Not everyone will have sat down and watched Bayern Munich’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening, but many will nevertheless have seen a six-second snippet from the game.
With the Bavarians cruising with just nine minutes to go, winger Douglas Costa rainbow flicked the ball over the head of the unsuspecting Julian Brandt, producing a piece of outrageous skill to cap another superb all-round performance.
It has not taken Costa long to settle in Munich following his £21.8 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk earlier this summer. A return of one goal and two assists in his first three appearances for Bayern represents an excellent start, with the Brazil international already having made an impact on Pep Guardiola’s side.
Bayern struggled in the second half of last term when Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were sidelined with injuries, a lack of pace and width often causing their play to become congested in the middle of the park.
With Ribery still out with an ongoing ankle problem that could see him miss the rest of 2015, Costa has help to fill a void in the side with his speed and direct running. Deployed on the left flank, the 24-year-old has helped to stretch the play – both horizontally and vertically – by looking to beat his full-back on the outside and sprint in behind the opposition’s backline; his forward-thinking attitude adds an injection of pace to Bayern’s attacking moves, moreover, with his ability to quicken the tempo in an instant likely to be vital for Guardiola’s men this campaign.
Costa usually played on the right at Shakhtar, with the focus on cutting infield onto his stronger left peg and whipping crosses towards the back post or taking shots at goal. The fact that Robben is also left-footed means that Costa has been deployed on the opposite side at Bayern, something that has worked to the team’s advantage so far: against Leverkusen, for example, Costa constantly hugged the left touchline, holding his position out wide and in turn opening up space inside for the likes of Thiago, Arturo Vidal and Thomas Muller to work in.
Costa’s assist for Muller’s goal was evidence of what he brings to the table. After a period of patient Bayern possession, Xabi Alonso fired an accurate diagonal towards the winger, who used his first touch to push the ball beyond the hapless right-back Roberto Hilbert and his second to fire a delivery towards Muller in the middle of the box.
Crossfield balls from Alonso to Costa will likely be a feature of Bayern’s play this season: Costa’s preference for staying wide out on the left at almost all times means he is able to isolate his full-back when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch, with a quick switch of play likely to leave him one-on-one with his direct opponent.
Costa hit the angle of post and bar soon after, showing his willingness to arrive at the back stick when the ball is on the opposite flank and guiding a controlled effort onto the woodwork.
It is still early days for Costa at Bayern, but he has already added an extra dimension to Guardiola’s outfit with his acceleration, directness and penetration. At this stage, £21.8 million looks like a bargain.
About the Author – Greg Lea
Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.