Robert Lewandowski’s departure for Barcelona was supposed to drastically alter Bayern Munich’s attack.
It has, but arguably for the better.
Bayern’s reign of tyranny on the Bundesliga has remained to the tune of 16 goals in four matches. Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach would’ve been a routine victory if not for Yann Sommer’s record-breaking 19-save performance.
Sadio Mane, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala – who was a second-half substitute on Saturday due to a minor knock – have been breathtaking to watch as an attacking quartet. But the fluid front line adds an intriguing wrinkle that’ll benefit Alphonso Davies.
The previous roundup covered Davies’ last game against Wolfsburg and how he had the entire flank to himself. It provided freedom to roam and led to his involvement in both goals.
Saturday saw more of the same for Davies. His 86 touches ranked third among Bayern players and a significant chunk were logged in the left half space.
Davies’ sojourns into the central channels ended up unlocking space for Bayern to exploit.
Full-backs occupying half spaces narrows or constricts a team’s defensive shape, so when Davies eventually takes up a wider position, opponents are caught off guard and that opens up space everywhere.
That’s exactly how Bayern’s goal was created. Davies moved to the touchline, collected the ball, then drove inside to find Musiala in a pocket of space.
The heavy involvement in the final third isn’t affecting Davies’ defensive responsibilities, either. He’s still relentlessly pressing defenders and tracking back to save the day.
Given that Davies has freedom to roam around the pitch for Canada, it’s a promising development that Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann is giving the 21-year-old that responsibility. It’s highly likely that he’ll be utilized as a forward at the World Cup so the more he’s involved in the final third, the better for the national team.
MORE UPDATES AND ANALYSIS
• In the last roundup, Jonathan David was in scintillating form for Lille with two goals and two assists in two matches. It was especially encouraging because David was deployed as an inside forward, a position that’s tailored for his strengths.
Since then, he’s started as a No. 9 in a 7-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain last weekend and in a 3-1 win over Ajaccio on Friday. The PSG defeat can be wiped out due to the circumstances but this recent match showed why David shouldn’t be utilized as a lone striker when his team dominates possession.
Firstly, David’s best opportunity – aside from his late penalty off the post – arrived when he temporarily played off Yusuf Yazici.
There was another sequence that could’ve led to a quality chance. Whether it was a case of chemistry or otherwise, David (No. 9) didn’t run towards the near post for Ismaily’s cross in the clip below.
What other evidence do Lille coaches need that David as a lone No. 9 isn’t a good fit?
• Ike Ugbo went 63 minutes as Troyes earned its first win of the season against Angers. Ugbo registered one tame shot but was otherwise invisible on Sunday.
• It should’ve been a landmark moment for Luca Koleosho this weekend but an injury prevented him from facing Real Madrid with Espanyol.
If the injury isn’t serious, the 17-year-old winger could be called up by John Herdman for the September window when Canada faces Qatar and Uruguay in a pair of friendlies.
• Even with Noa Lang ruled out for a month, Cyle Larin still couldn’t lock down a start for Club Brugge in Friday’s 3-1 win over Charleroi. Kamal Sowah was preferred up front to partner Ferran Jutgla, who Larin replaced in the 85th minute. Now Roman Yaremchuk has been signed ahead of the transfer deadline.
It might be too early to panic regarding Larin’s fringe status in Brugge, though. The 27-year-old seldom started for Besiktas towards the end of last season but looked sharp for Canada in the June window. Should his performance levels drop in the September friendlies, then all bets are off.
• It appears that Brugge plans to welcome back Tajon Buchanan for the Champions League in September. Coach Carl Hoefkens told the assembled media on Aug. 19 that Buchanan’s muscle injury has healed but the club doesn’t want to risk the 23-year-old before the group-stage opener vs. Bayer Leverkusen on Sept 7.
• In Portugal, Stephen Eustaquio was an unused substitute for Porto in a 3-1 loss to Rio Ave on Sunday. The champions were chasing the match so coach Sergio Conceicao prioritized attacking options off the bench. He had appeared in every game this season prior to the weekend.
The midfield maestro should see even more minutes with the Champions League returning. In fact, there’s a Canada vs. Canada clash in Group B as Larin and Buchanan’s Club Brugge facing Eustaquio’s Porto.
• As if Steven Vitoria’s early season form wasn’t impressive enough, he emphasized his strong start with his first goal for Chaves in a stunning 2-0 win against Sporting CP on Saturday.
The goal was secondary to a dominant display at the back for Vitoria during the 90 minutes, these two sequences aside.
Vitoria might not have the legs he once did, but he makes up for the lack of foot speed with positional sense. In every single clip below, it’s evident how the veteran defender (No. 19 in the video) is often in the right place at the right time.
Plus, there’s the added benefit of Vitoria forming a back three in possession. Canada routinely does the same, where the 35-year-old anchors the back line in between Alistair Johnston and Kamal Miller. Familiarity is key come World Cup time.
• Junior Hoilett checked into Reading’s 1-0 victory over Millwall in second-half stoppage time, ending a run of five consecutive starts to begin the campaign.
• When the last roundup was posted, Theo Corbeanu was experiencing a rough patch at Blackpool. He was taken off at halftime in a 1-0 loss to Swansea City and hadn’t really adapted to his new surroundings at that stage.
What a difference two weeks can make. Corbeanu has scored two goals in his last two games, including Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Bristol City. The 20-year-old only logged around 15 minutes yet he was consistently impactful in the final third, arguably for the first time since joining the club on loan.
Ironically, both of Corbeanu’s goals have been scored as a result of him recovering possession and there were early warning signs for Bristol City, who were constantly harried by the youngster (No. 25 below).
It’s difficult for a dynamic winger like Corbeanu to thrive in counter-attacking setups like Blackpool’s, but he’s clearly adjusted to the pace and physicality of the Championship compared to two weeks ago.
• Daniel Jebbison was an unused substitute for Sheffield United in Friday’s 1-1 draw with Luton Town which begs the question: is another loan in the works?
The Blades have already received loan offers for Jebbison, per the Sheffield Star. That might be the ideal route for the youngster after showing remarkable improvements on loan at Burton Albion last season because regular minutes are integral at this stage of his development.
• It was a mixed bag for Sam Adekugbe on Sunday in Hatayspor’s 1-0 loss to Kasimpasa in the Turkish Super Lig. On the bright side, the left-back logged a significant number of touches in the final third and hit nine total passes or crosses into the box.
However, the execution wasn’t there for Adekugbe.
The vision behind the passes were sublime, though. Adekugbe clearly recognized the runs of his teammates so provided that carries into the next game, the 27-year-old can start racking up assists.
• Liam Millar has been rested in domestic matches for Basel while pushing to qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League. The Swiss outfit got it done by eliminating CSKA Sofia with Millar logging the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 victory on Thursday and coming close to scoring off a bicycle kick.
Millar followed it up with a solid 28-minute cameo vs. Zurich in a 4-2 win on Sunday when he tormented the opposing defence on the dribble.
That appearance means we now have a large enough sample size to plot Millar’s underlying numbers on a statistical radar. Here’s how he’s faring so far this season across all competitions.
His shooting stats are down compared to last year but the touches in the box and shots are up, so Millar is more active in the penalty area. An increase in goals could come with that. Plus, the expected assists (xA) from open play remained consistent. There’s a lot to be encouraged about for the rest of the season.
• Red Star Belgrade made the Europa League group stage but could’ve easily qualified for the Champions League if not for a Milan Borjan blunder. Immediately after saving a penalty against Maccabi Haifa last Tuesday, he conceded what should’ve been a routine shot. Here’s the full sequence below.
Maccabi Haifa’s second goal could’ve been prevented if Borjan’s throw to Mirko Ivanic wasn’t so far ahead of him with a defender nearby. The ensuing free kick led to the winner on aggregate.
It’s truly unfortunate because Borjan also pulled off crucial saves in the game.
A few days after the loss, coach Dejan Stankovic stepped down from the job. That didn’t stop Borjan and co. from beating Javor Ivanjica 4-1 on Saturday, though.
• Stankovic’s departure might be a blessing for Serbian-Canadian dual national Stefan Mitrovic. He was an unused substitute in the second leg vs. Maccabi Haifa and hadn’t started any of Red Star’s previous five matches before returning to the lineup on Saturday. He repaid the faith by scoring the opening goal and assisting the eventual winner.
Mitrovic has predominantly started matches for Red Star from the left, but he likes to roam across the pitch and the assist was a perfect example of that creative freedom paying off.
In the second half, Mitrovic once again drifted into the centre, ran into an open pocket of space in the box and nearly conjured up a second assist.
Having the awareness to find those spaces requires a high IQ, so if Mitrovic is already picking this up shortly after his 20th birthday, imagine where he’ll be in a couple years’ time.
Mitrovic’s quickness and dribbling ability also allows him to cut inside onto his right foot from the left side. This keeps defenders on their toes because the shiftiness automatically draws a defender inside, which opens up the entire flank with the opponent’s defensive shape becoming more narrow.
Mitrovic even has a striker’s instincts. Watch how he slowly moves into position – unto receive a header – which is fired narrowly wide.
The goal exhibited all of the aforementioned qualities: the awareness, the desire to drift inside and the striker-like run.
If Mitrovic doesn’t start more games, especially when he’s averaging 0.54 goals and 0.34 assists per 90 minutes this season, then I’ll be baffled.
• Scott Kennedy was a 65th-minute substitute at left-back on Friday in a 4-0 loss to Fortuna Dusseldorf as he continues to struggle for minutes.
• Kennedy’s misfortune benefits Derek Cornelius, who has gone the full 90 minutes in Panetolikos’ first two games of the Greek Super League season. He was practically flawless in the opening loss to PAOK but had a couple hiccups in the win against Aris on Sunday.
Both were the result of an attacker reacting faster than Cornelius, who pressed a bit too eagerly. At least he recovered in the second duel to deal with the threat.
There was still a lot to like from Cornelius in this one. For starters, he had a couple excellent interventions before and after Aris’ goal.
Cornelius is still comfortable distributing the ball under pressure, too.
It was a major weakness with the Vancouver Whitecaps so it’s encouraging to see Cornelius pick up where he left off last season in Greece.
• David Wotherspoon is expected to be a full participant in training this week for St. Johnstone nearly a year after he tore his ACL. The 32-year-old midfielder should see game action “in the next couple weeks,” according to manager Callum Davidson. That bodes well for Wotherspoon’s push to crack Canada’s World Cup squad.
• On the pitch, Theo Bair received 15 minutes off the bench as St. Johnstone lost 3-2 to Hearts in a nail-biter. The former Whitecaps striker had started in every other league match prior to Sunday.
• The last time Victor Loturi played for Ross County was against Scottish champions Celtic. It’s fitting that his next game was against the runners-up in Rangers.
Considering the circumstances, Loturi fared decently well. He didn’t misplace a single pass, got stuck in defensively and did his best to cover acres of space for a seemingly absent Ross County midfield.
Countryman Ben Paton was an unused substitute in the 4-0 defeat.
• Having signed for Sparta Rotterdam in the Eredivisie a couple of months ago, Charles-Andreas Brym is heading back to FC Eindhoven on loan in the Eerste Divisie, the Dutch second division. Brym looked noticeably overwhelmed by the pace and physicality of the Netherlands’ top flight so another year with Eindhoven could help him adjust.
• Elsewhere in the Eerste Divisie, Simon Colyn registered an assist for Jong PSV in a 4-2 loss to PEC Zwolle on Friday. He should’ve finished the 90 minutes with a goal as well but was stopped brilliantly by Zwolle’s goalkeeper. It would’ve been deserving after Colyn’s best performance of the season so far.
• In MLS, Maxime Crepeau conceded four goals in a 4-1 defeat to Austin FC on Friday evening. None of the goals were preventable, and it might’ve been a heavier defeat if Crepeau didn’t make a couple decisive saves.
• Make it three straight wins for Dayne St. Clair, who helped Minnesota United secure a 2-1 win against the Houston Dynamo. Here are your bi-weekly “St. Clair bails out Minnesota” clips…
• Ralph Priso earned his first start with the Colorado Rapids in about a month against the high-flying Philadelphia Union, albeit in a 6-0 loss.
As soon as I saw Priso in the lineup, I wanted to see if he improved on his defensive positioning and awareness after a string of games with the Rapids’ reserve team in MLS Next Pro. It’s gotten better but the 20-year-old is still prone to being overzealous.
Priso’s distribution is also hit-or-miss, which could be solved if he tried to show for the ball more often.
At the end of the day, Priso is a young player who’d benefit with regular minutes at this level. When he was a consistent starter with Toronto FC last year, he was on the brink of a breakthrough before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. If Robin Fraser has any patience, Priso is capable of reclaiming that old form.
• Raheem Edwards didn’t make the LA Galaxy’s matchday squad for Sunday’s game against the New England Revolution. The Galaxy have a midweek clash with Edwards’ former side in Toronto FC, so he could’ve been rested for that game.
• Now a left winger, Diyaeddine Abzi started for Pau in a 2-1 loss vs. Quevilly-Rouen in Ligue 2 but was withdrawn at halftime after a frustrating game.
Since leaving the CPL, Abzi seems to react a second or two later than normal. Take this run below, for example. There was tons of space to run into, but Abzi was briskly jogging and as a result, he didn’t have enough separation to launch a better cross.
The 23-year-old is blessed with terrific pace and dribbling, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be more incisive in the final third. There was one situation where he read the play quicker and nearly recorded an assist.
Abzi only has around 330 minutes of action in Ligue 2 so it might just be a case of consistently adjusting to the league’s quality and turning those flashes into regular sequences.
• Another CPL export is settling in well, though. Aribim Pepple picked up his fifth appearance for Grimsby Town in League Two since joining on loan from Luton Town. He picked up his first assist in a 30-minute stint off the bench as Grimsby edged Walsall 2-1.
Pepple is surprisingly comfortable in one-on-one duels, handles the physicality in the English lower leagues very well and nearly scored a couple weeks ago vs. Sutton United, so his loan is going swimmingly so far.
• You may recall Malcolm Simmons, a 19-year-old midfielder at Benfica, from the previous roundup. I’ve watched his four matches with the U-23s since then, so here’s my scouting report on his major strengths and weaknesses.
There is a lot of potential in Simmons’ game. He’s slowly improving some of the aforementioned weaknesses and might even develop into a decent centre-back in the future.
Here are some selected clips from Simmons’ games. He wore No. 6 vs. Estoril and Maritimo, No. 15 vs. Farense and No. 17 vs. Braga.
• Speaking of Canadian youngsters in Portugal, 20-year-old defender Juvy Kooner signed a professional contract with Braga. Kooner moved to the club last year and earned a handful of starts for the U-23s but will split time between the B team in the third division and the U-23 side.
About the author: Peter Galindo is one of Canada’s leading soccer journalists, having covered the sport for several outlets, including Sportsnet, MLS and Bleacher Report. He also co-hosts the Northern Fútbol Podcast, which focuses on all things Canadian soccer. You can subscribe to the show on Apple, Spotify or anywhere else you get your podcasts.