates the finer points of Bayern Munich’s play. From pressing to quick passes in transition, Muller elevates Bayern Munich from “good” to “excellent”. He yells at the team and constantly tells others where to go, who to press, what to do. His movement for the opener was a case of perfect awareness — dispossessing Verratti to lay it off to Goretzka, which resulted in Choupo’s goal. He deservedly wins MotM on the night and it’s his performance that sets this game apart from the 1st leg.
Joao Cancelo may have to pack his bags ...
Because Josip Stanisic is breaking out. Recapping his performance would be pointless. Your takeaway should be this one word — flawless.
Instead, let’s talk about this young man and what got him here. Stanisic represents a rare story at Bayern Munich. He is a youth player who broke through without any obvious or exceptional talent. Then he competed for his spot, lost it, and spent almost two years with limited or no playing time, working hard in training to wait for his chance. Finally, when the moment showed itself, in front of the biggest crowd on the biggest occasion, he drops a 10/10 performance that drew cheers and applause from the whole Allianz Arena.
A player like Ryan Gravenberch should learn something from him. Stanisic worked so hard to get where he is, and he did it with incredible competition. He played out of position just to find minutes but never complained. Now he’s here, he’s had his triumph, and people are rightfully praising his game. Yet they’ll forget his journey.
Here’s a standing ovation to the long, hard, unglamorous journey taken by Josip Stanisic to get to this point.
Jamal Musiala’s (fixable) weakness exposed
Sergio Ramos and Nordi Mukiele had the better of Jamal Musiala today. In fact, he’s lacked goals and assists in the Champions League this season compared to the Bundesliga. We’ve all been so starstruck by the outlandish things he’s capable of that we never stop to examine the weaknesses in his game.
Musiala is great for his age, but his moment-to-moment decision-making inside the box can use some work. He hesitates for fractions of a second, which allows an elite defender like Sergio Ramos to shut him down. He’s already too good for most of the Bundesliga, but he needs a fraction more to stand with Europe’s elite. Don’t get me wrong, Musiala had a solid game, but it’s not the spectacular highs that we expect from a player who is touted as the future of Bayern and Germany.
Musiala needs to experience more games like this so he can move quicker when he needs to. Bayern Munich will be all the stronger for it.
Matthijs de Ligt was worth MORE than every penny
What was Max Allegri doing with this man? How did Juventus fail to develop him? He is SO good. Words fail to describe the kind of a rock Matthijs de Ligt is right now.
Honestly, here is some free space. I want to see how someone can describe the beastly player De Ligt is right now. Is this cheating? Maybe. But community interaction is fun!
Matthijs just went “CTRL ALT DELIGT” on Q$G in the UCL lmao
Edit: We have a winner!
Julian Nagelsmann got everything right
Followers of this blog will know that I have been one of Julian Nagelsmann’s most vocal critics in the last couple of seasons, and especially after the first leg against PSG. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I thought that Bayern squandered a chance to kill the tie with Mbappe missing. Here’s the pod yourself so you can listen to me rant:
This second leg was so different from the scrappy dogfight we saw in the first. PSG were set up to maybe do something with Messi and Mbappe? Honestly, it’s hard to tell what they wanted to do, since Bayern shut them down so thoroughly.
With Joshua Kimmich sitting in front of two center-backs in De Ligt and Upamecano, Kylian Mbappe had his service to the middle of the pitch cut off. He could not get into ANY 1v1 moments with the goalkeeper.
Leo Messi, positioned on the left, was met with a physical wall consisting of Leon Goretzka, Alphonso Davies, and Matthijs de Ligt. It was a layered defense — if Goretzka fails, then Davies recovers, if Davies fails then De Ligt, and so on. This kept the Argentinian out of the game, and more importantly, isolated from Mbappe on the right. Did they even link up once?
Verratti was covered zonally, based on which player was closest to him. Usually however, it was an attacker — Choupo, Muller, or Musiala — sent to rapidly close him down and limit his time on the ball. It prevented the Italian from setting any kind of tempo or dictating the game on PSG’s terms, keeping their rhythm off balance.
The attack, meanwhile, didn’t quite work in the first half. This is where Nagelsmann showed his brilliance. He made a change — what exactly changed, I’m not smart or observant enough to describe — to make sure Choupo-Moting and Thomas Muller became more involved in the buildup. This immediately resulted in chances, the first ruled offside for nonsensical reasons, and the second becoming a goal.
The subs were perfect for game management, as Choupo was taken off for the speedy Leroy Sane, who could threaten (and DID threaten) PSG on the counter as the scoreboard pressure forced them forward. Sane honestly owes Nagelsmann a goal, as his coach sent him on when it was the perfect time to score.
Eventually the coach went defensive for the final few minutes, choosing to control the game and sending on the experienced Sadio Mane and Serge Gnabry. Gnabry killed the tie via counterattack — expected for a player of his pace — and there was no extended moment of panic like in the first leg. PSG came no closer to scoring in the 89th minute than they did in the 30th.
This was perhaps Nagelsmann’s best ever game as a Bayern Munich coach. He set up the team perfectly. The gameplan was spot-on, the tactics were suited to the players, and changes were made proactively and had instant impact. This is what we expect from a coach at FC Bayern Munich. More of this in the quarter-finals, please.
Can’t get enough analysis of the game? Check out our postgame podcast! Listen to it below or on Spotify.
As always, we appreciate all the support.