Thomas Müller had already expected the question about Robert Lewandowski, he rolled his eyes in the catacombs of the Munich Arena when it came. Would it have been enough to win with the greedy ex-striker against Gladbach? Would he have missed Lewandowski on the pitch?

“Maybe he would have made one, maybe not. We also had games against Gladbach with Lewy when we didn’t play either,” said Müller – who, like his colleagues and coach Julian Nagelsmann, wanted to avoid any discussion about a missing center forward in the squad. “We had 35 shots on goal,” said Nagelsmann. “Keep going like this and we’ll score a lot of goals,” was his motto.

And yet it was remarkable what happened in the 85th minute on Saturday night. The Bayern coach switched in Matthijs de Ligt as an additional attacker, the newcomer who came from Juventus Turin for 67 million euros and is supposed to be the chief of defense. Now de Ligt was needed as a bomber, in injury time he almost made it 2-1 with a right-footed shot. But Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer parried once again sensationally.

“Gladbach defended incredibly deep, it couldn’t go much deeper than in the last ten minutes,” Nagelsmann explained his decision: “Matthijs is our strongest player in the squad in the air. There are few strikers in Europe who are as good in the air as he is. And we didn’t have a player with good headers on the bench anymore.”

With Mathys Tel, 17 years young and signed from Stade Rennes for 20 million euros, a striker was left out, but the youngster is not yet ready to really help Bayern. Hence the unusual – but also understandable – idea to order de Ligt into the storm. Müller spoke of a “good measure”, it reminded him of earlier times at Bayern with Daniel van Buyten, who also went up front from time to time. “It’s nothing unusual to besiege your opponent in the penalty area,” said Müller.

FC Viktoria Koln – FC Bayern Munich

08/31/2022 | 8:45 p.m

De Ligt did it properly, the task was not new to him. “Yes, I used to do that a few times at Ajax in the last few minutes,” said the 23-year-old, while also admitting that it wasn’t “normal” for him because: “I’m usually a defender.” But if the forward colleagues lack the necessary precision and “cleverness”, as captain Manuel Neuer put it, emergency solutions have to be found.

Do Munich need a classic centre-forward? That’s the question that comes up, but that Bayern doesn’t want to hear at the moment. Sadio Mané, who missed a few chances against Gladbach and was often offside, prefers to come from the depths, he’s not the Lewandowski type. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a decent back-up, but not a starting XI candidate, Tel still needs (a lot) of time. “I can’t imagine it,” said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic when asked about further purchases until the end of the transfer period next Thursday.

The decision was made to use a flexible storm system this season, and a center forward like Harry Kane could only become interesting in the summer of 2023. The 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo was definitely an issue internally, but the idea was ultimately rejected – for financial reasons and in favor of a healthy atmosphere in the dressing room.

It remains to be seen whether Bayern can fight for three titles without a real nine. One thing is certain: Lewandowski would have done well on Saturday evening…

This article was written by Maximilian Koch

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The original of this article “Nagelsmann’s emergency solution against Gladbach reveals Bayern’s center forward problem” comes from the evening newspaper.