Julian Nagelsmann has gone all-in on an attack-minded style of play that has reaped rewards in the opening weeks of the campaign, and Saturday should not be no different.
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Stop us if you have heard this before, but Bayern Munich are in pole position to win the Bundesliga title. The champions of German soccer in each of the last 10 years have already risen to the summit of the standings after three rounds of fixtures in 2022/23. It is not so much the victories that have made an impression but the manner of them: Bayern have beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 6-1, Wolfsburg 2-0 and Bochum 7-0.
It is still early days but it is notable that the Bavarian outfit are averaging five goals per game – and that is after they sold their long-time top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, to Barcelona this summer. It is already doubtful that any other team will be able to keep pace with the Bayern juggernaut this term, with Julian Nagelsmann’s side likely to turn their attention to the Champions League earlier than ever before. We have reached the stage where Bayern can essentially take the Bundesliga title for granted.
Is there any hope for the rest of the division? The early weeks suggest not. Borussia Dortmund produced another moment of comical ineptitude last weekend, throwing away a 2-0 lead over Werder Bremen in the 89th minute to somehow lose 3-2 on home turf. RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen were the pre-season favorites to join Bayern and Dortmund in the top four, but both clubs remain winless for now. It is not just that Naglesmann’s charges look imperious, but also that no member of the chasing pack seems capable of mounting a consistent challenge.
It is worth remembering that Bayern hit a bump in the road in the second half of last season. It was not enough to open up the title race, though, and the fear for those who want to see a genuine tussle at the top of the table is that Bayern will already be too far clear when the Bundesliga pauses before the 2022 World Cup. But given that this season’s hiatus will be more than two months long, we could be looking at a different picture when the teams return in mid-January.
Borussia Monchengladbach are the team hottest on Bayern’s heels as we approach the end of August. The club with the longest name in the German top tier has amassed seven points from a possible nine up to now, drawing with Schalke away from home and beating Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin in front of their own fans. The fixture list has arguably been kind so far, but Gladbach have largely got the job done.
Daniel Farke needed to get off to a good start. The former Norwich City boss was twice unable to save his old club from Premier League relegation, and the reaction to his appointment at Borussia-Park was mixed. Farke is introducing a possession-based style of play in contrast to the transition-focused model employed by his predecessor, Adi Hutter.
As recently as the 2020/21 campaign, Gladbach were competing in the Champions League. But an eighth-place finish that season was followed by a dip into the bottom half of the table last time out. European qualification is what the Foals want to get back to, but it remains to be seen whether that is a realistic aim for Farke’s maiden campaign at the helm. Avoiding defeat by Bayern at the Allianz Arena on Saturday would certainly strengthen Gladbach’s case/
From the outside, it might seem that losing a player of Lewandowski’s caliber and quality was a negative development for Bayern. But if reports in Germany are to be believed, Nagelsmann was not too disheartened to see the Poland international go. It is not that the Bayern boss questioned Lewandowski’s phenomenal ability, but rather that he spied an opportunity to create a more fluid frontline without the ex-Dortmund hotshot.
Nagelsmann will feel vindicated so far. A new-look 4-2-2-2 formation has proved too strong for Bayern’s opponents so far, including RB Leipzig in the DFL-Supercup. The front two of Serge Gnabry and Sadio Mane are ably supported by Thomas Muller and Jamal Musiala, the latter of whom is fast becoming one of the first names on Naglesmann’s team sheets. With Alphonso Davies bombing on from left-back, it is hard to see how Gladbach will be able to contain the Bayern attack.
Defense was a weak point for the Foals under Hutter last season, and it is notable that they have only kept one clean sheet in 2022/23 despite their positive results. Bayern have shown no signs of letting up any time soon, so we are anticipating another attack-minded performance from the champions which could easily result in five or more goals being scored.
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|Teams||Bayern Munich vs Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Location||Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany|
|Time||Saturday, 27 August 2022, 12.30 PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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