Bayern Munich came out firing on all cylinders to kickoff this 60th season of the Bundesliga. It was an absolute wrecking of the current Europa League champions, one that should have the Bundesliga doubters chirping. Let’s first revel in the might of the display.
A statement of intent
If there were any doubts about how Bayern would look this season in the Bundesliga, Joshua Kimmich’s audacious free kick goal — slipped past a one-man wall from some ways away into the bottom corner — in the fifth minute gave an early answer. It should have raised the alarms, but Eintracht Frankfurt never woke up. Bayern were faster and more alive to every ball as they romped their way through a torrid first half.
Were Bayern that good or Frankfurt that bad? Probably some of both. Oliver Glasner’s 3-4-3 was an excellent advertisement for BFW resident back-three critic Ineednoname’s campaign against the formation, keeping just enough men back to vacate the midfield. Bayern routinely charged through space with numbers, and showed a fluidity in the final third that was too much to cope with anyway.
Still, that required grit and determination. Bayern showed that none of their traditional ruthlessness has been lost with all the outgoings of the transfer window, and the smooth integration of the newcomers — despite an abbreviated preseason — augurs well for what is to come.
Set piece defense, anyone?
After RB Leipzig scored from a header amid their furious fight-back in the DFL-Supercup, danger flashed again for Bayern’s set piece coaches. A free header in the twelfth minute at the back post over Alphonso Davies clattered off the top bar, and the back-line fell asleep in the 56th on the second ball after a corner. Bayern were let off on both occasions.
Bayern were in control, of course, but that won’t be the case in every game. Set pieces in particular are a free way back into the game — they can materialize out of nowhere, as they nearly did. For a team that prides itself on its set piece work, it’s certainly an area for improvement.
Rotations up front
It’s definitely a variable look in attack for Bayern this year. Gone is the single focal point that was Robert Lewandowski. In his place, there was Sadio Mané, Thomas Müller, and Serge Gnabry interchanging freely.
Müller commanded plenty from the right, but also rotated to the center; Gnabry and even Jamal Musiala took their turns drifting over to the right wing or right half-space. Sadio Mané was a regular feature — the star arrival from Liverpool got numerous good looks on goal — but also dropped in phases deep into midfield, where he showed his creative prowess on the ball and his pressing presence off it.
Fittingly, the first five goals came from five different players. The sixth, delightfully slipped in for Jamal Musiala from the left half-space by Leroy Sané, was a declaration — Bayern can find goals from more than just its forward line and more than just its starting XI.
The new-look defense may have to wait
Heralded signings Noussair Mazraoui (AFC Ajax) and Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus) both made their debuts off the bench, but the starters convinced today. Benjamin Pavard collected a goal and put in a number of good challenges at right-back, looking very much a World Cup champion not soon likely to be displaced.
And then there’s Dayot Upamecano. He pinged passes, got forward, even nearly assisted Müller once — but it was his 1-on-1 work in defense that stood out. Numerous times it was Upamecano’s speed that snuffed out solid chances for a Frankfurt attack that, for all the team’s defensive failings, was still lively and hungry. Two big moments in the second half, one at 62nd minute and one at 80th minute, required Upamecano’s singular intervention to prevent goals.
That was the difference between the comfortable 6-1 finish we saw today and something more frantic, like what developed against RB Leipzig last week.
Where’s the width?
In the first half at least, Bayern poured their attacks heavily down the left half of the field. Even Alphonso Davies has been settling into a deeper role rather than constantly marauding down the flanks.
Bayern didn’t need the wings today, and it was the right way to carve apart Frankfurt’s 3-4-3. But it’s going to be interesting to see how this changes from game to game, if it does — especially as a way of playing to the strengths of Davies and the currently suspended Kingsley Coman.
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