So, are the two teams equal?
No, not in the slightest. Bayern Munich are far better than Bayer Leverkusen and the xG stats reflect that.
However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Bayern Munich under Thomas Tuchel play a brand of football that is far below what the squad is actually capable of. When you compare it to what Xabi Alonso has achieved with Leverkusen, the difference is stark.
When a team with the likes of Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry, and Leroy Sané in attack struggles to supply Harry Kane with chances, that’s a systemic issue. When Joshua Kimmich is constantly pulled between playing as a deep lying No. 6 and a forward pressing No. 8, that’s a systemic issue. And when the defense consistently looks disorganized under direct pressure, especially on set pieces — these things all come back to the coach.
Some people may forget this, but Thomas Tuchel wasn’t just brought in to spend €200 million and simulate a game of FIFA career mode. He was brought in to coach the team, to amplify its strengths and bring out the best in the players. That’s not happening right now.
Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt and say that the board failed to fulfill his request for a true defensive midfielder, it doesn’t excuse the level of performance he’s extracting from the team so far. Games feel like a slog, no matter who the opponent may be.
Something needs to change. Fans will hate to hear it, but Manchester United is shaping up to be a real test at this rate. There are already rumblings about Xabi Alonso as the next coach.
If Tuchel loses that one, he could be in real trouble.
Mathys Tel has found his niche
It’s not like Tuchel is squandering all the talent at his disposal. When it comes to Mathys Tel, his usage of the youngster is actually rather savvy and plays into Tel’s strengths as a footballer.
By coming on as a late sub when the game hangs in the balance, Tel is allowed to demonstrate his best qualities. When the whole team is pushing forward to score, when the three points are so tantalizingly close — that’s when he has a knack for showing up and scoring (or in this case, assisting) a winning goal.
It’s much better than being brought on when Bayern are already 3-0 up (as an example), because under those circumstances the team takes its foot off the gas, dimming the brightness of a potential Tel cameo. It’s also better than starting a game from scratch, as he doesn’t need to shoulder the burden of being the sole striker by himself — by being a sub, he isn’t necessarily expected to make a necessary impact, allowing him to play much more freely than he would otherwise.
This is one thing that Thomas Tuchel has done much better than his predecessor, and Tel is rewarding the faith shown in him with solid performances. Hopefully this is one thing that will continue for the rest of the season and beyond.
Fan scapegoats continue to demonstrate their value
Since Thomas Tuchel took over, there’s been a strange section of the Bayern Munich fandom that seeks to scapegoat certain players for the team’s performances.
Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka have been the main recipients of this vitriol, but both Thomas Müller and Dayot Upamecano have experienced it as well. Leroy Sané could probably fall in this category as well, but his recent performances have silenced most of the doubters.
In the end, all of those aforementioned players played rather well individually versus Leverkusen. Kimmich was the beating heart of the midfield and Bayern lost all control after he was subbed. Müller supplied two of the best chances of the night — Goretzka’s header and Kane’s point blank miss vs Hradecky — while also orchestrating a counterpress that disintegrated one he was taken off. Leon Goretzka battled hard in midfield and scored the goal that should’ve won the game. Dayot Upamecano had a few nervy moments against Victor Boniface, but he held his own even against such challenging opposition and kept the big Nigerian just uncomfortable enough to keep him from scoring.
Perhaps it’s time to lay off some of the names on the team sheet and maybe ask questions about who puts it all together. Though it’s still early in the season, the Champions League kicks off again in a matter of days. To win that, you need more than what Bayern Munich showed on Friday night.
Looking for more takes and analysis on the Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen match? Check out our Postgame Show on Spotify or below:
As always, we appreciate all the support!