Bayern Munich entered the Bundesliga winter break on a positive note after coming away from Wolfsburg with a deserved 2-1 win. Courtesy of the victory last Wednesday, Bayern finished the Hinrunde in second place, four points behind Leverkusen, but with a game in hand. It is a good time to look back at an eventful Hinrunde.
After a disappointing 0-3 loss to Leipzig in the DFL-Supercup at Allianz Arena, Rekordmeister laid down a marker in the Bundesliga with a commanding 4-0 win away at Werder Bremen on matchday one. Leroy Sane and Harry Kane looked in sync despite training together for just over a week as three of the four goals were scored between them. Talented French youngster Mathys Tel gave a glimpse of what he was to provide as an impact sub by scoring Bayern’s fourth in added time.
Without ever hitting top gear, Bayern managed to win its next two games before being held 2-2 at home by Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen on September 15. The result meant that Die Roten remained in second place on goal difference after four match days.
After the draw with Leverkusen, Bayern then went on a three-game winning streak which included a thrilling 4-3 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League. However, by this point in the season, the Bavarian side had started to display a lingering disconnect between midfield and defense.
Despite racking up the wins, that disconnect lead to inconsistency in Bayern’s play throughout most of the season. Flaws were being papered over courtesy of Die Roten’s abundance of riches in attack, as the team was able to pull off some victories thanks to its firepower off the bench.
That inconsistency was then on full display in a 2-2 draw away at RB Leipzig on September 30. In a game of two halves, which was truly a Jekyll and Hyde performance, a woeful Bayern trailed 0-2 at half-time but made a remarkable turnaround in the second half to claim a share of the points.
Following the draw at Leipzig, Bayern then went on a five-game win streak which included two hard-fought away wins in the Champions League against Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen in October. The fifth and final win for that month was an 8-0 pasting of Darmstadt at the Allianz Arena. Joshua Kimmich was shown a straight red early on, but before the conclusion of the first half, two Darmstadt players were also dismissed by the referee. Amazingly all of Bayern’s eight goals were scored in the second half.
The month of November got off to a tragic start for Bayern. The Bavarian side was dumped out of the DFB Pokal in the second round by third-tier side Saarbrucken. Despite leading 1-0 at half-time Die Roten conceded two goals after the break, the second one in added time, to disastrously exit the competition. This match was an enigma of sorts as a fit Harry Kane was an unused substitute. Bayern's wait for DFB Pokal continues as they last lifted the trophy in 2020.
Three days after the debacle in Saarbrucken, Bayern bounced back with an emphatic 4-0 hammering of Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park without the services of the suspended Joshua Kimmich. Bayern followed up the victory over Dortmund with a 2-1 win against Galatasaray at Allianz Arena to clinch first place in its Champions League group.
Rekordmeister remained within two points of Leverkusen at the top of the table with subsequent wins over Heidenheim (4-2) and Koln (0-1). November concluded with a 0-0 draw at the Allianz Arena against Copenhagen on match-day five of the Champions League. The draw meant that Bayern’s record for consecutive group-stage wins ended at 17 wins, but in the process, the unbeaten streak for the group stage was extended to a record 39 games.
December commenced with the home game against Union Berlin being postponed due to excessive snow in Munich. One week later on December 9, despite having the previous weekend off, Die Roten got hammered 5-1 by Frankfurt at Deutsche Bank Park. As a result of that embarrassing loss, fingers were once again being pointed at coach Thomas Tuchel, and questions were being asked of the squad.
Bayern bounced back from the humiliation in Frankfurt with a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the final Champions League group stage game. The victory extended Bayern’s unbeaten record in that stage of the competition to 40 games.
In the penultimate game of the Hinrunde, with a squad decimated by injuries and illness, Rekormeister showed great character by comprehensively defeating a dangerous Stuttgart side at Allianz Arena. To round out the Hinrunde Bayern came away 1-2 winners against Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena.
Of note, for those last two matches, both Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka were absent due to illness. In both games, the midfield double pivot comprised Raphael Guerreiro and Aleksandar Pavlovic. It was a pleasant surprise to see defense and midfield in harmony with this duo at the base of midfield.
Based on the performances of Guerreiro and Pavlovic there is now reason to believe that a new number six need not be a priority during the upcoming January transfer window.
Bayern won majority of the games during Hinrunde and delivered dominating performances. However, the two defeats in the last five months stole the headlines due to the manner of losses. Tuchel will hope to repay the faith of the club with two big trophies in the second half of the season.