Bayern Munich made a record start to the 2022/23 Bundesliga season, scoring 15 goals and conceding just one in three commanding victories. But why have the champions been so fast out of the blocks this year?
Julian Nagelsmann’s team have not let up since. A 6-1 victory at the home of UEFA Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening weekend would have had their Bundesliga rivals worried about what lay ahead.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern's win over Frankfurt
Wolfsburg did well given that context, only losing 2-0 in Munich on Matchday 2. Bochum, though, felt the full force of the champions’ power – hammered 7-0 just like they were away from home last season.
Bochum recovered to record a famous 4-2 win over Bayern in February, but it doesn’t look like this version of the 10-in-a-row champions are likely to suffer a similar result this season.
Mane, though, has the experience and the quality to do just that. The 30-year-old was named African Footballer of the Year and included on the Ballon d’Or shortlist with good reason, after all, having fired Senegal to continental glory and Liverpool close to an unprecedented quadruple of major trophies.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern's win in Bochum
Mane has had no trouble settling, scoring on his debut in the Supercup and against Frankfurt. He followed up with a double against Bochum, and it’s clear his know-how, movement and pace has added a different dimension to Bayern’s game this season.
“He’s fast – he’s tricky,” wrote Bayern and Germany legend Lothar Matthäus in a column for Sky. “He’s exactly the right player for the system without a real number nine that Bayern are now playing after Robert Lewandowski’s departure.”
Mane’s fellow summer arrival Matthijs De Ligt gave an insight into his teammate’s impact after the match against Bochum.
“The intensity that he brings into the matches is so important,” the Dutch defender said. “You see that a lot of opponents have difficulties with him and I know why because in training he always gave me a hard time.”
Watch: De Ligt praises Mane
Mane’s positioning also brings the best out of his attacking teammates. Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Müller played around him in the first two matches of the season, while Kingsley Coman was introduced from the off against Bochum for his Bundesliga appearance of the season.
Gnabry scored against Eintracht and Bochum; Müller got two assists against the Eagles and a goal against Wolfsburg; Musiala, absent against Bochum, netted in all three previous matches; Coman produced a goal and two assists on Matchday 3 and also won a penalty; and Leroy Sane was also handed his first start and scored his first league goal of the season against Bochum.
“When he’s 100 percent up for it, he’s one of the best players in Europe,” Nagelsmann said of Sane after Matchday 3. “That’s just the way it is. He has skills that not many players have.”
The Bayern coach could have been talking about any number of Bayern’s attacking players, and he obviously rates summer signing Mathys Tel too. The 17-year-old French forward was launched from the bench in the first two Bundesliga matches of the season, and provides more evidence that there could be absolutely no respite for opposition defences this season.
In midfield Germany metronome Joshua Kimmich is as consistent as ever, while Marcel Sabitzer is starting to show why Nagelsmann was so keen for the Austrian to follow him from Leipzig to Munich last season. Sabitzer has started the first three league matches of the campaign after making the starting XI in only eight Bundesliga games in 2021/22.
In defence Nagelsmann is also spoilt for choice. Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies are two attacking, confident and top-quality full-backs, while Lucas Hernandez can play on the left-side if needed just like he did when France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
He has mostly been used at centre-back alongside Dayot Upamecano so far, however, with De Ligt sure to muscle into the team more often as the campaign goes on. The former Ajax captain was a high-profile signing from Juventus and – like Mane – knows what it takes to succeed at the very top. Like Upamecano, De Ligt is only 23 - meaning their best years are ahead of them in a Bayern shirt.
If you do manage to make it behind the Bayern defence then there is another significant barrier in the way. Club and Germany captain Manuel Neuer has shown no signs that his hunger for silverware has diminished at the age of 36.
Watch: Mane: "It's very difficult to cope with us"
This season more than most, competition for places at the champions looks fiercer than ever. Then there’s the demanding and innovative Nagelsmann - only 35 himself - who will likely only get better in his second season at Bayern.
“The way we train – it’s a high, high, high level,” said Mane after the Bochum win.
“The intensity we put in the training – everything we do with intensity and I think it pays off because we work very hard in training. I think we have a very, very good coach and the ideas he has are just incredible, so it’s very difficult for the other team to cope with us.”
Working with important new additions and a squad stocked with ambitious players who are having fun, Nagelsmann sounds like a coach who is aware that great things could be possible this season.
“The energy that’s in the team at the moment, the atmosphere within in the squad, everyone is pulling for each other,” he said after Matchday 3. “The energy wasn’t always that way last year. And it’s very, very enjoyable.”
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