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Bayern find focal point in Choupo-Moting

Tom Gennoy Berlin
November 7, 2022

He wasn't an obvious fit for Julian Nagelsmann's tactical revolution at Bayern Munich, but Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting is proving indispensable. The striker has found the form of his life late in his Bundesliga career.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrates with Jamal Musiala
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has hit the best for of his Bundelsiga career at the age of 33Image: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

In Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, one of the foremost tactical trends of recent times has an emblematic Bundesliga icon; Bayern’s frontman embodies the return of the out-and-out striker. He was once again on song, and twice on the scoresheet on Saturday, as the champions celebrated a fourth consecutive league victory. 

It was a routine start for the visitors, who took the lead in Berlin with a minimum of fuss. Jamal Musiala hardly bothered to celebrate his 12th minute opener. In fairness, he’d hardly had to break his stride to score it, so a subdued high five with assist-giver Sadio Mané seemed a proportionate response, an accurately pitched expression of joy. 

Choupo-Moting, next in line to breach Hertha’s defense, will probably never score another brace like the one he bagged in the Olympic Stadium. His two goals came within the space of two minutes, and both finishes left him lying on his back in the Hertha box, staring at the sky as the ball crossed the line.  

The first, Bayern’s second, was the 33-year-old's fourth goal in four straight games. Fastest to react to a deflection inside the box, the forward was at full stretch as he poked the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Oliver Christensen. It was classic striker’s play; commonplance but consummate and, above all, effective.  

Nagelsmann not surprised 

Two minutes later, Christensen was again beaten by Bayern’s supine No. 9. This one, too, was born of instinct and hunger, though fortune had a hand in the eventual finish, a bungled slide-tackle accident that nobody knew as little about as Choupo-Moting himself.  

"The second one was a bit odd," coach Julian Nagelsmann admitted after the game. "But I’m not surprised about how [Choupo-Moting] is playing. He’s got the quality, and he’s showing it at the moment." 

With Bayern in search of a win in order to keep up the pressure on high-flying Union Berlin, three points were a must. In truth, they came close to fumbling them, with hosts Hertha very nearly doing their local rivals an unlikely favor. A smartly-converted volley from Dodi Lukebakio, followed by a calmly-dispatched penalty from Davie Selke, were enough to reduce their opponent’s lead to a single goal ahead of halftime.  

That set up a second half with a good measure of intrigue. But, with the champions sitting pretty, thanks to Choupo-Moting's brace, and easing into game management mode during the second 45 minutes, a point remained out of Hertha's reach.  

Neuer back, but beaten

They did at least manage to put a blemish on the return to the Bundesliga of Manuel Neuer, who was back in the Bayern net for the first time since receiving treatment for skin cancer. There was to be no clean sheet on his first day back at the office, but three points nonetheless, thanks to the goals provided by a certain Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. 

"He’s such an important player, with how he occupies defenders and creates space for us out wide," Neuer said. "And, of course, he keeps scoring and setting others up." 

Manuel Neuer is beaten by a shot in a match against Hertha Berlin
Manuel Neuer returned from injury in time for the World Cup, but was beaten twiceImage: Tilo Wiedensohler/camera4/IMAGO

His five goals and two assists in the Bundesliga so far this season have all come in Bayern's last four games. Today, his quickfire double made the difference, but his value to the team is not just measured in goals.  

"He’s very important for us as a target man, keeping the central defenders busy," Nagelsmann told DW in the post-match press conference. "We've always known that he had this quality."

It’s testament to the resurgence of the old ways that even a boss like Nagelsmann, a tactical tinkerer with a penchant for the cutting-edge and the complex, can't help but acknowledge the utility of a traditional No. 9 up front.  

Fortunately for him, few fit the bill better than Choupo-Moting, the 33-year-old German-Cameroonian journeyman who just so happens to have found the form of his life in Munich.  

Tom Gennoy
Tom Gennoy Reporter@TG94__