Bayern’s 3-1 win over Mainz ensures they remain on course for one of their best ever starts to a Bundesliga season. Manduzkic, Schweinsteiger and Kroos were on the scoreboard in a strong performance against a team they have struggled against in recent memory. With 12 goals from their first three matches, Bayern have set a new personal record and continue to set the pace for the rest of the league while Tuchel will be scratching his head over his team’s disappointing start to the new season.
Lineups and Formations
A year ago it would be almost unheard of for Bayern to start without both Ribery or Robben and it would more often than not be detrimental to the team’s performance. Against Mainz Heynckes was without both of his star players and was able to prove the quality in depth of this new look Bayern squad. Their injuries meant Müller and Shaqiri got a chance out wide with Badstuber continuing to deputize at left back and Martinez again starting on the bench. Tuchel, as he frequently does, altered his formation to prepare for his opponent. He dropped first choice striker Szalai as well as Austrian playmaker Ivanschitz. What turned up was a very defensive 4-3-2-1 with Kirchhoff, Caligiuri and Baumgartlinger forming almost a second defensive line in front of their back four. Heynckes admitted before the match that Bayern struggle against Mainz’s pressing game but how would they fare without their star players and an even more defensive Mainz team than usual?
For all their recent struggles against Mainz, Bayern cruised in the first 20-30 minutes. It took Bayern less than two minutes to open the score when Müller and Mandzukic combined yet again. Lahm played the ball down the right to Müller who looked up and pulled the ball back into the center for an open Mandzukic. The two have been involved in 15 of Bayern’s 18 goals so far this season and continue to blossom together on the pitch. Ten minutes later Schweinsteiger scored his second of the season when Badstuber found all the time in the world to send in a perfectly timed cross for the midfielder to head past Wetklo. Mainz just could not get a grip on the game the entire first half and was so disgruntled with his team’s performance that he made two subs just before halftime, pulling the ineffective Risse and Caligiuri for Soto and Szalai.
The substitutions did help stabilize the game a bit but it was still Bayern with the majority of the chances after the break. Shaqiri nearly scored off a free kick in the 50th minute but Wetklo just got to the ball in time. Three minutes later Boateng nearly got on the scoresheet after another good delivery from Shaqiri but his header went just over the bar. It seemed the only way Mainz would score is if Bayern made a mistake and at the hour mark Dante obliged when he toppled over Baumgartlinger in the box. Szalai stepped up and pulled a goal back but it did not deter Bayern one bit and Mandzukic was unlucky to hit the post minutes later. Müller then had a chance to get one of his own after a Bayern counter attack but shot just wide. They finally got their third after the substituted Martinez sent in a wicked cross to Kroos from the right who took his goal with a superb left footed volley in the 90th minute.
The 3-1 scoreline flattered Mainz a bit. It could have been much higher so why did Tuchel’s initial strategy fail? It took until the hour mark for Mainz to truly get into the game and by then it was essentially too late. A defensive strategy usually goes out the window if you concede early since it is predicated on keeping out goals altogether so Mandzukic’s early goal threw Mainz off course but there was more to it. It goes without saying Bayern were terrific as a team and each player played their part wonderfully but some of Tuchel’s selections let him down. Caligiuri, who did so well against Bayern last year, was especially disappointing. By the time he came off in the 37th minute he had won only one of his 8 challenges against Bayern, touched the ball just 6 times and completed a measly 3 passes. Suffice to say, not exactly befitting of one of the key components of your gameplan.
The introduction of Soto and Szalai and the subsequent switch to a 4-4-2 benefitted the team, made them more proactive and engaged Bayern for the first time. That said, it was difficult against a Bayern side that is growing more dynamic by the week. Mandzukic and Müller again combined phenomenally and interchanged continuously. Mandzukic always dragged players out wide and Müller was involved in 9 of Bayern’s attempts. Similarly, Shaqiri’s delivery was put to good use against a Mainz team that uncharacteristically sat back at times. That’s not to say that Mainz did not run or press, they were just doing more of the chasing this time around rather than actively participating in the game with it so Bayern did not have the amount of turnovers the have in the past and kept the ball as well as they ever have against Tuchel’s side.
And with the ball Mainz struggled just as much. Once they won the ball back, which was rarely the case, they lacked a player who could play the ball to Choupo-Moting or Szalai, as quickly turned it back over again. Bayern may have taken their foot off the pedal a bit at the start of the second half but they were always in control of the match and played with the kind of confidence they rarely have against Mainz in the past.
Three wins out of three, a record goal difference, no drop off in performance without key players. Bayern could not ask for more. Yet Heynckes was still critical of the team’s passivity in the second half but that only shows the high standards he is striving for this season. A better test perhaps will be their Champions League opener on Tuesday against Valencia. Tuchel meanwhile will go back to the drawing board and asses the loss in the meticulous manner for which he is known. He is under a lot of pressure now and the Augsburg game coming up next week will be more telling of where this team stands this year.
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