What was billed as “the match of the season” did not quite live up to its reputation. Bayern easily picked apart a mistake-laden RB Leipzig.
Die Roten head in to the winter break three points up on the Bundesliga debutantes; buoyed by a surprisingly great team performance.
Smooth moves, Carlo!
Admit it. You felt a little deflated when the Startelf was posted. I know I certainly did. The only thing I felt confident about, after that horrible excuse for a match at Darmstadt, was that Carlo Ancelotti would step away from the 4-3-3 and put something (anything!) more competent on the pitch.
“Xabi Alonso?!”, “4-3-3 again?!”, “Why isn’t Thomas starting?!”. These gripes resounded through the Twitterverse before the teams had played a single minute. And it turns out all the complaining was for naught. Ancelotti fielded a 4-2-3-1 instead. We Bayern supporters are an ungrateful lot, aren’t we?
Thiago Alcântara and all his excellence pushed up in to the ten spot. This left Arturo Vidal and Xabi Alonso as a Doppelsechs dream team. The trio did not disappoint.
With Thiago operating in a more forward space, Vidal (whom I called “redundant” last time out) shone. Breaking up counters, and making a general nuisance of himself across the midfield, this was a vintage Vidal shift. We saw encouraging signs that his form will continue to improve as he will finally get some much needed rest.
Alonso could go nowhere but up after the weekend. Still, you would not be remiss in thinking that he would again be the weak link in Munich’s chain. Where Darmstadt’s press discombobulated him easily, he swatted away the Red Bulls like so many flies.
Fluid triangles allowed him to push up the pitch, resulting in a highly un-Xabi-ish goal. (From inside the box, what?!) Gone, also, were his misplaced passes leading to an opposition fast break.
The star of the show, once again, was Thiago. Unequivocally Bayern’s best player of the Hinrunde, he put an exclamation point on his status with a sassy, untouchable shift.
This is one sexy dashboard.
Bonus points for his pass to an on-rushing Santa!
Thiago Alcantara thought Santa is a Bayern playerpic.twitter.com/CSDWiP6IY0
— Troll Football Media (@Troll__Footbal) 21 December 2016
To Müller or not to Müller?
One person who will be more than happy to recharge his batteries and forget what has been a largely disappointing first half will be Thomas Müller. Going back to the original “is this a 4-3-3?” thought, the only good I saw of it was that the Raumdeuter was on the bench.
Is that harsh? Sure. Still, the thinking proves valid. Müller has been ineffective on the wing in that formation.
As the team shaped up in a 4-2-3-1, again you might have had questions. Müller plays best as number ten, and this match may have been perfect for him. Of course, Thiago’s nearly flawless performance there made all of this a moot point. Ancelotti will have to find a way to properly integrate Müller in the second half of the season. Just not anywhere near the right flank.
Young and naïve?
Ralph Hasenhüttl employed the same 4-2-2-2 lineup that he has used season-long to great effect. Up until now. Bayern easily picked apart the wide-open spaces with their superior passing ability and footballing IQ.
The adage goes: “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!”. But in light of the first half massacre, Hasenhüttl did little to adjust. Granted, Emil Forsberg complicated the tactical panorama with a cynical red card challenge on Philipp Lahm. Still, it is notable that FCB was already up 2:0 at that point.
Bayern outclassed Leipzig man to man, with the exception of goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi. If Marcel Halstenberg was not getting worked over by Lahm and Arjen Robben, then Bernardo was feeling the wrath of an excellent Douglas Costa.
Naby Keita, clearly unfit, looked he he couldn’t be bothered to be on the pitch.. Vidal dispossessed him with ease in the lead-up to Alonso’s goal. Yet, Hasenhüttl kept him in to play out the half. Meanwhile, blondie Mats Hummels single-handedly obliterated the midfield with his accurate vertical passing.
Post-match, Leipzig’s trainer conceded: “That was a lesson for us and a top performance from Bayern. Our system only works when everyone is in synchrony and that wasn’t the case today. I’m still proud of what the team has achieved until now. You don’t get a point deducted for losing 3:0.”
It will now be up to Hasenhüttl and his men what they do with that lesson. Was their rude form in the Hinrunde just a smokescreen? Or was this a just a one-off tactical disaster?
Heading in to the Winterpause on the back of a performance like this one should ease the minds of many Bayern Munich supporters. Maybe, just maybe, Ancelotti does know what he is doing– and we should just let him be.
Nah! What’s the fun in that?