Bayern Munich: Tactical takeaways from 2-1 win against Copenhagen

Bayern Munich players posing for team photograph before the game against FC Copenhagen on matchday 2 of the Champions League. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)
Bayern Munich players posing for team photograph before the game against FC Copenhagen on matchday 2 of the Champions League. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images) /

In the aftermath of that Jekyll and Hyde performance against RB Leipzig on the weekend, Bayern Munich arrived in Copenhagen in desperate need of a commanding performance against FC Copenhagen,

Unfortunately for Die Roten, the first-half performance in Denmark was all too déjà vu. Bayern didn’t force a save from Copenhagen’s custodian Kamil Grabara until the 45th minute of the game. The Bavarians dominated possession in the first half, but the Danes looked tactically superior as they dictated proceedings from a defensive point of view.

It wasn’t until around the middle of the second half that Die Roten managed to play at a good tempo.  From a perspective that toggles between the glass being half full and being half empty let us take a look at the key tactical events and takeaways from the win away at FC Copenhagen.

Bayern struggle against a disciplined side

The only personnel change that coach Thomas Tuchel made to the starting XI from the game versus Leipzig was the introduction of Noussair Mazraoui in the right-back position. Leon Goretzka had to take a place among the substitutes as Konrad Laimer started alongside Joshua Kimmich to form the midfield double-pivot.

To Tuchel’s credit, Laimer did try to serve as a catalyst to speed up the tempo of the game both on and off the ball. Based on his performances to date for Die Roten, Laimer appears to be an asset in that regard. For reasons unknown though, some of his teammates didn’t seem to fancy the idea of an upbeat tempo. That isn’t to suggest that the Austrian international was a contender for man-of-the-match.

Meanwhile, the host lined- up in an attacking 4-3-3 formation with Swedish international striker Viktor Claesson as the target man. He was being flanked by Norwegian international winger Mohamed Elyounoussi on the right and Tunisian international Elias Achouri on the left.

Tactics worked brilliantly for the hosts as the disjointed approach from the Bavarian side allowed the Danish side to sit back, concede possession, and intermittently press high. The host team was also given an additional boost as Die Roten’s attack proved to be almost as dull as the back of a knife in the first half. Leroy Sane’s long-range effort towards the end of the half, which was comfortably held by the host team’s custodian, was the only shot that Bayern had on target before the break.

A fit Jamal Musiala is the difference-maker

Looking at things from the perspective of the glass being half full, after Musiala’s early-season injury concerns it’s good to see that Tuchel is giving him time to get into form and not asking too much of him.

However, if the young German star wasn’t able to summon his inner eel-like qualities to create the space necessary to get off that fantastic shot, in the 67th. minute, which resulted in the equaliser then it’s quite possible that no one from the Bayern contingent would have been smiling after the match.

Tuchel got the substitutions right again or is he being bailed out by an abundance of riches in attack?

In the 77th minute, with the score tied at 1-1, Tuchel replaced the trio of Konrad Laimer, Leroy Sane, and Jamal Musiala with Thomas Muller, Mathys Tel, and Leon Goretzka.

As if by magic the German coach suddenly appeared to be a genius as the next four attempts on goal all came from the substitutes. In the 79th minute, Tel saw his shot from inside the box blocked after being set up by Muller. Less than a minute later Muller stretched to unleash a volley from the centre of the box that went high and wide. In the 81st minute, Goretzka came close to scoring with a good header.

The substitutes from Tuchel eventually combined to get the winner. Muller out-hustled and amazingly out-muscled two defenders as he carried the ball into the penalty box. He held the ball up briefly and without any fancy dribbling created enough space to set up the chance for Tel. The French forward calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper.

Previously, I had suggested that Thomas Tuchel should be given the benefit of the doubt and be credited for the change of tactics and improved player performances that resulted in the 7-0 demolition of Bochum. However, after today’s performance, I’m inclined to have a change of heart.

Factor in the fact that Harry Kane played the entire game in Copenhagen without registering a shot on goal and it becomes clearer just how far off the mark Tuchel is from getting the best out of this team. Kane played well despite the lack of service, but today was another example of how much he struggled to get touches in dangerous positions. The coach has to remedy this situation or else the quest for Champions League glory will end in disappointment regardless of how efficient the Englishman proves to be in the Bundesliga.

Bayern have a new leader at the back

Kim Min-jae had a solid game at the back against the Danish team whilst Upamecano looked uncertain at times. Min-jae clearly is the team’s defensive leader. Despite the South Korean defender having a few nervous moments early in the season, he represents the best combination of strength and speed at the heart of the defense whilst being uncompromising in his tackles.

The former Napoli defender is less error-prone than Upamecano and changes direction with pace better than Matthijs de Ligt. Bayern’s team is built to play on the front foot despite the awful lack of pace that it frequently exhibits in build-up play under Tuchel. When the South Korean defender becomes fully acclimated to the pace of the Bundesliga and overcomes the language barriers with teammates, he will become an even more important player for Tuchel and Bayern.

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Thomas Tuchel needs to up his game

Despite the unbeaten start to the season so far; being well-positioned in the league domestically and having a 100% record after two match-days in the Champions League group stage these are trying times for Thomas Tuchel. The toothless first-half performance against Copenhagen was another reminder of just how much the team still needs to improve to compete for titles on all fronts.

Bayern’s top brass has reportedly sanctioned the addition of a defensive midfielder during the upcoming winter transfer window, but the coach would be better off not waiting until then to get his tactics right for the sake of all stakeholders at Bayern.