FC Bayern are on a roll. A largely dominant win at FC Köln shows signs of brilliance but it conceals second-half problems that pop out too often.
Creativity on the loose
We were treated to high definition football by the Bavarians, especially in the first half. The front four constantly changed positions and buzzed around the Effzeh final third, with creativity and reassuring dynamism.
I say reassuring because it is heartwarming to know that Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski can go anywhere in that area of the park without feeling out of position. It draws defenders out of their own positions, as Lewandowski did to help create the first goal.
Köln’s defending was not up to the task and understandingly so. The relegation threatened side does not have what it takes to handle superior playmaking.
FCB being a step ahead in the first 20 minutes was already enough to grab a 3:0 lead and never genuinely look threatened, making zig zag passes and stepping inside empty spaces at will.
Müller the passer
One of the most underrated skills on the team is that of Thomas Müller when he puts on his passing boots.
On Sunday, the Raumdeuter worked fantastically when he dropped back in the middle. His passes to the flank were luminary.
The best example is perhaps the one he laid down for Alphonso Davies ahead of the second goal. The left-back was then able to feed the ball back to the middle, with Müller sneaking in to feed Kingsley Coman a shorty before the finish.
FC Bayern did not have to do an awful lot of pressing when off the ball, but they carried the task with ease whenever they had to.
My favourite sequence can be found in the 21st minute of this match. Müller lead the charge from the middle, making the front four spread out and effectively pin down Effzeh in their own end. They needed Timo Horn’s help to get out of there.
You will never find pressing sequences in the news or highlight reels, but boy is it encouraging to see a team dominate some phases without the ball. Especially you remember years of struggling when not in possession.
About those second halves…
Is it me or are Bayern often less effective in the second half of a match after owning the first 45 minutes?
No, it’s not me. Two goals have been overturned by offsides, but make no mistake. The defense was far less organised on those plays than in the first half, and the hosts have fought to venture far enough to be in position to score. The Bavarian attack was less dominant as well.
My biggest peeve is how Lucas Hernández was poor in marking after coming on. Watch the Köln goal to see how he follows the ball to latch himself as the second defender on Florian Kainz, while leaving Mark Uth uncovered.
Overall, the team conceded multiple scoring chances, a few of them requiring great saves by Manuel Neuer.
What is challenging is coming to terms with a fundamental change since Hansi Flick became the head coach. The team scintillates for long spells instead of fighting for every point at every turn. However, leading by a couple of goals in the second half of a match can lead to complacency and the risk of allowing a comeback.
In one line: strong improvement does not eliminate all risks. I know it’s a high-level complaint, but still something to keep in mind ahead of European ties in the coming weeks.