FC Bayern München earned all three points against Hertha BSC on Sunday with a performance that is less comfortable than the final score suggests.
The 4:0 scoreline looks fine, of course, but a penalty called in the 73th minute applied a generous coat of glossy paint by opening the floodgates. Let’s examine the problems.
It’s the footwork, stupid
A boring first half was followed by a more entertaining second half. Why? Because the Bavarians injected footwork and speed in their game.
Footwork is one of the most basic elements of a sport such as football, or any other discipline in which running is a pillar. If you are static and move little outside of your basic position, defenders can put you in a box and keep you there. That’s what happened with Bayern in the first half.
The Reds created more chances when they turned on the engine and got moving. It doesn’t excuse a disappointing first-half rendition. It merely demonstrates the importance of power generation through the legs.
Can Die Bayern afford to fall asleep for the first 45 minutes of a game in the business end of the season? The answer to that question is obvious.
Müller lacking on the right
Imagine a plumber showing up at your house without a wrench. Potentially problematic to get the job done, right?
That’s how it felt when watching Thomas Müller play as right winger against Hertha. He waited 25 minutes before going inside and getting in the thick of the action. Most of the time, he stayed wide and looked for ways to pass or cross. He offered little movement to shift the play in any kind of direction.
It’s also when he drifted inside in the 60th minute that the Bavarian found the space to receive Perišić’s header from the left and convert it into the opening goal.
Deprived of a strong right wing, Bayern are easier to contain. This puts pressure on teammates to finish on fewer chances. Not exactly ideal.
Despite limited input, Ivan Perišić often looked more threatening on the left wing. Left-back Alphonso Davies was easily more dangerous going forward than the two wingers combined, in addition to handling defensive duties.
Someone who turned up with an entire toolbox was Alphonso Davies. He was easily the biggest threat on the flanks, showing his pace and creativity on the ball.
Davies isn’t only good in the midfield and final third. As I hinted many times during past livetweets, the Canadian holds his own defensively by doing the little things well. His positioning and footwork made it hard for Hertha to counter in his part of the pitch, in the Bayern end. He saved David Alaba’s butt once after No.27 got burned at centre-back. This is precisely what the Bavarian defense needs after a few years of fragility.
No Thiago-Goretzka connection
FC Bayern are rich in central midfield, but that did not show in today’s match against Hertha. Thiago Alcântara and Leon Goretzka established few connections where games are won and lost.
Thiago certainly delivered a strong and balanced performance individually, but links with his midfield partner were few and far between. The two players exchanged few passes, with Thiago looking to spray the ball left, middle and right to other teammates while Goretzka made useless runs behind.
Passing in the middle all the time may lead to crowding of the area and to dangerous interceptions, of course. Not using the option at all also has adverse effects: defenders focus on the wings. Thomas Müller’s lack of efficiency near the touchline and the lack of support by Benjamin Pavard rendered the right flank toothless most of the time. This made it easy for Hertha to go after Perišić, Coutinho and Robert Lewandowski elsewhere.
I was one of the observers who argued that Philippe Coutinho’s loan to Bayern was a brilliant idea, but now may be a good time to question how well he fits in.
Today, the Brazilian played in the middle and he had limited impact on proceedings. He was broadly ineffective when taking corner kicks. Shots lacked strength and placement. He rarely made a decisive pass in the final third until play opened up in the late stages.
Given his price tag, the playmaker may appear overly expensive for a summer transfer if he keeps underperforming as he did in Berlin. Coutinho has insane talent but results speak for themselves at a superclub such as Bayern.
We need more of the influence and space-hunting that he displayed at the beginning of the season, and more dominant performances such as his destruction of Werder Bremen in December.