In Focus: Nagelsmann's Bayern ready to rule Europe
Top of the Bundesliga and already through to the Champions League knockout phase, Bayern Munich can be satisfied with their season so far.
With goals flowing as freely as ever, pundits are already speculating that the Bavarians can become kings of Europe for a seventh time next May — but do they have chinks in their armour?
Ahead of their Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev tonight, we take a closer look at Julian Nagelsmann’s men and assess their chances of success this term.
Some things never change
When you think of a modern-day Bayern Munich team, goals spring to mind — and they have not disappointed in that regard.
Netting 41 times in just 12 Bundesliga matches, across Europe's top five leagues their ratio of 3.42 goals per match is well clear of nearest pursuers Liverpool (2.92) with Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund (both 2.5) even further back in joint-third.
Also averaging a continent-high 19 shots per game, the sheer volume of chances being carved out by the German giants means that they can get away with wastefulness in ways that other sides simply cannot.
However, missing chances is not something that their No9 Robert Lewandowski specialises in.
The prolific Pole, 33, remains as reliable as ever with 14 goals in 12 league outings — his goals per 90 minutes ratio is only bettered by domestic rival Erling Haaland of those to play over 300 minutes this term.
It is easy to forget that the Bavarians had a change of manager only this summer with 34-year-old Nagelsmann replacing Hansi Flick, who departed to take the Germany job.
Given Flick won 70 of his 86 games in charge of Die Roten and only lost seven, his were big shoes to fill — but his youthful successor has looked right at home in the Allianz Arena so far.
Nagelsmann forged a reputation as one of the world’s brightest young coaches during his spells with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig and has approached his new role in considered fashion.
Feeling no need to reinvent the wheel, he has stuck with many of the personnel and principles that made Flick’s Bayern so brilliant while making a couple of small but effective tweaks.
His deployment of Canadian full-back Alphonso Davies in a more offensive role and a switch of flank for Leroy Sane are two obvious examples of Nagelsmann subtly implementing his own concepts where he sees fit.
Sure enough, both individuals are on course to hugely outperform their key metrics compared to last season.
Although the tables make good reading for Bayern currently, there have also been a few off days.
A full-strength XI was thrashed 5-0 by Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal second round last month while there have also been two 2-1 league defeats — at home to Eintracht Frankfurt and, just last Friday, away at Augsburg.
It must be said that all three losses had mitigating circumstances behind them, though.
While the 5-0 cup defeat was undoubtedly an aberration, Nagelsmann’s absence from the touchline through coronavirus isolation protocols seems certain to have had an impact on preparations.
Then last week, the absence of key midfielder Joshua Kimmich was made even more significant by the sluggish performance of his rusty replacement Marcel Sabitzer with the Austrian partly responsible for both opposition goals.
Finally, the shock loss to Frankfurt was very much a smash-and-grab given the visitors managed only 23% possession and five shots compared to Bayern’s 20.
Eyes on Europe
Even if those domestic dips have given some cause for concern, it has been serene progress in the Champions League for Nagelsmann and his troops to date.
Four wins from four means qualification is already assured ahead of tonight’s penultimate group contest — and emphatic wins over Barcelona and Benfica in previous weeks have set pulses around Europe racing.
While tonight’s clash is relatively insignificant in the grand scheme, the Bayern boss wants his side to continue laying down a marker to their European rivals.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Nagelsmann said: "The Champions League is never unimportant, particularly not for Bayern Munich.
"We don't have pressure in terms of results anymore, outside of the normal expectations that are always there for Bayern in every game.
"But the things that we didn't do well in Augsburg and in the weeks before that, these are things that of course we want to improve in Kiev and to take the next step."
All things considered, it will take an almighty effort to stop his side from being involved at the business end of this year’s competition.