Five furious observations from Bayern Munich’s Champions League elimination to Manchester City
Same old story, this Bayern team isn’t built for the CL.
“Fight” isn’t good enough
People will say that Bayern Munich fought hard tonight. They’ll say that the chances were there. They’ll say that Manchester City were harassed for a full 90 minutes. All of that is true. And it’s the kind of narrative that losers cling to.
How many more Champions League ties do we need to bottle for the club to recognize that there’s a serious problem here? Flick, Nagelsmann, Tuchel … it doesn’t matter. Every quarter final is the same. Concede early, try to find the equalizer, make mistakes, concede more, “fight” back, and ultimately come up short. The only reason Bayern has to “fight” every time is because the team digs itself a hole to begin with. Opponents will let a team like that “fight” all they like. Because the nature of football means those deficits almost never get overturned.
This loss was far more deserved than the Villarreal or PSG games from seasons past, but the story remains the same. You can’t blame Robert Lewandowski for missing chances anymore. This team has an issue with performing at the biggest stage and that goes back to the mentality of the players.
There’s one man who exemplifies this issue: Joshua Kimmich. He used to be a stone cold killer in big games like this. But ever since he became the club’s “midfield general” and took over partial captaincy duties, his performances have grown erratic. Back when Kimmich was still a right-back, he used to score goals against Real Madrid and Barcelona, and he assisted Coman’s header in the CL final. He did the dirty work. He was there when the coach needed him. Where has that player gone?
It’s telling that, ever since successive coaches gave into more and more of Kimmich’s demands, that Bayern have started getting progressively worse in the CL. The same can be said of players like Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, etc. Highly paid stars who got their big contracts in the three years since Bayern won the treble. What have they been doing lately? Why do they keep getting to set their own terms? They’re always preferred in the selection hierarchy, bad performances are easily forgiven, and every coach has to “accommodate” rather than “dictate”.
Something fundamental needs to change at Bayern Munich. This cannot go on.
Thomas Tuchel is clueless
Oh wait, is it too early to say that?
Yelling at the ref was practically the only thing Thomas Tuchel did in this game.
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images
Sorry, but he got it completely wrong in both legs of this Champions League tie. The logic behind benching Alphonso Davies and Thomas Muller was simply not there. With Choupo-Moting on the pitch, why would you not put Muller there next to him? How could you prefer Musiala, who’s been in terrible form lately?
As for Cancelo, what has he shown at left-back to warrant this kind of consideration? Why not put him on the right and let Pavard shift to the center (with Upa benched)? What about Stanisic? Or Mazraoui?
Thomas Tuchel hasn’t been here for long but these are absolute rookie mistakes to make in a big game like this. It makes me question whether he’s the man to lead Bayern Munich going forward. Julian Nagelsmann made similar mistakes and he got sacked. If the board were watching tonight, they should reach similar conclusions here too.
Can signings fix this?
Yes, a striker is needed. Yes, Gnabry and Mane have got to go. Maybe Sane too. Except that’s not going to fix all the problems.
Yes, a better striker than Choupo-Moting could have helped in this game. Yes, injuries made the first leg difficult. But what about Villarreal last season, or PSG the year before that? So much more needs to go right if you want to progress in the Champions League. Yes, maybe injuries are out of a team’s control — but what about game management? What about mentality? What about the tactics?
At this point, maybe you have to ask questions about the mentality of the organization as a whole. Everyone, from the coach(es) to the players to the board bear some blame for Bayern’s three-year absence from the Champions League semis. There’s too much complacency at every level.
The pitch was as bad as the tactics
How can a professional football club at this level have a pitch this bad? The Allianz Arena is a world class stadium in every other sense of the term, but the pitch is just embarrassing. Even the English language commentators on the world stream were surprised by the number of trips and slips the players had during the game.
It’s getting to the point where Bayern’s acquisition of Wolfsburg’s award-winning groundskeeper feels like the signing of the summer. Maybe when Davies and Upa stop slipping with every other step, they could actually focus on their football. Speaking of Upa …
What do we say about Dayot Upamecano?
Photo by Helge Prang – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images
Yes, Upamecano was not good tonight. Haaland bullied him. He has this problem with physical forwards — see his duel with Randal Kolo Muani earlier in the season. Does that mean he’s a bust? Did we waste €40m on him?
Not really. Dayot Upamecano is a solid defender, even when it counts. Go back and watch the World Cup final if you have any doubts. Yes, he struggles in certain situations against a certain type of player, but there was no need for Thomas Tuchel to hang him out to dry tonight. Benjamin Pavard could’ve been moved to the middle to allow for a different backline.
Upamecano will recover from this. He has the fundamentals of an excellent defender, and all excellent defenders make mistakes — especially when they’re young. His second season is already leagues ahead of his first, and before the City games most Bayern fans would’ve agreed that he and De Ligt made an incredible duo in central defense.
Feel free to criticize Upa tonight. It was a bad game from him. But let’s not blow it out of proportion. Bayern Munich has far bigger problems right now.
- The board will be feeling the heat tonight, as they should. They gambled and lost hard. Time to face the music.
- Playing Musiala in the middle is such a waste, he never gets to show off his 1v1 dribbling ability.
- The referee was appalling, but maybe the handball rule is the main culprit here. Both the penalties on the night should never have been given.
- It’s funny that Inter Milana team that Bayern beat while sleepwalking during the group stages, is now in the CL semis while Bayern are out in the quarters.
- Would Julian Nagelsmann have achieved a different result? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not like he didn’t have his moments in the CL — see last year’s elimination to Villarreal.
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