Inter vs Bayern Munich is a matchup that brings happy memories to Interisti. The 2010 Champions League final springs to mind, but the last time these two squared off was a Round of 16 tie the following season that finished 3-3 on aggregate with Inter going through on away goes. Since then, however, the Nerazzurri have embarked on a roller coaster ride throughout the 2010s while Bayern reigned supreme atop German football. With so much changed in the last decade, Ineednoname from our sister site Bavarian Football Works stopped by to refresh us on the happenings in Munich. We talked about everything Bayern, from how Julian Nagelsmann’s debut season fared and what Die Roten look like tactically, to Robert Lewandowski's exit and what’s behind Bayern’s incredible run of ten straight titles.
You can check out the reverse and my answers over on Bavarian Football Works.
Q: How has Julian Nagelsmann and his brand of football fared at Bayern? What have been the tactical pillars of his tenure so far?
A: After last season, Julian Nagelsmann was on seriously thin ice. Results and performances were NOT up to snuff. Yes, we won our 10th Bundesliga title, but the manner of our eliminations in the DFB Pokal and the Champions League were deemed failures by the Bayern fanbase and board.
To be quite frank, Nagelsmann’s work in 2021/22 was subpar. Almost every alternate game saw tactical changes and tweaks to the formation, which stopped players from learning the system and caused an overall downturn in performances. There was no clear vision underlying these changes, which made it all the more confusing. In some ways, it looked like the step up to Bayern almost overwhelmed him.
This season, he seems to have learned his lesson. Bayern Munich have settled on a 4-2-2-2 formation as the standard template. The counterpress has been strengthened, and the coach has taken steps to help bolster the midfield - two of the main weaknesses from last year’s campaign. In terms of the pillars of the system, here’s what I can reveal (since it’s still early days):
- A fluid front four consisting of hard-working attackers who display strong off-the-ball movement to create chances and aid in pressing.
- A midfield pivot that is augmented by the two of the four attackers dropping deep, so it looks like a diamond when Bayern is in possession.
- One ultra-offensive fullback (mainly Alphonso Davies) whose role is to disbalance the opposition formation by focusing attention to his flank.
- A high defensive line with fast center-backs who can deal with 1v1 situations and win duels.
It’s not perfect yet, especially in defense. In fact, we’re hoping that Inter and Inzaghi can show us the weaknesses in the setup so we can improve it as the season goes on.
Q: Bayern lost Robert Lewandowski over the summer but brought in the likes of Matthijs De Ligt and Sadio Mane. What’s your perspective on the Bavarians’ transfer market, Lewandowski’s exit in particular, and how will the Pole be replaced?
A: Most Bayern fans are amazingly happy about the club’s summer window. I don’t share that same enthusiasm, but it is remarkable how Brazzo (Hasan Salihamidzic, our sporting director) managed to refresh the squad and add depth while keeping the net spend low.
Sadio Mane has been an amazing addition so far - he genuinely looks like someone who’s played at this club for years now. His integration into the setup took no time at all. Of course he can’t replace the raw output of Robert Lewandowski, but Julian Nagelsmann has now switched to a system that distributes the goals more evenly between the attackers rather than all for one player. Mane complements this type of play, as his presence enhances the output of those around him. We’ll see how the system fares against top quality opposition.
Matthijs de Ligt, meanwhile, has had a slow start due to fitness issues since arriving from Juventus. He still needs to get used to the pace of Bayern and the Bundesliga. However, people are still positive about his addition, and we’re looking forward to when he can contribute.
Aside from this, Bayern invested in a lot of quality youth for the upcoming season. One of Nagelsmann’s jobs as a coach will be to nurture their abilities and integrate them into the setup. We’ll see how he fares.
Q: Bayern has won the Bundesliga a remarkable ten times running. What have been the keys to its success and what’s needed to keep the streak alive?
A: Cynics will point at Bayern’s massive financial advantage over its rivals, but that didn’t stop Monaco/Lille from beating PSG to a league title, or Atletico Madrid upsetting Real/Barca. The key to this club’s success has been the work done by the front office. Meticulous squad planning combined with a relentless hunger for titles has driven the team to a level of success unprecedented in its history.
There’s never really a “transition year” at Bayern - veteran players are replaced years in advance of their departure, to ensure a smooth transition when the time comes. When Robben and Ribery moved on, for example, Bayern already had Coman and Gnabry ready to step up. When Lahm moved on, Kimmich was already there. Before David Alaba left, Alphonso Davies had already established himself. And so on.
The results speak for themselves. In addition to dominating the Bundesliga, Bayern have won two trebles (including a sextuple) in recent years and are regularly among the top rated teams in Europe.
Q: What are Bayern’s strengths and weaknesses?
A: Bayern’s biggest strength is chance creation. This team is really good at turning defenses inside-out. The front four’s fluidity makes it hard to defend, and we have our dear Raumdeuter (aka Thomas Muller) to add an extra bit of unpredictability to the setup.
Conversely, defending is our major weakness, especially pressing and counterattacks. Counterattacking football is probably the way to go against this Bayern Munich side, as the high line employed by Nagelsmann makes it hard for center-backs to recover from a line-breaking pass. Most teams in the league haven’t been able to exploit this weakness yet, but I suspect the CL will be a different story.
Q: And lastly, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s showdown?
A: Oh man, I don’t usually do predictions. How about 3-1? I’m not gonna tell you which team’s which, though. Make of it what you will.