Joshua Zirkzee was brilliant until he wasn’t
Zirkzee opened the scoring for Bayern Munich by being in the right place at the right time, but his goal was not as easy as it looked. Although the goal was basically empty, he still had a difficult angle to work the ball around the defender. His finish was brilliant, taking the shot with the first touch. His goal gave him a confidence that gave him a swagger in his step that appeared to show that we were going to see more from him.
Unfortunately, Zirkzee started to get either complacent or lazy. His teammates sent him many great passes forward that were negated each time because Zirkzee was coming back from an offside position. Had he kept onside, he would have been in on goal. This carried over into the second half where Zirkzee stood around or casually walked towards the ball. Even when on defense he never really tried to put pressure on the ball. In his defense, his teammates were unable to give him many opportunities, but it would have been nice to see more effort from him in what could have been an even greater opportunity for the young striker.
Cuisance and Hernandez deliver lackluster performances
In the first half, Michael Cuisance struggled to get open enough to get the ball in the attack. He squandered two clear chances with a volley lofted over the bar and then a free header wide of the post. Each time he got the ball, he tried to do too much and was dispossessed. He made one great pass of note — a cross to Serge Gnabry who scorched a header, but it went right to the keeper. Overall, Cuisance’s performance was not terrible, but it could have been better. He missed a great chance to show the Bayern bosses why they should play him more.
Lucas Hernández had big shoes to fill, playing for Alphonso Davies. In the first half, he seemed to get caught too far forward and was unable to help his team on defense. On one occasion, he dashed back to help and ended up kicking the loose ball right back to the Gladbach attacker. Other than Zirkzee’s goal, Hernandez had the best chance of the game when the score was still 0-0. He ran into the box and only had the goalie to beat, but his shot was too predictable, and the keeper made the easy save. Left-back in this system is one of the hardest roles to play, and Davies has set the bar high for the position. I don’t think that Hernandez did anything terrible, but he did not do anything to make his performance stand out.
Both players were subbed off in the 62nd minute. Davies and Coman came on and showed why they normally start over Hernandez and Cuisance. Like Zirkzee, these two had a great opportunity to show why they deserve more playing time, but didn’t really capitalize on it.
Offensive creativity lacking without Lewandowski and Müller
Thomas Müller’s presence was definitely missed in the first half. While Michael Cuisance played in Müller’s role, he failed to provide a clear target when the ball was turned over and Bayern’s attack went forward. There were a few buildups that led to great chances, but then the finishing was found lacking (queue Robert Lewandowski reference). On the rare chances in on goal, the shots were either straight at the keeper or missed the face of goal completely.
Joshua Kimmich had three great deliveries in succession, but no one was able to get on the end of the ball to get a proper shot off. Davies and Coman’s entrance into the game brought a boost of confidence and creativity into the attack. Both players made an immediate impact on the ball, but still the ability to finish was not there.
In the end, Pavard was able to get some redemption for his own-goal with the assist on Goretzka’s game-winner. It took 86 minutes for Bayern to find the right recipe for the goal. While we will take the win and the important three points, we saw again how important Müller and Lewandowski are in this team.
Manuel Neuer was tested far too many times in this game. Bayern’s normally brilliant defenders lost the ball too often, exposing their teammates and their goalkeeper. The first time Gladbach hit the ball off the net was called offsides by only a step by VAR. There may have been more luck than strategy involved here. Pavard’s own-goal was another example of uncertainty. Boateng was caught in no-man’s-land and was unable to make the stop. Pavard was forced to make a play late, but put it right into the wrong spot.
Even Neuer looked a little uncertain at times. He fumbled a couple of shots, causing either himself or his teammates to scramble to make a much-needed clearance. After the game-winner was scored, Neuer’s goal-kick was headed right back to Stindl, who shot a screamer from distance that went just wide. Neuer appeared helpless, hoping that it would do just that. Bayern is lucky that Gladbach could not put any of these chances into the back of the net.