Injured, degraded, flawed and unlucky: After the World Cup fiasco, some German internationals from FC Bayern Munich experienced a rather unpleasant start to the second half of the season.
It’s been around a month and a half since Joshua Kimmich, close to tears, spoke of the “most difficult day of my career” at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar. He was even afraid of “falling into a hole”. Germany had just failed in a World Cup group stage for the second time in a row, despite a 4-2 win against Costa Rica. Kimmich’s empty, helpless appearance symbolized the state of the German national team.
No club was affected by the DFB World Cup fiasco as directly as FC Bayern Munich, which provided a total of seven players and thus the largest fraction of the German World Cup squad. In addition to Kimmich, keeper Manuel Neuer, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané.
Since then, there has been much discussion as to whether these experiences could have a negative impact on their performance for FC Bayern, who were in such good form before the World Cup. In the mixed start of the second half of the season against RB Leipzig (1-1), it was at least noticeable that the German internationals were among the weaker Munich side – if they were allowed to play at all.
FC Bayern: Julian Nagelsmann criticizes Joshua Kimmich
As is well known, the injured captain and regular keeper Manuel Neuer was not there in Leipzig. After losing the World Cup, he broke his lower leg on a ski tour, which resulted in a lengthy search for a goalkeeper with Yann Sommer’s commitment announced on Thursday. The 34-year-old Swiss made his debut in Leipzig, but was hardly challenged.
But it wasn’t just Captain Neuer who was missing from FC Bayern’s starting XI, his deputy was also missing. As expected, coach Julian Nagelsmann demoted Thomas Müller to a substitute. Müller only came into play in the 83rd minute and missed another chance in added time for a late winning goal, which would not have counted anyway due to an offside position.
Kimmich wore the Munich captain’s armband. Instead of leading his team, he put in a disappointing performance and owed Leipzig’s equaliser. In the run-up to Marcel Halstenberg’s goal, Kimmich initially made an unnecessary bad pass before he went down too easily in a duel with André Silva.
“The goal was completely unnecessary. You can play the ball on the goalkeeper, Yann can hit it straight away. He’s trying to play a target chip,” Nagelsmann criticized his substitute substitute captain, Kimmich should have “just clarified”. “At the end of the day we win the game without my mistake,” said Kimmich himself. “I have to beat him out, then nothing happens.” In the duel with Silva, like Nagelsmann, he saw no irregularities – unlike sports director Hasan Salihamidzic, who spoke of a “clear foul”.
FC Bayern: bright spots Choupo-Moting and de Ligt
Kimmich’s neighbor Leon Goretzka often moved far forward from defensive midfield, but only set isolated accents there. His supposed goal in the 30th minute was ruled out due to a narrow offside position by Matthijs de Ligt. The German offensive trio consisting of Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry also acted largely without luck. The latter was the most striking, together with Sané he at least started Eric Maxim Choupo-Motings 1-0.
The Cameroonian striker continued his goal streak from the first half of the season and was one of Bayern’s few bright spots. Central defender de Ligt also attracted positive attention, putting in a concentrated performance both with and without the ball. Both have a rather leisurely World Cup behind them: Choupo-Moting failed with Cameroon despite decent performances in the preliminary round, de Ligt was only a substitute for the quarter-finalists Netherlands.
In Leipzig, de Ligt led a generally strong Munich defense. His neighbor Dayot Upamceno made a few (unpunished) blunders, but made up for them with strong individual actions.
FC Bayern: Strong defense, weak attack
Bayern’s problem wasn’t defensive, but attacking. Munich hardly created any chances to score, the xG value was only 0.69 and was therefore even worse than Leipzig (0.71) at a low level. “We didn’t play well,” said Salihamidzic. “Accuracy and aggressiveness were missing.”
For FC Bayern, the draw in Leipzig after ten competitive wins in a row meant the first loss of points since the beginning of October, when it was 2-2 at Borussia Dortmund. Chaser SC Freiburg could move up to two points behind the leaders with a win at VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.
The Munich team will meet another pursuer in Eintracht Frankfurt next weekend, and soon after that the Champions League round of 16 will take place against Paris Saint-Germain. By then at the latest, the (fit) DFB players of FC Bayern should work their way out of their World Cup hole.