Bayer Leverkusen humbled Bayern Munich at the Bay Arena on Saturday. Based on the top-quality performances from the home team throughout this season it was not unthinkable that Xabi Alonso's men could pull off the victory against their title rival. However, the manner of defeat for Bayern was unacceptable.
Thomas Tuchel must shoulder the responsibility for the 3-0 loss against Bayer Leverkusen. His tactical formation and team selection raised eyebrows before kickoff. By the end of the game, there was a feeling of dismay amongst the Bavarian faithful as Bayern were outplayed and outcoached. With hindsight being 20/20, let us look at some of the key reasons behind Bayern's defeat against Bayer Leverkusen.
For reasons not fully understood, Thomas Tuchel decided to ditch Bayern’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation. It was counter-intuitive to deploy a new system when faced with injury problems and new personnel. A back-three of Kim Min-jae on the left, Eric Dier in the middle, and Dayot Upamecano, just back from a hamstring injury, on the right unsurprisingly didn’t pose many problems for Leverkusen’s timely attacks. The home team had only 39% of the possession yet managed eight shots on target compared to only one from the visitors.
Team-selection in defence
Rekordmeister welcomed Min-jae back from the Asian Cup, but Matthijs de Ligt could have been given the start ahead of either Dier or Upamecano, notwithstanding Dier’s familiarity with a back-three formation. The 24-year-old Dutch defender delivered a fine performance in a 3-1 victory over Monchengladbach at the Allianz Arena last weekend, even managing to score Bayern’s third goal. Despite not being part of Tuchel’s preferred center-back pairing, De Ligt should have been allowed to continue his good run of form since the start of Ruckrunde.
Team-selection in midfield
No one can be rightfully critical of 19-year-old Aleksandar Pavlovic. The German Under-20 international has answered the call each time he has been asked to be part of the midfield double pivot in the absence of Joshua Kimmich. In some ways, he has been a lifesaver for Thomas Tuchel. Yet, with Kimmich declared fit, within the formation change, the experience of Kimmich at the base of midfield would likely have been more impactful against Leverkusen. Bayern did look more settled after the introduction of Kimmich at the hour mark, albeit not reflected in the scoreline.
Another flaw in the midfield formation was to start newcomer Sacha Boey on the left. Boey, a naturally right-footed and dynamic right wing-back, looked all over the place on the left. The fact that Raphael Guerreiro was available for selection but wasn’t brought on to replace Boey until the 81st minute is more an indictment of the coach than the player.
Team-selection in attack
Harry Kane up top without being flanked by wingers in a game that Bayern were playing to win was once again counter-intuitive. Musiala and Sane were deployed as the attacking duo just behind the English striker. However, both German internationals struggled to find space behind Kane which, at times, led to concession of possession.
The failure of the formation was highlighted by Kane's performance in possession. He managed just 18 touches of the ball despite his work-rate off the ball. Without dynamism and speed on the flanks, it made little sense for Kane to drop deep. Bayern’s lack of creativity in midfield and lack of synergy in attack was summed up by the fact that their only shot on target was from Noussair Mazraoui, arguably Die Roten’s best player on the evening, who played on the right side of midfield. This was the opportune game to start Thomas Muller behind Kane, whilst deploying the duo of Sane and Musiala as inverted wingers.
Since no coach has remained at Bayern for more than two full seasons since the departure of Pep Guardiola, Bayern’s top brass are sticking with Tuchel at least until the end of the season. However, with performances like the one at Bay Arena in any of the remaining Champions League fixtures, this season would likely also be the end of Thomas Tuchel’s reign as coach of Bayern Munich. (Stats courtesy: Sofascore)