Bayern Munich swept aside Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 in their Bundesliga opener on Friday. Here’s three takeaways from the exciting win.
Debutants come up big
One of the hottest talking points heading into this match was Bayern Munich’s new signings. A pre-season injury crisis meant several of Bayern’s first-team players remained sidelined for the season opener. Because of this, Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Süle and Corentin Tolisso each made their Bundesliga debut with their new club against Leverkusen.
And each took advantage of the opportunity. It was Rudy’s lovely set-piece delivery that found Süle’s head for the first goal of the ’17-18 Bundesliga season. Minutes later, Coco Tolisso nodded home from close range to double Die Roten’s advantage.
Not only was each of them directly involved in at least one goal, but their overall performances were simply brilliant as well. This was particularly true for Tolisso. The Frenchman could hardly have asked for a better Bundesliga debut.
Playing slightly on the right side of midfield, Coco’s excellent runs and positioning saw him end the match with four total shots, a team-high. He also finished with a team-high 77 touches and match-high 61 passes.
It was a wonderfully well-rounded performance from a wonderfully well-rounded player. More games like this and the explosive young Frenchman will have easily put to rest any doubts surrounding his hefty price-tag.
As for Rudy and Süle, the ex-Hoffenheim men both showed that they’re more than deserving of their place in this Bayern Munich squad. An excellent debut can take a lot of pressure off of the new signings. Now that they’ve proven their worth, they can focus on further developing their play and jelling with new teammates.
Oh, and speaking of debuts… Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) made its Bundesliga debut in the match as well. Just like Bayern’s new boys, VAR had an excellent first outing. After a foul inside the box on Robert Lewandowski initially went unnoticed, the correct decision was eventually given thanks to the help of video replay. Well done to all new parties.
Not a happy birthday for Renato Sanches
Yes, Friday was Renato Sanches’ 20th birthday. The young Portuguese midfielder was constantly linked with a move out of Bayern this summer, but looks set to stay in Munich. However, if there was ever a time for Sanches to get some playing time, it was against Leverkusen. Yet he did not play a single minute.
Not only was Friday his birthday, but Bayern’s injury crisis meant Renato was Bayern’s only “experienced” midfield option on the bench.
Instead of giving him a nice birthday gift though, Carlo Ancelotti opted to leave Sanches languishing on the subs bench. If this is any indication of how Mr. Ancelotti plans to use Bayern’s Golden Boy winner, then perhaps it’s time for Renato to go (on loan, that is).
He needs playing time to develop, and it looks like he won’t be getting that at Bayern Munich this season. The manager and board need to seriously consider sending Renato Sanches out to finally get some first-team minutes.
Less possession, more direction
Upon his appointment as Bayern Munich manager, Carlo Ancelotti promised to bring more directness to his team’s play. However, Ancelotti did not change things up too much in his first season in charge. It looks like that might finally be changing, though.
Against Leverkusen, Bayern enjoyed only 51% of possession. That’s a massive contradiction to the Pep Guardiola days when Die Roten utterly dominated possession in nearly every match.
Instead of needlessly holding the ball, Bayern ruthlessly attacked the Bayer Leverkusen defense, combining the slow, careful passing of past years with a more traditional, direct style of play. Bayern didn’t manage to score from open-play, but nevertheless looked threatening. Perhaps Carlo Ancelotti has addressed the issues that plagued his team during his debut campaign in Bavaria.
*Note: Unless otherwise specified, all stats taken from WhoScored.com.