Bayern Munich succumbed to their first defeat of the season on Wednesday away at Saarbrucken in the second round of DFB Pokal. This loss marked the third successive year that Bayern had been unceremoniously dumped out of the DFB Pokal in the second round.
With Die Roten injuries mounting in the squad and the game against Dortmund on Saturday, coach Thomas Tuchel made five changes to the side that crushed Darmstadt on the weekend. Let us now take a look at the key tactical events and takeaways from this disastrous defeat.
Player rotation in light of injuries and suspension
Joshua Kimmich started against Saarbrucken since he was suspended for the next two games in the Bundesliga. Konrad Laimer started on the bench in this game, which allowed youngster Frans Kratzig to get a chance to start alongside Kimmich.
For similar reasons, Tuchel also rotated in the attack. Thomas Muller, Mathys Tel, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting started in place of Jamal Musiala, Kingsley Coman, and Harry Kane. Bouna Sarr started as right-back in place of Noussair Mazraoui who was not even amongst the substitutes. However, the formation remained 4-2-3-1.
Saarbrucken was up for the game against Bayern from the word go
Saarbrucken understandably conceded the majority of possession to Bayern, but in terms of tempo, they managed to match the visitors. The host team pressed high at every opportunity throughout the first half on a pitch that wasn’t in the best condition due to heavy rain.
Despite the home team’s resilience, Die Roten scored the first goal of the match courtesy of a Thomas Muller strike in the 16th minute from outside the 18-yard box. Frans Kratzig struggled in midfield against a robust Saarbrucken team that lined up in a 3-1-4-2 formation. However, he was able to set up Thomas Muller for the opener with a neat pass. Saarbrucken didn’t press the youngster on this occasion when he was on the ball and he made them pay for it. The young German didn’t waste the time and space that was afforded to him as he turned and took a few strides forward before finding Muller just left of center in the final third. Muller drifted inward before taking aim and firing into the bottom left corner.
Matthijs de Ligt’s injury has led to a full-blown crisis in central defense
In the 19th minute, misfortune struck Bayern as Matthijs de Ligt badly injured his right knee while making a tackle. Joshua Kimmich switched from midfield to play in central defence alongside Kim Min-jae following the departure of the Dutchman. Konrad Laimer came on a few minutes later to replace De Ligt and slot in central midfield.
Unfamiliarity for Bayern at the back and midfield breeds new life into Saarbrucken
After the departure of de Ligt the Bayern defence began to look more and more suspect as the host team looked for the equaliser. The equaliser eventually came when Neuer, Min-jae, and Kratzig combined to seemingly replicate the events from the weekend against Darmstadt that resulted in Joshua Kimmich being shown a straight red card for a last-man foul. Once again Bayern chose the wrong moment to play out from the back.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Neuer rolled the ball out to Min-jae on his left just outside of the penalty area. The South Korean defender then chose to quickly advance the ball to Kratzig in midfield as the two players were facing each other. With Kratzig having a man on his back, the pass from Min-jae was ill-advised. In the blink of an eye the young German was dispossessed and following a few quick passes between the Saarbrucken players Patrick Sontheimer was left with a simple tap-in to level the score. Whether or not Franz Kratzig called for the ball remains unknown. If either Neuer or Min-jae had chosen another path during that passage of play, then the young German would not have been placed in that now regrettable position.
Apart from Harry Kane, Bayern Munich threw everything at Saarbrucken in the second half
In the second half, Saarbrucken started showing signs of wear and tear. Several players were cramping, but they never lost their zeal. Saarbrucken’s coach, Rudiger Ziehl, used all five substitutes in the second half to keep the ship afloat.
With one eye on Saturday’s upcoming Der Klassiker clash at Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel resisted the temptation to go for the jugular. Since there was no breakthrough early in the second half, Thomas Tuchel turned to his bench to get the winner. In the 60th minute, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, and Kingsley Coman replaced Franz Kratzig, Bouna Sarr, and Leroy Sane, respectively. Despite these changes, Die Roten couldn’t score the decisive second goal.
Disconnect between defense and midfield leads to disaster in added time
Following the substitutions, Laimer switched from midfield to the right side of a three-man defence with Kim Min-jae in the center and Davies on the left as Kimmich returned to midfield.
Despite making tactical and personnel changes, Bayern didn’t get the winner inside 45 minutes. The Bavarian club was dealt with a sucker punch in the added time as Saarbrucken executed a swift break on the right flank to score the winner in the sixth minute of added time.
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Injury problems, failure to successfully play out from the back; disconnect between defense and midfield finally caught up with Bayern.
On a night when the substitutes couldn’t find a way to score Bayern were dumped out of the DFB Pokal. The resolute Saarbrucken outfit, coach included, has to be given credit for the upset. However, Thomas Tuchel will bear the brunt of the blame with only a poor ending to the summer transfer window as his defense.
Since De Ligt is reportedly out of action for up to six weeks due to a knee injury, the Bavarian faithful will be hoping that somehow both Dayot Upamecano and Leon Goretzka are fit for Der Klassiker.
With only two trophies now left to be contested, Die Roten fans will hope that Rekordmeister says goodbye to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.