Football Features

Bayern Munich’s “instant transition” sees them slaughter Schalke 8-0 and set the pace for another Treble charge

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 21:45, 18 September 2020

In a devastating night of football, Bayern Munich annihilated Schalke 8-0 at the Allianz Arena.

The word transition is used a lot by football clubs as a means to excuse a season-long underperformance. “Oh, we’re not bad it’s just a transition year,” cry the fans, clutching to paper straws dissolving in their hands.

Of course, all teams do need to transition – even the elite sides like Bayern. Great generations must always be replaced and younger players must come through. For most clubs this can take some time; how much time depends on how well run the club is.

Juventus have been caught in a transitionary period since losing the 2017 Champions League final, Barcelona threw away the previous season on a transition, and hell Manchester United have been in transition for seven years now. Bayern Munich, meanwhile? They just transitioned over the space of one summer window.

In 2019, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery left the club after a decade of dominance in the Bundesliga. Bayern could have written off last season as a transition year, especially as injury wrecked the settling in of many of the new signings they made in summer 2019.

But the Bavarians fought through that, and through the brilliance and reliability of veterans like Robert Lewandowski, Thiago, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng, they won a truly spectacular Treble. An incredible moment, a moment that could have been seen as a fitting finale for a group of players that had been together for the better part of 10 years.

Bayern, however, move in a different way. Through their excellent work in the transfer market, they had their transition ready to go. And it was Schalke’s poor fortune to be Bayern’s opponents as they unveiled their new-look side.

Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez missed so much of 2019/20 with injury but they’re all 25 or younger and were back in the side against Bayern with veteran Jerome Boateng completing the defence.

There’s still some issues with their positioning, and Schalke got at them a lot (but never had the quality to punish them) but that is a tremendous back-line and the fact that both Lucas and Pavard can play centrally with Sule should the club want a more dynamic full-back speaks volumes to the brilliance of Bayern’s planning.

In midfield Thiago obviously left the club. An impossible hole to fill, right? Wrong. As Pavard is now fit again, Joshua Kimmich comes in from playing right-back to take up his natural position (and the one he plays with Germany). Kimmich was sensational against poor Schalke, finishing the night with two stunning assists as he bisected the entire Schalke side on more than one occasion. They just replaced Thiago with a younger Thiago and their midfield didn’t skip a beat.

Attack was where the real magic happened. Last season they used a rotating cast of Kingsley Coman, Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic and Serge Gnabry to flank Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski. Coutinho and Perisic left the club in the summer and Coman, the Champions League final goalscoring hero, is currently quarantined.

Did Bayern miss them? Nope. In came new signing Leroy Sané (oh hey yeah remember when they signed Leroy Sané?) and suddenly Bayern’s attack looked even better than it ever did in 2019/20. They scorched Schalke repeatedly and with utmost prejudice.

Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller both ended the night with one goal and one assist each, they played very well but they were comfortably outshone by Bayern’s wingers.

Serge Gnabry, now fully affirmed as a starter with the no. 7 on his back, ended the night with a hat-trick. The first after just four minutes when he burned the Schalke defence, turned and lashed in a thunderbolt from 20 yards just four minutes into the game! A miracle goal and huge statement of intent for both this game and the season in general.

Gnabry’s next two were more simple, and came thanks to Leroy Sané.

Oh, Leroy Sané! Fresh from Manchester City and now wearing Bayern’s legendary no. 10 shirt, Sané is the standard bearer of Bayern’s brilliant transition. Just adding him to the side has utterly transformed the attack. The German’s runs off the ball and on it were simply too much for Schalke to cope with. Hell, any team would struggle to handle his combination of skill and speed.

Sané bagged two assists and a goal but the entire structure of Bayern’s attacks was built around his movement. Sané created an incredible 5 chances on the night and the quality of those was supreme and only some shoddy finishing from Lewandowski of all people stopped him having more assists.

The way Sané tore Schalke apart and then simply slipped the ball to the side for Gnabry to tap home was not only a clear sign that Sané is a world-class playmaker but also that Bayern’s transition has been instant. Sané looks like he’s been playing at the club for years, already fully in-sync with so many of his team-mates, and his presence has fully transformed the speed and intensity of Bayern’s attack with he and Gnabry wearing the same shirts that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery wore for so many years and filling them out instantly.

What makes it all doubly wild is that the transition isn’t even fully complete. For that you’d have to bench Jerome Boateng, put Lucas Hernandez in central defence and then bring in prodigious left-back Alphonso Davies. Here’s a scary thought: Bayern scored 8 tonight and the Canadian didn’t even see the field! There is more to come from the Bavarians. Much more.

So whilst Barcelona waste the last years of Leo Messi’s greatness of botched transition after botched transition, and whilst Juventus thrash desperately to stay afloat whilst their ageing defence still has legs in it, and whilst Manchester United meander through window after window, Bayern Munich have raced to turbocharge their Treble-winning lineup and already look fully refreshed.

Bayern won the Treble in 2019/20. And thanks to their instant transition you have to consider them favourites to win the Treble again in 2020/21. Be warned, Bayern are coming for it all. Again.