FC Bayern Munich has finally clinched its first home win of the year, but before the cracker duel with PSG in the Champions League round of 16, both coach Julian Nagelsmann and some players raised the alarm. One thing is clear: FCB still has a few construction sites that need to be fixed in order to progress. But there are also positive aspects.
If it weren’t for Serge Gnabry’s trip to Paris or Manuel Neuer’s explosive interview, FC Bayern would probably have been talking about the round of 16 in the Champions League against PSG for weeks. Now there are only three days left until the landmark first leg in the French capital.
It is all the more worrying that even after the 3-0 win against VfL Bochum, the German record champions are worried. The problems need to be fixed quickly.
FC Bayern Munich: This causes concern for the PSG duel
“If we play like this on Tuesday, it won’t be enough,” said coach Julian Nagelsmann after the first three points in the Allianz Arena since the turn of the year and announced: “We have to play an outstanding game in Paris.”
Nagelsmann’s players also struck this notch in the catacombs of the stadium. “The way we played wasn’t good enough on Tuesday, we have to step it up a notch,” explained Leon Goretzka, for example. They are words that worry before the game against the star ensemble of Paris-Saint-Germain, but are quite appropriate. They can be traced back to several construction sites at the same time.
On the one hand, there was the sluggish build-up game against VfL Bochum for long stretches, which was definitely noticeable in terms of freshness during the grueling cup game against BVB during the week. Rarely was it possible to overplay the front two rows of the guests from their own half in such a way that the opportunity arose to follow up with a dangerous action. Before the Winter World Cup, that was still partly possible at will. Too often there was a lack of width, shifting the game to the outside was sorely missed. The result: Balls into the center, which only very sluggishly provided space gain and sometimes ended in unnecessary ball losses.
“I think against high pressing, which wasn’t as active as Bochum can normally do because they have a strenuous game in their bones and aren’t used to it either, you just have to be more active,” Nagelsmann warned with foresight to the game in Paris. Because it is precisely these situations that PSG are waiting for. Winning the ball around the center line or even before that, a quick pass to the top and attacking the opposing defense with the many all-rounders (even without the probably injured Kylian Mbappé). The last two clashes in the 2020/21 season, when Bayern lost to the French in the CL quarter-finals, showed that impressively.
On the other hand, the Munich team often lacked determination in combination play when they managed to get close to the last third. Except for a few times, such as in the opening minutes or when Kingsley Coman made it 2-0, there were fast-paced relay passes or moments when the VfL defense couldn’t keep up. “It wasn’t the case that Bochum didn’t give us space,” remarked Nagelsmann. The first six minutes were “very good”, but they weren’t straightforward either.
His team didn’t show this in the three draws at the start of the second half of the season, said Nagelsmann, who then saw “very bad minutes” up to the 60th minute before it was “okay” again. In this phase, his team lacked “enthusiasm” and “flow”. “Then you can continue the first six minutes and then it’s four, five, six zero here very quickly because we already had spaces. In the end it’s a little too little life,” he added.
There was also support from Thomas Müller, who was hoping for “a little more ambition”: “We’ve had chances to score, but it could just be more refreshing.” Goretzka missed the “commitment” and the “energy”. It is only “small consolation” that many other top teams – such as PSG, who suffered their second defeat in a row with a B-Elf in Monaco (1: 3) – are not going too well either.
It was all the more surprising that Nagelsmann’s half-time speech only lasted a minute and a half and that he watched the game scenes without the Bayern pros. Possibly so as not to upset them. There were also some positive aspects that he could have shown his players.
FC Bayern Munich: That gives hope for the PSG duel
The first thing to mention is the defense, which has been well organized for weeks, whether in a back four or three. Since signing João Cancelo, Nagelsmann has played both variants, including against VfL Bochum.
The vote between Dayot Upamecano and Matthijs de Ligt alone gives hope that Lionel Messi and Co. will be kept in check as much as possible on Tuesday. Benjamin Pavard, who recently presented himself more than solidly both as a right-hand part in the back three and as a right-back, was also convincing. Only Alphonso Davies, who has been weak for weeks, remains an element of uncertainty, which is why it would not be a surprise if he sat on the bench again in Paris.
Goretzka, who acted as a defensive six due to Kimmich’s yellow-red suspension and replaced him with a lot of discipline, praised the good work of his backers. De Ligt in particular had “made a strong game”. Since the World Cup in Qatar, in which he barely played a role, the Dutchman has shone as a monster in a tackle and as a reliable passer – and is increasingly becoming the actual chief of defense and top dog.
In addition, there are two more rays of hope on the offensive. After his brace in Wolfsburg, Coman scored in two Bundesliga games in a row for the first time in almost a year and with the three goals he has scored as many goals as in the 24 games before. In addition, Müller has once again played an indispensable role.
As a hanging point between the already important Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and the whirling Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sané, he provided the impetus and space that Bayern’s attacking game had lacked in the first games of the year. The forced opening goal after Bochum’s Saidy Janko missed out was also logical. Until his early substitution (calf injury) during the break, he was by far the best Munich offensive player. Hardly any attack went past him, against the ball the pressing seemed much more grippy thanks to his clear instructions. It was all the more important that the all-clear was given afterwards.
Müller had not yet been in the starting XI against RB Leipzig and 1. FC Köln. The same was true for Coman – for the first leg against PSG there is no getting past both.
Nevertheless, it should be clear to everyone that that alone is not enough to prevent them from returning to Säbener Straße on Tuesday, at least for the second leg on March 8th. Goretzka got to the point a little better than Nagelsmann: “Due to the recent past, we can no longer claim that we are there from zero to one hundred in the important games. We have to work it all out again.”