Bayern Munich suffered their first blow of the 2019/20 season on Saturday, losing the DFL Supercup to German rivals Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians were the better team for the majority of the first half but had some serious flaws exposed in the second. There are just two weeks left until the start of the Bundesliga season. Bayern Munich must learn from their Supercup defeat or risk an early-season derailment.
Bayern Munich Must Learn from Supercup Loss
Thiago Alcantara is not a Defensive Midfielder
Thiago Alcantara is a man of many talents. He is undeniably one of the best midfielders in the world, and there are not many aspects of football he has not totally mastered. He can basically do it all in the centre of the park.
Despite the 28-year-old’s often great defensive work and incredible passing range, though, he is not a defensive midfielder. At least, he cannot fill the role of a lone defensive midfielder in the 4-3-3 formation Niko Kovac is keen on deploying this season.
It was somewhat disappointing to see Thiago deployed in that role against Dortmund because Bayern had to learn this very lesson just last season. Yes, Thiago is surprisingly great at winning the ball back in midfield. And yes, Thiago is usually impervious to pressure in possession. However, his tendencies to roam too far up the pitch and play himself and his teammates into risky scenarios – combined with his slight physical build – sometimes make him more of a liability than an asset when deployed as a singular holding midfielder.
That is an absolute shame, too, because Thiago should be the star of this Bayern team. The Spaniard is clearly the most technically capable player in Munich, and he is hands down the club’s top midfielder. On top of that, he would likely thrive in a 4-3-3 formation, but not as the number six.
Perhaps Niko Kovac needs to transition back to a 4-2-3-1, where Thiago can excel alongside a more defensive-minded midfield partner. Maybe the answer is as simple as using Javi Martinez or Corentin Tolisso in that role. Or maybe the Croatian needs to use Saturday’s game to pressure his board to bite the bullet and sign Espanyol’s Marc Roca.
Regardless of how it is done (and it will probably involve more than one of those scenarios), Niko Kovac needs to take action. Bayern Munich need Thiago Alcantara at his best. Limiting him to a defensive midfield role is not going to make that happen.
Bayern Munich Need Leroy Sane
According to various reports in Germany, Bayern have reached an agreement with their primary transfer target, Leroy Sane. The Manchester City winger is likely to cost Die Roten at least €100 million. After this weekend’s loss, there should be no question as to whether or not he is really worth that price.
With Serge Gnabry out injured, Niko Kovac had to choose between playing non-winger Thomas Muller or 18-year-old Alphonso Davies on the right flank. He went with the former, who, to his credit, played to the best of his ability. Nevertheless, the fact that those were Kovac’s only two choices after just one single injury shows how important it is that Bayern sign Sane.
The Bavarians have a serious lack of depth across their squad. That is most evident, however, on the wings. The club needs a player to take their attack to the next level, and Sane is that guy.
Even with Sane, Bayern could probably make do with another depth option on the wing as well. Kingsley Coman is probably even more injury-prone than Gnabry, and it is likely the club will have to do without each player for an extended period of time at some point in the season.
Defensive Stability Must Be Established
Niklas Sule, who firmly established himself as Bayern’s top defender last season, looked lethargic, sometimes lost, against Dortmund. He made many silly mistakes and had very few moments of redemption. His partner on the day, Jerome Boateng, initially looked as if he would fair a bit better, but that proved not to be the case.
Perhaps some of Bayern’s defensive woes on Saturday can be traced back to the aforementioned need for a solution in defensive midfield. Or maybe the big men in defence were just showing some signs of rust after a long summer break.
Whatever the case, something has to be done. Bayern nearly lost last season’s Bundesliga title due to their terrible work at the back. If they are not careful, last season’s possibility could become this season’s reality before they know it.
Of course, the club did spend big over the summer to bring in Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. Therefore, it will remain difficult to fully judge the squad’s defensive growth until those two get significant minutes in central defence under their belt. Nevertheless, Bayern Munich must learn from their mistakes of last season and the early warning signs shown against Borussia Dortmund. And that means putting extra focus on stabilizing what has become a shaky defensive line.