Bayern Munich was outclassed for 90 minutes by Bayer Leverkusen, eventually losing 3-0. Leverkusen beat Bayern in every phase of the game, extending the gap at the top of the table to five points with 13 matchdays remaining. Leverkusen remains undefeated in all competitions and is the heavy favorite to win both the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal to become the new kings of Germany. Here are some observations from the match:
Outside backs are the X-factors in the 3-4-2-1
Josip Stanišić hounded Sacha Boey up and down Bayern’s left flank all night. Stanišić caught Boey napping in the 18th minute to propel Leverkusen into the lead. Alejandro Grimaldo made a beautiful run to get behind Aleksandar Pavlovic and Min-Jae Kim, then rocketed a near post shot past Manuel Neuer to put the game out of reach. Jerome Frimpong put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal in stoppage time.
Both Boey and Noussair Mazraoui were non-factors in the attack all night, often standing around unsure of what to do or where they were supposed to be. While the injuries to Alphonso Davies and Kingsley Coman came at a terrible point in the season, it’s clear that this is not a feasible lineup moving forward.
Veteran leadership in the midfield
Bayern have been blessed with the luxury of Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller for years and their veteran experience and presence was sorely missed for the first 60 minutes. Bayern was much more organized and confident once Kimmich and Müller were subbed in, but the damage was already done.
Granit Xhaka and Robert Andrich dominated the middle third with help from the rest of the Leverkusen’s relentless pressure. Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sané saw double teams every time they touched the ball and never had a moment to breathe.
Leon Goretzka and Aleksandar Pavlovic struggled to contain Florian Wirtz as he constantly weaved in and out of Bayern’s defense. Goretzka and Pavlovic can be serviceable against most opponents, but are probably too similar to play next to each other against elite talent.
Harry Kane was a phantom
Seven touches in the first half, 11 touches in the second half. Those are absurdly low numbers for a player that cost €95M. Bayern’s attack (for lack of a better term) was focused on Musiala and Sané creating magic by dribbling through the entire midfield. Kane was left on an island and rendered ineffective.
On the other side, Leverkusen lost their leading scorer, Victor Boniface, to a groin injury in early January. Leverkusen has been noticeably less potent in the attack in the Rückrunde, but have still found ways to win games. Today was no different as Florian Wirtz played incredibly as a false nine.
The highest scoring team in Europe was shut out tonight, only managing one shot on target. Bayern’s offense lacked creativity and execution. While the Bundesliga title seems almost out of reach, Tuchel will need to figure this out in the Champions League if he wants to stay in Munich next season.
Xabi Alonso’s squad was ready for the spotlight
Thomas Tuchel is generally known for his rigidity and reliance on older players that deliver consistent, albeit boring, performances. Tuchel went the opposite direction in the biggest match of the season. How can a team like Bayern lack a reliable identity or system in February?
Boey had no business playing on the left wing, when Raphaël Guerreiro has proven to be solid anywhere on the pitch over the past couple months. Leaving Kimmich and Müller both on the bench for the first sixty minutes was costly, especially since it narrowed the attacking zones in a crowded midfield. The center-backs played fine but Matthijs de Ligt is invaluable as a vocal leader.
Hats off to Alonso for preparing his team to play confidently, strategically, and intelligently. Leverkusen rarely overcommitted numbers to the attack, while causing chaos and confusion along Bayern’s backline. Leverkusen has befuddled teams all season and Bayern was the latest victim.
Looking for a more in-depth review of the game, or do you just want to wallow in our misery? Then check out our postgame podcast! Chuck and INNN talk about Tuchel’s shortcomings and why Bayern Munich were outclassed by Bayer Leverkusen. Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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