Three observations from Bayern Munich’s extra time win over Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup
How do you stop a rampaging monster? This was the question facing Julen Lopetegui in the buildup to the UEFA Super Cup. Hansi Flick’s men came into the game with unfettered swagger, high off the back of a 8-0 battering of Schalke in the league. Everyone expected more of the same from the Bavarians, who dispatched high-level teams like Barcelona and Chelsea with ease last season. However, the Europa League champs played their Champions League counterparts to a standstill over 90 minutes.
Sevilla demonstrated the three key things you need to do to beat Bayern Munich. They are, in decreasing order of importance, the following:
- Play through the counter-press with quick one-touch football.
- Press the Bayern defense and Manuel Neuer up high, to keep Flick’s men from pushing the defense up the pitch. This keeps Bayern from congesting the field of play, a key aspect of Hansi Flick’s tactics.
- Defend in a medium block with emphasis on the wings, to isolate the wingers from the fullbacks. This prevents Bayern from overloading the flanks, and cuts off the supply to Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.
After that, it was just your traditional counterattacking football — nothing we haven’t seen before. Lopetegui masterfully set up his team to find space inside Bayern’s suffocating press, and it paid dividends for the Spaniards. Hansi Flick might need to evolve his tactics after this game, because teams around Europe will learn from Sevilla’s blueprint and make key improvements as the season goes on. No system is invincible, after all.
It’s time for Hansi Flick to show that he can evolve. If he doesn’t, then Bayern Munich will eventually get exposed.Bayern’s flanks fail to deliver
While Sevilla did all the right things to shut down Bayern Munich in the wide areas, we can’t give them all the credit. It wasn’t a great game for the Bavarian wingers, not by a long shot. Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry, who had four goals and two assists between them against Schalke, struggled to get into the game at all.
The big reason for this seemed to be a serious lack of attacking impetus from Bayern’s fullbacks. With Lucas Hernandez starting ahead of Alphonso Davies, Flick’s men struggled to create any real pressure down the left-hand side. This absence bled into the rest of the game — without the lopsided pressure Phonzie tends to generate, Sevilla were able to give Pavard and the Bayern right their due attention, keeping the option to switch the play off the table.
It really goes to show how much of a finely-tuned machine Bayern were last season. Lucas Hernandez didn’t have a poor game by any means. He was decent going forward and solid at the back. But he’s no Davies, and Bayern needed the Canadian’s pace. He is a crucial cog in the system. Sevilla would have had to orient their team differently if they had Sané and Davies bearing down on one flank — a difference that might have radically changed this game of fine margins.Hansi Flick has a roster problem
Bayern Munich just played 120 minutes of grueling, high-intensity football against an equally intense opponent. Now, the players face the prospect of another 90 minutes against Hoffenheim on Sunday, followed by the DFL Supercup against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, and then Hertha Berlin the Sunday after that, and so on. The fixtures are coming thick and fast, and Hansi Flick is already down to a bare-bones squad.
When Leroy Sané ran out of gas in the 70th minute, Corentin Tolisso had to come on in lieu of an actual winger. When Bayern desperately needed a goal in 90th minute, there was no Ivan Perisic or Philippe Coutinho on the bench to turn to. Meanwhile, players like Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, and Benjamin Pavard ran their hearts out for 120 minutes. None of those four have adequate replacements on the roster. What happens when they need a rest?
The bosses can help fix this with a transfer or two. A backup right-back is sorely needed, as is a fourth winger. However, given the current situation, the prospect of squad reinforcements looks slim. Flick might have to tackle the rest of the Hinrunde with the players he has right now, and that includes games in the DFB Pokal, the Champions League, and the Club World Cup. As a coach that demands an incredible work rate from his players to make his system work, Hansi Flick might have a serious problem on his hands.Miscellaneous observations:
- Robert Lewandowski hasn’t been his usual clinical self lately. He has two assists in two games so far this season, so he’s still pulling his weight, but Bayern need to see more goals from him.
- David Alaba had a poor game. Aside from conceding a penalty, his mistake almost cost Bayern a goal in extra time, while the scores were still level. The Austrian also wasted the numerous free kick chances he got, sending them over the bar. Given the ongoing saga regarding his contract extension, you have to wonder if there’s something on his mind. In any case, after this latest performance, many fans will call for Lucas Hernandez to start at center-back against Hoffenheim.
- Thomas Müller was one of the sole creative outlets for the Bayern offense, recording a staggering SEVEN key passes from open play. The fact that none of these chances ended in an assist shows that Bayern were let down by some lackadaisical finishing — a problem which persists from last season.
- Seeing Javi Martinez score what could be his farewell goal to win Bayern the Super Cup was an incredible experience. The man came and gave us a treble, and now he leaves with one. And to think Bild said that he wouldn’t even travel with the team for this game.
- Speaking of Javi, subbing him on was a masterstroke by Hansi. Neither team was particularly pacey during extra time, so the Spaniard’s biggest weakness was removed from the equation. Meanwhile, he helped Bayern win ball after ball with his aerial prowess, which included a number of corners and the winning goal. Keeping everything in mind, he was a great impact substitution and just what the game needed.
- Anthony Taylor was a mess. England have some truly terrible referees. Bayern would’ve won the game in the 90 if Sane’s goal wasn’t wrongfully disallowed.
- Why did the Super Cup have to have extra time? It really doesn’t help teams with already packed schedules. Then again, considering that you have to win the Champions League or the Europa League to get here, maybe this complaint deserves the “suffering from success” meme.