Bayern Munich 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved back into the Champions League spots after a narrow and unconvincing win against plucky Borussia Mönchengladbach.

At the start of the current campaign, it’s unlikely that the bigwigs at Bayern and Gladbach would have expected to see their sides struggling to reach the Champions League and avoid the drop respectively. If some people were putting Bayern’s topsy-turvy season down to tiredness, the recent batch of EURO 2012 qualifiers and friendlies could not have come at a worse time – 12 players were called up to represent their nation, compared to Gladbach’s eight (four of whom played for the Germany U19 side, and thus aren’t near Lucien Favre’s first team at club level).

There were few injury problems affecting either side at least, so this tussle between two teams with very different goals would ultimately be decided by events on the pitch only. For the visitors, Mo Idrissou was finally dropped from the starting XI and Logan Bailly kept his place after a howler in round 27. There were no surprises in the home side’s line-up, however.  Continue reading

Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

A poor showing from Bayern Munich ultimately didn’t matter as they won their second consecutive game in the Bundesliga to keep the pressure on the sides above them in the Champions League places.

Looking at the history of this fixture, the odds looked pretty stacked in Bayern’s favour – no defeats in the last 17 Bundesliga clashes between the sides, and a 4-2 win at the Allianz Arena in October. But with ‘lame duck’ manager Louis van Gaal overseeing a disastrous exit at home to Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday, one which confirmed that Bayern would end the season without a trophy, Freiburg had a great chance to rub salt in the dethroned champions’ wounds. However, Robin Dutt’s side have been tailing off after a great start to the season (four defeats from the last five games), but luckily for the health of their supporters, they’ve established enough of a cushion to dismiss any notion of going down. Fans of goalscorers were more than adequately catered for here – the clash pitted two of the league’s finest against one another, Mario Gómez and Papiss Cissé. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 4-0 Hoffenheim

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved into third spot as the division’s second highest scorers (42) hammered the Bundesliga’s fourth sharpest shooters (39) in a remarkably one-sided affair. Arjen Robben’s second half brace wrapped up the points, but Mario Gómez put FC Bayern on track for all three points inside the opening two minutes.

The home side took the lead after 75 seconds as Hoffenheim sought to swamp the centre and stop Bayern’s two widemen from cutting inside. Cluelessly, they thereby left themselves exposed on the wings to full-back overlaps. If only the blob of blue in the middle was sat slightly deeper, this may not have been such a problem. However, Robben, located superbly by Thomas Müller, had time, space, and yards of green between the defence and goal in which to pass the ball across, and Gómez intelligently let it come across his body to leave Tom Starke helpless. Continue reading

St Pauli 2-4 Mainz

The starting systems.

Mainz concluded their breathtaking winter campaign by beating relegation-fearing St Pauli in a six-goal thriller.

St Pauli came into this game needing a win to achieve their declared mid-season target of 20 points. Like Mainz, the newly-promoted club started the campaign promisingly before tailing off, only rather more dramatically. Holger Stanislawski’s team had managed just one win in their last eight matches, and faced their guests without ‘keeper Thomas Kessler, red-carded in the defeat at Bayern Munich last week, Markus Thorandt, also suspended after being sent off, and flu victims Deniz Naki and Richard Sukuta-Pasu. Thomas Tuchel, who saw his side suffer a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Schalke in round 16, had the luxury of a near full-strength squad to choose from at the Millerntor – only Bo Svensson and Jan Šimák were ruled out. Although Mainz had dropped to fourth in recent weeks, they knew a win here would – temporarily – take them back up to the silver medal spot.

Former Real Madrid striker Ádám Szalai was heavily involved in the first few minutes, linking-up and laying-off as Mainz launched a series of quickfire attacks. It looked as though the visitors were the only side bothered about keeping warm in the frosty conditions, but Pauli’s Rouwen Hennings soon joined them when he stung the fingertips of Heinz Müller and drew a corner after a run down the chalk. There was plenty of space for the home side to exploit with Mainz pressing high at pace. But St Pauli were cumbersome on the ball, and allowed Mainz to nip in, steal it, and continue their momentum against a midfield temporarily braced in pass-seeking positions.  Continue reading

Bayern Munich 4-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The formations.

A quickfire second half double saw Bayern Munich leapfrog Frankfurt in the table and move to within five points of the Champions League spots.

From the off, Bayern deployed their usual pass n’ patience tactics in the face of a 4-5-1 – part and parcel of being the visiting side at the Allianz Arena. Louis van Gaal had two playmakers on the pitch in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, and two direct attackers in Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller. With so many options in the Frankfurt half, Michael Skibbe kept his banks set, rather than pressing Bayern vigorously and leaving gaps for them to exploit.

Nevertheless, Theofanis Gekas’s game is based on running, so he was left to hurry the centre-backs and Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Not only is the Greek international highly effective at doing this, it also helps him score goals. In the first half, Gekas forced several errors from Daniel van Buyten and Breno, and at one point found himself one-on-one with Hans-Jörg Butt. However, the former Portsmouth striker fluffed his lines, and Sonny Kittel did little better with the follow-up.

The 17-year-old Kittel was making just his fourth appearance for Frankfurt, and was a thorn in the side of Bayern down the left. Quick to join in or make counter-attacks (something Frankfurt did decisively – no second thoughts, no holding and waiting for Bayern to flood back), Kittel also sent in a series of testing set pieces for Marco Russ, Halil Altintop, Aleksandar Vasoski & co. to hurl themselves at.

On the subject of big guys and headers, Skibbe’s primary tactic at restarts involved long punts to the centre circle for the 1.96m-tall Alexander Meier to flick on for the deliberately semi-circular midfield three and Gekas hovering behind him in amongst Bayern’s defenders. Yet when they got the ball down in Bayern’s half, the lack of space available saw Frankfurt panic, and either squander possession, or pass back to Ola Nikolov. Continue reading

Bundesliga round one tactical analysis

1899 Hoffenheim 4-1 Werder Bremen, 21/08/10 (Frings 3', Demba Ba 20', Peniel Mlapa 37', Ibišević 40', Sejad Salihović 43')


Germany’s top-flight didn’t provide any real jaw-dropping scorelines this weekend, but then such is the competitive nature of the Bundesliga and its competitors, rarely do its matches genuinely shock.

What the division does do though is continually excite, and it’s a joy to have it back on the box in Britain. The season started on Friday evening at the Allianz Arena, with 2009/10 champions Bayern Munich hosting 2008/09 champions, Wolfsburg.

Blogs including this one spent hours writing on and pondering over the system McClaren would commence life in the Bundesliga with, so it was a relief to finally see what the former England national team coach had up his sleeve.

Continue reading