180,000 tickets could have been sold, they said. Bundesliga-Summit on Saturday night: more population than the city of Leverkusen. The lucky 30,000 who were granted access witnessed the memorable victory of table leaders Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 (1-0) over their pursuers. FC Bayern Munich a game with 1000 stories. We will note three of them here.
1. Tuchel misses the risky shadow boxing with Alonso
The game hadn't started yet; It was already underway. Motto: Think what the other person might think. In an effort to mirror the opponent's basic tactical formation, both coaches deviated from their usual patterns. Bayern's Thomas Tuchel had switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1, with the nominal back three consisting of Kim Min-jae, Eric Dier and Dayot Upamecano, with Sacha Boey (left) and Noussair Mazraoui. (right) act as so-called lane players and must complement the defense against the ball with the five-man chain.
In this way, Tuchel tried to react prophylactically against the agile Jeremie Frimpong and, of course, it was a subtle irony that the always Leverkusen player was on the bench this time. How was that? Think what the other person might think. And ideally think for yourself. The Bayer coach is at the top.
Higher mathematics that needed to be understood. Or: shadow boxing with eyes closed. This was particularly true for the Munich team, where Kim had just returned from the Asian Cup and Upamecano had just suffered a torn muscle fiber. Tuchel's plan seemed completely risky, as winter newcomer Boey had not played on the left side for more than three years and the nominated eleven was made up of many patchworks.
“It's time to push ourselves to the next level. “We want a performance that stands out,” Tuchel said. “Saturday, 6:30 p.m., pants down and cards on the table.” It was 6:39 p.m., delays due to fan protests over the DFL's investment model. Then Bayern (sorry) dropped their pants. But he didn't put any cards on the table.
2. Bayern are systematically inferior, as they were recently against Klopp's BVB
After Munich's controlled initial phase with brave offensive pressure, “we lost momentum due to our own mistakes,” Tuchel later complained to Sky. Leverkusen's lead thanks to Josip Stanisic in the 18th minute (more on this later) was the decisive point of the match. From then on, the defending champions revealed themselves as a lethargic entity, with enormously large differences between the parts of the team, full of errors, confused, confused.
Despite the statistical superiority (653:419 passes, 89% to 82% of passes, 61% to 39% of ball possession), Bayern did not create a single scoring opportunity. Not only. Goal opportunity. What was blatantly missing was a recognizable plan to methodically move from back to front and towards the penalty area. Harry Kane had an incredible eight touches on the ball before the break.
Tuchel corrected the static with the substitutions of Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller, but it was too late. A wonderful shot from above by Alejandro Grimaldo (50') practically meant the decision. Müller spoke into the Sky microphone and quoted Oliver Kahn's legendary quip: “I'm missing some balls!” Leverkusen simply bets, plays football and finds solutions. I expect the same from our team. You can feel the pressure, but it has to give you energy. We play from A to B, from B to C, and no one has freedom. We have a mentality in our game!
This became especially evident in the direct contrast, especially since the hosts did not even have to act on the limit. Even more obvious: Bayern has never been so systematically inferior on a national level for a long time, except for some strange events such as the 0:5 against Gladbach in 2021 or the 1:5 against Frankfurt in 2023, in principle since the beginning of the 2010s, when Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund set the bar.
In addition to Tuchel (“I would do it like that again”), the wild Müller stifled references to strategy and personnel; His angry monologue was by far Munich's most annoying performance: “There were enough international-class players on the field. That's why we need them, don't go to the coach. I'm talking about decisions, especially with the ball, and the approach of the coach.” “Leverkusen has nothing to do with it. We urgently need to improve this.”
3. Leverkusen play like the next champions
Will he be of any use this season? Leverkusen is now five points ahead and the first championship in the club's history seems close in mid-February 2024. And in this symbolic evening, Stanisic, scorer of the 1-0, was the figure par excellence: in the summer he was loaned from Bayern to Bayer, despite the fact that the staff at their position was exhausted, a big transfer mistake. More recently, the Munich team had to replace Boey for 30 million.
What a joke now that Stanisic has just escaped from the sleepy Boey and surpassed Manuel Neuer, raising both hands almost apologetically, a submissive form of celebration. Born in Munich, since the under-17 category he has played for Bayern, the club of his heart and, in this match, one of Leverkusen's strongest players.
The Werkself had not lost 30 official matches this season, that is to say, none, but before the start the fundamental question hung above all: Can they do it with the greatest possible magnifying glass? Clear answer: yes! Only Leverkusen delivered the “statement” that Tuchel had hoped for: it was an impressive performance from a team that Alonso once again orchestrated formidably; After Stanisic's goal, Bayer was alert, agile, brave, harmonious, convinced and convincing.
Grimaldo hit the crossbar (63') and Frimpong hit the post (88'), before taking advantage of a desperate Neuer excursion and slotting into Bayern's empty goal from a challenging angle (90'+5). Sky expert Lothar Matthäus recognized a “class difference” and showed “the greatest respect” to the Rhinelanders.
The last word should go to X-User @gemuellert as he builds the perfect bridge: “Leverkusen are definitely a very good team at the moment. But it would have been nice if Bayern had forced them to prove it too. In Heidenheim it will be more exhausting, I promise.”
Next week, the favorite will have to face the bold newcomer. In the past we would have said: the typical thing would be to beat Bayern first and then lose in Heidenheim. The wind has now changed. EITHER? There are 13 games left for Leverkusen's immortality.