The final whistle is a new post-match format on our blog to bring you matchday insight with our focus on one topic. We hope you like it.
How versatile and powerful can FC Bayern’s defense be? Saturday’s win against Fortuna Düsseldorf showed that the club got even more than it bargained in the summer of 2019.
Back in August of the year, the premise was that Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernández could man centre-back positions, with the possibility of the two Frenchmen also playing at full-back. Pavard could go to the right while Hernández could drift left. Combined with other players, it already meant an increasingly flexible defense.
As if that wasn’t enough, Alphonso Davies became a starting left-back and David Alaba a starting centre-back. Jérôme Boateng regained form.
At the opening whistle on Saturday against Düsseldorf, the defensive part of Bayern’s formation was built as follows:
Pavard, Alaba, Hernández, Davies
You read that right. Hernández played at “left centre-back”, making Alaba a “right centre-back” although he is left-footed.
The Austrian was already a gift from the football gods since he has been a world-class LB for the better part of a decade despite being a natural central midfielder. He handled RCB duties excellently this weekend, and fully deserves his own statue at the Marienplatz in Munich.
Surprisingly, Hernández going out at the restart in the second half meant Joshua Kimmich dropping back and leaving room for Michael Cuisance in the midfield.
In the current setup, the Bavarians can afford to field a solid defense without Jérôme Boateng. They can also consider Alphonso “The Roadrunner” Davies as a left winger if needed. Surely he could bring more attacking spark than the out-of-form Kingsley Coman.
How did Hernández fare on the day? Fine if you ask me. He showed foot speed, anticipation and high awareness in defensive situations. His most brilliant play was a well-executed slide tackle to break up a counterattack in the ninth minute. He also made a contribution to the attack by holding up play in the Fortuna end before passing to the left wing (14′).
Just what you would expect from a man hardened by a playing history at Atlético de Madrid.
Pavard himself was outstanding. He one-timed a cross from Serge Gnabry to force the opening goal, credited to Fortuna as an own goal. He scored the second goal by converting Joshua Kimmich’s corner kick with a header. The long-range shot he took in the second forced Florian Kastenmeier to make a diving save to his left (55′).
Hernández and Davies showed comfort on the left side of the defense, despite playing for the first time, by communicating well for Lucas to break up a play on an overlapping run (42′).
Davies offered himself the fifth goal by working through the Düsseldorf defense in the second half.
Powerful defense, you say?
Importantly, this strong back line gave the team the confidence to drive forward for plays such as the sexy third goal, built up by Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich and scored by Robert Lewandowski (43′). When you know that the guys at the back are solid, you can afford to be creative up front.
There is now talk of Bayern being able to win the Champions League at this point. We should be cautious since we don’t know when that competition will resume, how the format will shape up and what form the other teams will be in.
However, Bayern’s own run of form is scintillating thanks in part to a solid back line and a coach, Hansi Flick, whose ways remind many of Jupp Heynckes.