Four Takeaways as Bayern Munich net three in bittersweet Leverkusen clash

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Thomas Mueller of Muenchen celebrates with his team mate Arjen Robben (L) after the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2018 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Thomas Mueller of Muenchen celebrates with his team mate Arjen Robben (L) after the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Allianz Arena on September 15, 2018 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images) /

Bayern Munich went down early, but came back to beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 at the Allianz Arena and make it three wins out of three this Bundesliga season.

Yesterday’s Bayern Munich match highlighted the nuances of what this team is capable of when everyone works at full capacity and with a sense of togetherness. They systematically broke down any opportunity Bayer Leverkusen had to add any sort of competitiveness to the match.

A very one sided affair that is not accurately described the final score, the performance was greatly marred by the untimely departures of Corentin Tolisso and Rafinha. Four takeaways from the win:

A proportional response

A team in a liminal stage of building something special, Bayer Leverkusen peaked after about five minutes in yesterday’s Bundesliga match. A penalty earned from a handball in the area led to a spot-kick taken so quickly by Kevin Volland that referee Tobias Welz ordered a retake despite a tenacious and valiant effort to keep the ball out of the net by Manuel Neuer.

After Wendell converted for Leverkusen, Bayern attacked at pace — unpredictable, all-guns-blazing, quick and necessary. While last season saw Bayern concede early on through no fault of their own, a dubious decision set the tone for the first five minutes. After this, however, it was all Bayern, all the time, always.

A tenacity that had been lacking at times in the past, this was the ferocious “don’t stop ‘til  you get enough” attacking mindset that Niko Kovac had implemented at Eintracht Frankfurt and used to win them the DFB Pokal last season. Bayern’s first two goals came from repeated attempts at the Leverkusen net after smart pressing and clever link-up play between teammates. Special props to Arjen Robben, especially, who put in a man of the match worthy performance, capped off with a goal of the month contender.

Smart tackling from usually creative players such as Thomas Muller and Thiago highlighted one of the main ethea that made Kovac such a sensible choice for manager: defend for your life.

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A change is gonna come

Yesterday’s match also marked the first start for potential long term successor of Franck Ribéry and/or Arjen Robben, Serge Gnabry. His performance was reasonable but nothing noteworthy. He put in the shift that was asked of him, but what is most reassuring: he didn’t look out of place or uncomfortable.

With Javi Martinez coming on in his place after an hour, James Rodriguez (who is yet to make a start this season, most likely due to fitness) took over the mantle of the left wing position. Whether this was to shore up the midfield with Martinez offering more defensively than James, it gave Bayern a glimmer of hope that options for wide positions are maybe not as thin as was once believed. Regardless or who plays in these key positions in the future, it is becoming clear that Bayern are slowly but surely looking at a future without the beloved Robbery.

17 People

A squad of 22 players — as of today — now stands at 17. Kingsley Coman is out for several months, Mats Hummels and Leon Goretzka were unable to compete yesterday due to minor injuries. With Corentin Tolisso out for potentially the rest of the season and now Rafinha for the next several weeks, Bayern Munich are without any trusted back-up for their quite necessary full-back positions.

Having been a problem for a while, poor squad management and lack of transfer strategy over a long period has led the Bavarians to a point where they have sold necessary players who only appeared to be futile at surface level.

In Sebastian Rudy, Arturo Vidal and Juan Bernat, Bayern have sold players who can very comfortably fill a multitude of positions, most notably Rudy and Bernat. Players have been sold as there isn’t enough space — a valid reason but a situation that a club of Bayern’s esteem should never have got into initially.

Kovac has his work cut out for him and will have to find a way to address this. Don’t be surprised to find Gnabry or Goretzka given a run out at left-back any time soon.

He will from time to time

For the first time this season, Renato Sanches was included in the matchday squad. Having had a promising and successful preseason, he was left out of the first two matches but looked set for action this time around. With the backing of the coach and confidence to boot, Sanches was — as always — unlucky this time around. Two unexpected injuries were cause for Kovac to rethink his planning for the game, resulting in Sanches having to sit out one more match.

Kovac has said previously that he is looking forward to working with the young player who has recently found his way back into the Portuguese national team, thanks to his promising preseason. We can only hope that this does not dishearten him even further, as he has shown before what he is capable of doing on a pitch. Hopefully we will get to see it again very soon.

Next. Bayern Munich impress in 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen -- Player grades. dark

This particular Bundesliga campaign has begun with several difficult opponents, and that doesn’t change next week as Bayern face Schalke, only a few days after launching their Champions League campaign against Sanches’ former team, Benfica. With several titles on the line and rotation being a key part of managing a successful team, Renato Sanches will get his time to shine. Yesterday was simply not it.