Florian Kohfeldt’s joy seemed restrained. In stark contrast to other coaches of guest teams, who in the past had the rare feeling of happiness of a draw in Munich that caused sheer ecstasy. Sure, Kohfeldt was also satisfied with the 1-1 draw, happy and relieved at the end of Werder Bremen’s dark streak – after 19 league bankruptcies against FC Bayern in a row. But no trace of exuberance. Kohfeldt knew that an away win for his team would not only have been possible, but also deserved.
That it wasn’t enough for Werder that they couldn’t take advantage of three big chances to win after promising counterattacks? That was due to exactly three things: Manuel Neuer’s outstretched arm, Leon Goretzka’s grandiose tackle, Jerome Boateng’s last mission.
There were several reasons why Bayern got into such trouble, why they just didn’t play better and didn’t overwhelm their opponents with their dominance as usual. One of them was sitting thickly wrapped in a yellow down jacket in the lower tier of the main stand: the injured Joshua Kimmich. And so in game one after his severe meniscus injury in Dortmund it became clear how important he is for Bayern’s game, how big the gap will be without him in the coming weeks.
When asked how much he missed his leading player, Hansi Flick later said: “Joshua will always be missing.” At least until the planned comeback in January.
At the beginning, coach Hansi Flick sent a daring starting eleven onto the field that had never existed before, with 17-year-old Jamal Musiala next to Thomas Müller on the double eight, followed by Javi Martinez as a lone six. Things got even more complicated when left-back Lucas Hernandez had to leave the field after 19 minutes with a painful hip contusion. Substitute Leon Goretzka moved into defensive midfield, Martinez withdrew into central defense, from which the regular defensive boss David Alaba moved to the outside of the Hernandez position – which completely lost the statics of the Munich game.
For almost the entire past successful year, Hansi Flick was able to trust a basic structure, the so often cited and much-invoked axis from Manuel Neuer to David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich to Thomas Müller and at the very front Robert Lewandowski. The trio in the middle of it all proved to be the pillars of this axis: Alaba, Kimmich, Müller. Loud in the instructions, purposeful in the structure of the game, the three absolute leaders on the pitch. The fact that Kimmich was missing from the start and that Alaba now had to move out of the line with significantly less scope for design inevitably led to an irreversible axle break on this Saturday afternoon – quite apart from the fact that Thomas Müller sometimes didn’t seem to know what he was carrying the talented, but also overzealous Jamal Musiala should start next to him.
No ease without Kimmich
The result was a muddled and very confused game for Bayern. Not a single chance to score in the first half, plus coordination problems with Bremen’s opening goal just before half-time. “A very cheap goal,” Thomas Müller later grumbled. He was right. In the second half it got a little better, but it was more about the fight and the will than about the usual playful ease. Many moments remained a product of chance. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
What was missing were the automatisms of a well-rehearsed team, the blind understanding among each other, the successful anticipation of the next action. When asked about the changes, Hansi Flick said later: “Every player knows what he has to do.” Yes. But maybe not what the next man is doing. Where he is. What he expects. What he’s planning.
A problem that should continue to accompany the team until Christmas. Eight games are still to be played in the next four weeks, three in the Champions League and five in the Bundesliga. Hansi Flick will continue to be forced to rotate and improvise because of injuries and stress. Flick therefore has to say goodbye to his philosophy of always sending the same eleven players onto the field in every game. Again and again, especially in the previous season, he had emphasized how important this was to him. Not having to keep changing. Precisely because of the mechanisms, the automatisms.
Salzburg becomes the key game
Next Wednesday could be very important. If they beat FC Salzburg in the Champions League, Bayern could already be the group winners, provided that Atlético Madrid remain without a win in the parallel game against Lok Moscow. That could help Flick to spare regular players for the Bundesliga in the last two group games.
That they have a big squad, that they hope for the return of Corentin Tolisso and Lucas Hernandez, Flick said and added: “We have enough players.” But none like Joshua Kimmich.