Bayern Munich’s clash against VfL Wolfsburg had several backstories, the most intriguing being the showdown between current and former coaches – Julian Nagelsmann vs. Niko Kovac. Of course, there was also Bayern’s little affair without Robert Lewandowski – the man who has already scored five over Wolves in nine minutes – but the Bavarians didn’t miss a beat, delivering a very composed and working-class performance. Here are five observations from the game:
Nagelsmann built the squad exactly the same way he did against Frankfurt. However, Niko Kovac seemed to have done his homework, and instead of the usual “park the bus” Kovacball (Simeoneball 2.0), this Wolfsburg side went out all guns blazing. There was plenty of attacking intent as the team pushed Bayern into their own half for the first 15 minutes. Benjamin Pavard in particular was targeted throughout, and he looked pretty uncomfortable in those situations.
Notacticmann Megamind. The Bayern coach shouted some instructions, and suddenly the dynamics of the game changed 180 degrees. Alphonso Davies started to exploit spaces in midfield, and there was nothing Wolfsburg’s midfielders could do to contain him. Jamal Musiala seemed to treat this like a screen, getting into good positions with deft one-twos, through balls and dummies.
It also allowed Pavard to venture forward, pinning Wolfsburg’s helpless midfielder completely in his box. Marcel Sabitzer cleaned up all the loose balls like a boss (more on that later), while Lucas Hernandez and Dayot Upamecano pushed further and tried their luck with a few passes to split the defense. Nagelsmann had Wolfsburg dancing to his tunes in no time. Even Niko Kovac looked a bit confused to see his team going with their usual tactics which probably went against the game plan.
If Casteels didn’t have superhuman play and Sadio Mané had a completely legal goal stolen, Bayern would have been ahead by at least 5. But I guess winning is what matters in the end, and the white sheet is definitely the icing on the cake. on the cake. Nagelsmann deserves a lot of praise for the tactics on display today.
Energy saving is good
In the second half, there was an obvious drop in attacking intensity. The Bayern players switched to cruise control and, while dominating, let Wolfsburg sit back as they passed the ball in search of breakthroughs. Unlike the case of former coach Hansi Flick, the team did not need to press for 90 minutes. Players need to be fresh for the next game, and an intense pressing system is sure to take its toll.
Nagelsmann’s “clever pressing” into the pockets was also crystal clear. The players formed triangles and ran small, well-concerted presses that isolated Wolfsburg players and forced turnovers. However, that also meant that the other eight players (yes, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is also a midfielder, remember?) could save energy.
Bayern don’t have to put on a show every game. Sometimes the team just has to score a few goals and get the win. And that’s okay because that’s how champions roll.
Jamal Musiala is (currently) the best player in the Bundesliga
It’s true that there has been a lot of praise for Musiala lately, both on this site and elsewhere. The coach, former Bayern players, current players and fans are all thrilled, and for good reason. This player is magical. Once again, he put in a performance worthy of the MOTM, with a 92% completion rate, a superb goal and otherworldly superb passing and dribbling in tight spaces. With each passing game, it becomes increasingly clear that Musiala is going to make this wing his own.
The winger/playmaker hybrid role in Nagelsball’s half-space seems tailor-made for the 19-year-old. The Wolfsburg defenders simply had no answer and Musiala dominated once again. He found teammates in great positions with brilliant passing, was really good at decision-making and could have scored another goal or two if not for some shoddy passing from Müller and Sané.
Either way, enjoy this time. Musiala burst onto the scene, he’s ready to make his own this season, and right now he’s unstoppable.
It’s one of the biggest storylines this season at the start, and I love it. Sabitzer makes a comeback, and it comes at the right time. Leon Goretzka may not be a foolproof starter anymore – that’s how good the Austrian has been. With a success rate of 91.7%, 4 successful tackles and a key pass, the man was everywhere. He was the shield in front of the defence, making sure the players struggled to get through the midfield block.
In a game where Joshua Kimmich failed to impress, Sabitzer more than made up for the midfield shortcomings with his defensive work, work-rate and build-up game. What I liked the most about his game today was the way he always collected balls outside the opponent’s box. It got sad for the Wolfsburg midfielder at one point, when they just couldn’t get out of their own box because of the Austrian panzer.
Will Gravenbitzer replace Kimmetzka? Too early to tell, but both players could well get that starting spot if the Germans don’t improve their game. It feels good to finally have such close competition in midfield.
The sheets are finally clean
Bayern managed to keep a clean sheet (!!!) which deserves its own celebratory article, but for now a spot in the match observations will have to do. Bayern’s defense was absolutely stellar. Lucas Hernandez was exceptional and Upamecano made no mistake today. The latter got off to a great start and Matthijs de Ligt might not get a place in the XI so easily. Lucas’ performance was different, however, due to his commitment to his challenges.
Lucas is like John Wick. He will keep coming and he won’t let you pass. He will bring you down. And if the ball goes past him, the player won’t – that’s how he earned his yellow card. The security he provides Bayern at the back is invaluable. And of course, his best friend Pavard was superb too. He’s played like a man possessed this season (much to INNN’s disappointment), and I really feel for Noussair Mazraoui. Brazzo has probably promised plenty of minutes when AFC Ajax arrives, but it doesn’t look like he’ll get many starts.
Maybe it has something to do with the supreme power of a francophone backline. Alphonso Davies will obviously get a mention as he was easily one of the top three players on the pitch today. Wolfsburg’s defense couldn’t stop him, and he did most of the work for the second goal with that blistering run. It feels like he’s unlocked another level under Nagelsmann this season, and it will certainly be a pleasure to see him dominate both in attack and defense.
Also discover our post-match podcast! Chuck Smith breaks down the win from his perspective.
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