Thomas Müller celebrating his second goal against Dortmund in typical Müller style (Source: AP Photo)
"At Bayern, the journey is always headed towards titles." — Thomas Müller.
When it comes to eventful weeks, FC Bayern have truly lived up to the "FC Hollywood" title recently. A week ago we sat second in the league, coming off a painful loss against Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen. Since then, we've had a very controversial managerial change, we're back on top of the league and Manuel Neuer has finally posted on his Instagram. (Lo and behold, it wasn't about Nagelsmann's departure).
The lovely people at BFW have already given out match awards and talked about the game overall on their podcast, so this article won't aim to do the same. It's more of my personal observation and takeaways from a much needed triumph.
A first look at Tuchel ball
It would be stupidity for a coach to implement his own coaching style with just one training session in charge. Tuchel knows, and the 4-2-3-1 formation he lined up hinted exactly that - the best way to proceed would be to play a system the players are already familiar with. What better choice than Bayern's 'signature' formation? A lot of what we saw yesterday was not a new look but rather a slightly improved one than under Nagelsmann. That aside, one could still see some typical traits of a team under Tuchel.
"I had a lot of conversations with the players...Our idea was to put the players in the position where we think they're comfortable. The acceptance was definitely there." — Thomas Tuchel on how he lined up against Dortmund
In possession, there was a slight difference. Quick passes through the back - the exact words I used in my last article about Tuchel's philosophy - was exactly what we saw. Bayern were the inferior team in possession, but when we did have it, it was majorly through the back four.
Another thing to note was that almost every goal we scored was the result of typically, a long pass that found a hole in opposition play. In other words, space interpretation. That's a popular trait of a Tuchel team, specially his Dortmund one, a pass from the back to create an immediate attacking chance. And, it could very well be why our very own space interpreter shined - he knew where to be and when, and the rest knew how to get the ball to him.
Something I did notice as being more different was our direct approach to attack. There were still some instances, particularly the Musiala chance or Müller and Sané's passes in the opposition box instead of shooting that deny this assertion, but there were less passes in attack. Players took their shot when they could instead of excessive overload when going forward, which is great. Things were clear amongst the attackers and there was a clear cohesion.
Tuchel on the sidelines in charge of his first ever FC Bayern game (Source: AP Photo)
Bayern's counterplay was great, and our wing play was even better. No more of the inverted winger 'nonsense' that Flick tried and the central role Sané played under Nagelsmann was abolished. During buildup, the wingers were almost always involved, making it beautiful to watch.
Also, I think the corner we played leading to our second goal was interesting, which is worth noting. Also, the corner with Müller and Kimmich, which became a dribbling sequence. It's a different style of set pieces and dead balls are something we need to improve upon, so glad we're seeing some focus to that side of our play.
There are negatives, too. After Bayern went 3-0 up there was a clear lack of intensity from our side until the end of the half. We weren't pressing anymore, and off the ball it mostly just looked like the players were waiting for an eventual Dortmund misplaced pass (which funnily enough, happened quite a bit!). However, when we did press, we did well — a good example would be Müller's second goal.
The system was, reminiscent to Flick's, or even resembling an early Heyckens. in particular, a sequence that started with Sane and ending with Müller and Choupo was almost and exact replica of Flick's first game. Like I said earlier, it is further evidence that this is not Tuchel ball, but rather it is something the players are familiar with alongside a touch of Tuchel. But, as Müller said in his post game interview, there were changes, in the positioning, in the gameplan, but slight differences.
Looking ahead at FC Bayern
The upcoming month will be difficult to maneuver with important ties in the Pokal and UCL coming up. What we saw in der Klassiker was great, but it is important to carry that form forward into a se of games that could potentially decide our season. And, it is also worth bearing in mind that even though we handed Dortmund their first loss in 2023, we are still only two points atop the table, which means we cannot afford any slip-up at all.
This was a more playful piece, and opinion based in comparison to my previous one. Once again, I'd like to thank all of you for making it this far and, I'd love to sign off on a positive note.
"With time and rhythm, we'll improve our dominance." — Tuchel on what we can expect in the upcoming games.