Formational changes and vintage performances from three star players was enough for FC Bayern to top Mainz.
FC Bayern’s employment of the 4-2-3-1 and two fit, natural wingers paid dividends against a Mainz 05 side that always seems to remain competitive.
Stellar showings from a few familiar faces put Bayern on top as they beat Mainz 3:1, but the overall team performance was something many have been looking forward to for a long time indeed.
Because of how purely odd it is that Thomas Müller has not scored in a league game this season, it has been a little overlooked that Robert Lewandowski has twice gone a month without finding the back of the net in all competitions. One such spell came to an end tonight in Mainz inside of ten minutes. He would add a second much later, into stoppage time in fact, from a free kick he himself had won. Two goals is not all there is to say about his evening, though, because the way he got the first one, especially, provides clues to how Bayern can score against anyone, at any time.
Bayern moved the ball up the pitch at lightning pace after Philipp Lahm won a gorgeous slide tackle to regain possession for his side. Arjen Robben, with the ball and moving towards goal, did what every coach will tell you to do in that situation: force a defender to choose between you and the man he is marking. As it would play out, that left Lewandowski free to slot home the chance. While the first half was played end-to-end, Bayern could be seen placing a certain emphasis on the counterattack, which I think will serve both them and Lewandowski well into the future.
Not only was Robben effective on the ball (as an assist and a goal would indicate), he moved well without it. Taking a page out of the Guardiola playbook, Bayern went with two pure wingers (Ribéry being the other) and let Robben drift over to the left to create an overload on that flank. This match was not controlled by Bayern for the entire 90′, but when the Reds were in possession, they looked more threatening than they have most of this season.
The highlight of the evening for Der Raumdeuter may have been his assist, which showed excellent awareness of a given situation. On a counterattack on 21′, he had put himself in perfect position to score when Franck Ribéry overplayed him. Instead of restarting play with a pass backwards to a waiting and free Philipp Lahm, he recognized that Bayern still had a numerical advantage in the box. Robben headed the cross in, and Bayern took a lead they would never relinquish.
Aside from that, though, Müller looked so much better playing centrally. Many have been calling for his return to the #10 spot on the pitch all season, and this match proves he is best suited for that role.
One of his best performances in red, without a doubt. He won a whopping 8 of his 9 attempted tackles to lead the match, and always seemed to be Johnny on the Spot when a Mainz attack seemed to be developing. He also led all players in aerials won, with 7.
A quietly great match from him, but he seemed content to stay back and facilitate play from the defense up through the midfield and into the forwards. He was far and away the game’s leading passer, completing 112 of his 120 attempts.
It must be said that his time in the midfield this match was not quite what Carlo Ancelotti hoped for, in all likelihood. However, his textbook slide tackle that led to the first goal was a crucial moment for the team in this match.
Even though he was the quietest of the four attacking players, he did not have a bad match by any stretch of the imagination. His work down the flank was solid, if overshadowed by Robben’s vintage performance.
Would be harsh to blame the Mainz goal on him, and in the second half he made a few saves look mighty easy that many goalkeepers would have to parry away at the risk of a rebound or corner.
Nothing much to note here, because he had a suspect night going forward. Defensively nothing went wrong.
For his part Kimmich was solid in the defense while the usual right back, Philipp Lahm, moved into the midfield for the match. Personally, Kimmich did not do enough for me to warrant taking him out of the midfield, and same can be said for Lahm being taken out of the defense. The quick pace of the game did not allow Kimmich to drift forward as much as he probably would have liked, and going forward is one of the main threats he poses.
Though he was a substitute, he got nearly half an hour of playing time in which he did basically nothing. This is not his fault, though: One would assume a 66′ substitution where a team brings on a winger would mean they are not done attacking. Bayern’s goal in the half came off a free kick and was one of their only forays into the Mainz danger area while Costa was on the pitch.
The opening goal of the match, scored by Mainz’s Jhon Córdoba on 4′, can most be blamed on Javi. His poor positioning and failure to execute the professional foul on Córdoba resulted, pretty much on its own, in the goal occurring. After that, Martínez picked up a yellow for a handball and committed another professional foul. Bayern and Martínez are lucky the defender made it to the end of the match without being sent off.