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Five observations from Bayern Munich’s chaotic 3-2 win over FC Augsburg

A win’s a win. But is it enough?

FC Augsburg v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Did Bayern Munich deserve to win? Does it matter?

Forget xG for a moment. Forget shots. Forget possession. Heck, forget the scoreline. If you were to watch FC Augsburg vs Bayern Munich from minute one to minute ninety (and then some, added time went wild this week), would you come out thinking that Bayern Munich were the better side and demonstrated that quality on the pitch?

Hard to say, really. That alone should be damning.

Bayern Munich did not create many chances. The scoreboard may say that the team scored three goals, but one came from a corner, another was a wonderstrike by Alphonso Davies, and the Harry Kane goal was thanks to the defender literally passing the ball to him. Meanwhile Augsburg themselves had enough chances to equalize, and had VAR intervene against them on multiple occasions.

This is not to overly praise Augsburg, they weren’t particularly great either. They created very little going forward and the majority of their chances came late in the second half, including the two penalties that were mistakes from Bayern players who should have known better (Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller). It’s no coincidence that their resurgence came late against a Bayern team that are reeling from injuries, and had to play an intense 90 minutes against Union Berlin on Wednesday.

The problem is, not every team will be Augsburg. In fact, just two weeks from now, Bayern Munich will face league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, in a game that could determine the outcome of the title race.

So, does it matter that Bayern didn’t play well against Augsburg? One argument says no, three points are all that matter. But the other argument says that these performances simply aren’t good enough, and will catch up to the team sooner or later.

Is that it?

Four games into 2024 and it feels like Thomas Tuchel has already shown us the limits of his football. No matter what combination of players he chooses, no matter who the opponent, the team always plays the same way. It’s a safe, boring style of play that dominates possession but creates very few chances.

Most of the “creativity” (if you can call it that) comes from the wings, with Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman attempting to dribble through two or three defenders. Jamal Musiala, when he gets the ball, can usually beat his man — but he can’t beat the three other defenders that come afterward. Harry Kane never gets the ball to begin with. The fact that he scores so often is a minor miracle.

The midfielders have no offensive presence. Their entire role is to just collect the ball from the defenders and pass sideways — either to a running fullback/winger, or across the pitch creating the U-shape we’ve become so familiar with. Leon Goretzka, a man who specialized in late runs into the box under Hansi Flick and Julian Nagelsmann, never gets a chance to do that in the current system.

Defensively, there’s no structure. Pressing is more or less non-existent. Counterattacks are few and far between, and often unsuccessful. Goals are stopped because a defender steps in at the right moment, or Manuel Neuer makes a crucial save.

The whole system leans on individual talent, rather than supporting it. Players like Musiala and Goretzka are leaving crucial skills by the wayside to play the way the coach wants them to. Thomas Tuchel definitely doesn’t have a perfect squad, but that doesn’t mean he’s doing the best he can. Far from it, his stubborn refusal to change has seen Bayern play some truly depressing football for the last 360 minutes.

VAR in the Bundesliga works, more or less

If there was a star in this show, it was VAR.

FC Bayern München v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga
When you see this in the Bundesliga, it actually means something
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Video assistance in football remains controversial, especially in the Premier League (where the implementation couldn’t possibly be worse). In this game, referee Christian Dingert had to consult VAR maybe half a dozen times, and each one was a key decision that could have altered the course of the game.

Still, the correct decisions were made in the end, and the ref himself used the monitor when called upon, something that their English counterparts are loath to do.

Augsburg fans probably won’t be happy, since they bore the brunt of the VAR reviews this week, but there’s very little you can complain about when it comes to the officiating. The only thing to complain about is the amount of time taken for the reviews to happen — ending with over five minutes of added time in the first half, and almost eight minutes in the second.

VAR works in the Bundesliga, it just needs a little streamlining. The semi-automated offsides used in the UEFA Champions League would be a welcome addition.

Injuries are bad, but discipline is worse

With Kingsley Coman hobbling off injured, and Aleksandar Pavlović also suffering through an ill-timed cramp, it feels like Bayern Munich have become a lightning rod for injuries since the new year. That’s definitely a huge problem, but it’s something out of the coach’s hands. One thing that isn’t, of course, is the discipline.

Bayern Munich ended the game with SIX yellow cards across the whole game, with two penalties conceded. The reality is even worse than the statistics, because Matthijs de Ligt handled the ball just outside his box — an action that could have resulted in yet another penalty if VAR hadn’t intervened. Leroy Sané lost his cool and got a yellow for a silly challenge 80th minute, when Bayern Munich were still cruising with a two-goal lead. This was Sané’s second yellow in as many games.

As a consequence, De Ligt and Sané are both on four yellows for the season, and risk being suspended for the Leverkusen game if they pick up another yellow next week against Gladbach. This puts unnecessary pressure on the team at a time when the squad is already thin. Thomas Tuchel needs to get a grip on his player’s discipline, or else he might not even have a starting XI in a week’s time.

Positives

Aleksandar Pavlović had another good game, he could be the DM that Bayern is looking for. Bayern Munich also scored from a corner, which keeps the strong set piece record going. Anthony Barry deserves credit for that.

Harry Kane didn’t go a third game without a goal, which is a relief because three games in a row would have been a legitimate drought. Manuel Neuer saved a penalty! The man remains imperious even now.

Bayern Munich won a game at a tough away stadium, under conditions (poor pitch, injuries, fixture congestion) that were less than ideal. Getting three points is always valuable. Onto the next one, then.


Interested in an in-depth review of the game? Then why not check out our postgame podcast? Listen to it below or on Spotify.

As always, we appreciate all the support!

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