Chorus of praise for impregnable new backline
The stats speak for themselves: 56.5 percent challenges won overall and 67 percent of the aerial duels, plus almost 90 percent pass completion. FC Bayern's clear 4-0 victory in the prestige clash with Borussia Dortmund was also a triumph for determination and a strong defensive performance. "We were all hungry. You could see we wanted it more," Thomas Müller succinctly summarised after the game.
The Bavarians had shipped 17 goals in eight of their last nine games, largely due to injuries sustained by Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernández, and the dismissal of Jérôme Boateng the week before in Frankfurt. It meant the rearguard options were severely limited. But against Olympiacos and now against BVB, the newly-formed four-man backline comprising Benjamin Pavard, Javi Martínez, David Alaba and Alphonso Davies, with Joshua Kimmich stationed in front of them in defensive midfield, proved an impregnable stronghold.
The five nominally defensive players had the most touches of the ball for the home side against Dortmund and prevailed in terms of challenges. "The team played outstanding football from the first to the last minute -- and not only 'played'. They fought and charged into their tackles, and our play without the ball and our aggressiveness were unbelievable. They didn't let Dortmund get into the game at all," Uli Hoeneß enthused after the final whistle.
Makeshift centre-back Alaba received special praise from Kimmich: "He's a completely different player as a central defender. I also really like him as a left-back, but in central defence, he's really one of the best players in the world for me. His body language is amazing, how positive he is, how he gets stuck into the tackles. And his build-up play is great." With 93 passes, Alaba led the way in this statistic, with a commendable 93.5 percent of his passes finding his own teammate.
Youngster Davies was also a convincing left-back in his third Bundesliga start. "He's come on really well in the recent games he's played," observed coach Hansi Flick, obviously delighted for the 19-year-old Canadian. "He's fast with enormous speed. He had [Jadon] Sancho and [Achraf] Hakimi fully under control. He was very physical in the challenges, I really liked that." CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reckons Davies possesses "really great potential. We'll get a lot of pleasure from him, I think we can assume that."
In addition, Müller and Kingsley Coman were just two of the men proving that defensive work also starts up front: both were involved in the most challenges in the match. "We tried to keep a clean sheet, to defend together as a team," Flick explained after his successful debut as a Bundesliga coach. "We have to be brave, accept one man may be beaten but then have the next one there. If you're good at the back, you have a touch more creativity up front."