Bayern Munich went into this game against Benfica needing a performance. Not because of their Champions League group status, but their team overall have been awful the last month. After falling to 5th in the Bundesliga over the weekend, Niko Kovac’s side needed a strong performance and strong result; and they got it.
Bayern Munich Veterans Beat Benfica, Questions Remain
This performance started with a simple management decision. Kovac took Bayern’s regular right back, Joshua Kimmich, and moved him into the base of central midfield.
It’s the position he came up as before Pep Guardiola converted him to a defender out of need, and he staked his claim tonight. He won all of his challenges and completed 90% of his passes, in a position Bayern have needed a change.
Bayern are facing an issue with a lack of pace all over the field, but this was one of their faster lineups. With Javi Martinez & Mats Hummels directly replaced by Rafinha and Niklas Sule, it’s not a big surprise. And while that may not affect their pace going forward, something they still lack, they have so much quality it does not matter.
The Arjen Robben Show
We got a vintage performance from the crazy Dutchman last night, Arjen Robben was at his left-footed best. Twice in the first half, Robben was able to run at the Benfica defence and get onto his left foot.
Twice he found the back of the net, one near post and one far. He managed to get by EIGHT Benfica defenders en route to those goals, somehow still getting onto his left foot after all these years.
It really is amazing how good he is with his left foot. Even at 34 years old, the defenders know what he’s going to do, everyone knows what he’s going to do. But it doesn’t matter he still does it. The problem for Bayern is that relying on a 34-year-old magician is not something that can carry you through a season.
However it can carry you through a game, and they would have won this one with just Robben’s goals. But of course, Robert Lewandowski chipped in with two goals of his own, both on Joshua Kimmich corners no less.
Bayern have made a habit out of scoring these types of goals and there is no better finisher than Lewandowski. And even Franck Ribery got a goal, completing Bayern’s throwback performance.
Papering Over the Cracks
But the scoreline of this Bayern win papers over some pretty serious holes in their team. Not to beat a dead horse but Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are still VITAL members of this Bayern team. They’re 34 and 36 respectively, that’s too old to bring it at the consistent level necessary for the level of Bayern Munich.
But those aren’t the only old men in this team. Stellar performances by 30-year-old Lewandowski and Jerome Boateng are necessities to winning.
Remember that change with Joshua Kimmich? Well, that move brought 33-year-old Rafinha into the starting lineup. Only three players under 26 started for Bayern today, a disturbing issue for them.
Coman & Tolisso both suffered serious knee injuries and their return this season is a question of if not when. On top of that Serge Gnabry has been thoroughly unimpressive when given his chance.
What it Means
It’s a damnation of their executives mostly, their unwillingness to get involved in the market costing them in competitions. There have been signals of a summer rebuild but maybe some January introduction could kickstart their team.
This year is the first season without the UCL anti-transfer rule too, so they could pick from all of the players.
They could still have a real shot at this season’s UCL with the injection of some pace. Some quick pace and chance creation would do wonders for their side.
They finished the game against Benfica with Renato Sanches and Woo-Yeong Jeong playing on the wings, not exactly striking fear in the hearts of their opponents.
But this win for Bayern sets up a heavyweight clash in two weeks time; at Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam against Ajax. The winner will get the top spot in the group, with both teams already qualified for the round of 16.
Bayern can retain first with a draw, but this Ajax side will be hunting for their first taste of UCL glory.
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